For Ovum Corporation, it’s about the birth and genesis of nurturing ideas that help to sustain humanity. It’s about looking to nature for guidance, whilst using the latest technology to promote engineering and science. It’s about creating new paradigms that conserve our precious resources whilst using out of the box collaborative thinking.
Tell us more about the name, Ovum Corporation – what does that mean to you?
Nicholas: We really are at a critical juncture in the history of our planet from the point of view of technology, science, access to education, poverty and population growth. At the same time, we have an ever-increasing sense of political instability and food shortages, coupled with increased access to weapons of mass destruction. Somewhere, in the quagmire that humanity is currently walking, we need to be thinking about ways to move forward and do things in a more sustainable manner. Things need to be done in a more collaborative, systems approach manner, and we cannot afford to keep on thinking of ourselves in isolation to the rest of humanity and the planet in general. While certain aspects of life have indeed improved (referring to the works of Steven Pinker), we are still not doing enough to collectively conserve the basic resources of the planet.
What was the inspiration for forming the company?
Susan: There were a number of influences. We live in a country with diversity in almost everything, we have a wide variety of cultures, our landscape and even animal types are different in every province. Apart from that we have so many types of fauna and flora and so many different lifestyles. As South-Africans we feel that we have a lot to offer because we are forced to be creative on a daily basis with the challenges we face in this country. These challenges have equipped us with an out-of-the-box type thinking and this bigger understanding and open mindedness is what inspired us to start a company where we can share our ideas. At the same time our country needs this type of thinking. Water scarcity and many other challenges need solutions and we believe there is so much potential to conserve our resources in a more sustainable manner. Therefore, we want to add value and bring out sustainable systems that will be of benefit to all. We were really inspired by what we saw going on in Singapore. Maybe it’s just the stunning view from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, but there is a noticeable coherent theme in the city that pervades the architecture and thinking of the place. The development of the Green Building movement there has really taken off and we think it’s awe inspiring and in so many instances just incredibly beautiful. There is a lot that we can learn from the way they do things in Singapore. In South Africa specifically, we seem to have a tendency to build the same old buildings with the same inherent reliance on the energy grid. If one considers the backdrop to the current energy needs of our economy these buildings can be revitalized in cost-effective ways to lower energy and water demands.
Where do you see the Green Building market going right now in South Africa?
Nicholas: I think that the Green Building concept is here to stay, there is too much to lose if we don’t keep it going forward. There is a lot of new technology to implement and there is potential to research and do things differently to make South Africa more of a “green building” country. Being a water scarce country with majority coal fired power stations, the need for more sustainable solutions should be at the crux of our focus as a country and there are many ways that self-sustaining green buildings can help with this approach.
Who does Ovum Corporation prefer to collaborate with?
Susan: We aim to collaborate with architects, scientists, educators, biologists, developers, government institutions and even artists. Anyone who is onboard with the idea behind our company!
Which industries do you see yourselves operating in?
Nicholas: As an engineering company, our focus is currently in the civil and structural market. These two fields are significantly influential in the Green Building Industry. To further broaden our opportunity base, we have also teamed up with chemical and electrical engineers to offer an industrial / environmental pollution control arm to the business.
You are passionate about vertical farming, tell us more about that and the role you see this playing in the future.
Susan: The definition of vertical farming is the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers that are integrated into a building. The contemporary idea of vertical farming uses controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology. CEA facilities use environmental controls (temperature, humidity, gases, etc.), fertigation, and often artificial light controls (as a supplement in the case of a rooftop greenhouse, or as a unique light source in purely indoor farming conditions).
For us, the vertical farming concept is one that needs to be more fully explored within the context of the South African market. There is a pilot plant in Pretoria, but not to the sort of scale that we would like to see. It’s the perfect synergy between two fields that we are passionate about – high rise construction and sustainable farming techniques. We are currently looking for investors into the concept. Aside from the job creation spin-offs, the added benefits are of course that the normal food transportation costs are substantially reduced since the high-rise structure is built within the urban city environment. Another key advantage is the ability to grow healthy, pesticide-free crops all year round at very high and predictable rates of yield.
What other projects do you see yourselves getting involved with in the future?
Nicholas: A long-term project is that we would like to see the vertical farming concept being brought into South Africa. We are also looking at the greening of flat roofs as well as various inner city civil infrastructure and transportation regeneration projects. African cities are disproportionately vulnerable to the environmental shocks of flooding, erosion, drought and heat stress, and the increase in hard asphalt/concrete surfaces has given rise to increased flooding and a tendency to radiate more heat since there is often little by way of urban green space planning. The urban population is continuing to expand, with Africa’s towns and cities predicted to receive another billion inhabitants by 2050. This increased pressure has brought these cities into focus and various projects will be required to deal with the effects of an increased population – we will therefore be directing our efforts on these sorts of projects.
Are you involved in any research at the moment that aligns with your goals?
Susan: We are also busy setting up a course that focusses on the characteristics and benefits of non-standard structural materials for the design of buildings, to provide more sustainable design options for structural engineers and architects. We have also conducted research into the benefits of green roofs and walling. We have seen that the benefits are not only in relation to the thermal conditioning of the building itself, but there is also a reduction in the risk of flooding (for example). We are also researching the concept of the Green (wildlife) bridge as well as the Integral type bridge structure for various reasons.
Another avenue we are exploring is to partner with electronics engineers to set up smart device system platforms for the monitoring of building energy usage. These devices are used to measure the efficiency at different points of a building and the data is used to improve the building’s detail design.
Why should developers and architects make use of Ovum Corporation?
Nicholas: We have only been operating for seven months now, but we already have a full order book, as well as a proven project track record in projects varying from mining to elevated viaduct expressways. We are founded and focused on bringing intelligent fertile ideas into action. Our aim is to bring about fresh thinking to our current problems through collaboration with the right people and use of the right technologies. We are agile, well networked and we enjoy adding value both socially and environmentally. We strive to achieve engineering excellence whilst adding the flare of sustainability to our projects. We aim to leave the world a better place.
For further information, please contact Nicholas at firstname.lastname@example.org