GBCSA Convention to inspire with uniquely African green innovation

If you think green building doesn’t impact you, it’s time to think again.

Green building’s influence and importance reaches far beyond the construction industry. It is a critical intersection for many disciplines as it plays a key role in our economy, the latest trends, our mobility and enjoyment of public spaces and, in fact, just about everything. Moreover, it is providing innovative solutions to many of Africa’s biggest challenges.

Demonstrating its far-reaching effects, speakers at the forthcoming Green Building Council of South Africa’s (GBCSA) Convention sponsored by Nedbank, include leaders and opinion makers from a variety of backgrounds and professions, who will all come together to spotlight green building, the broader subject of sustainability and the opportunities unique to Africa.

A highlight on South Africa’s calendar, the 7th Annual GBCSA Convention takes place at Cape Town International Convention Centre from 10 to 12 September 2014. This year, its theme is “It’s time for Africa – Bringing it home”.

Innovator, creative thinker, visionary and trend analyst Dion Chang, brought to convention by Redefine Properties, considers sustainability a key consideration for tracking trends. Dion and his team at Flux take a holistic approach to tracking trends. “What’s happening with issues of sustainability is just as important as pop culture or socio-political and socio-economic issues. They’re all interconnected. Understanding eco trends, especially, maps the way forward into a new world order.”

Although his feet remain firmly planted on African soil, he uses a global perspective to source new ideas, gauge the zeitgeist and identify cutting edge trends. “Forward thinking trends are solution based,” says Dion.

“In Africa especially, innovation hinges on solving problems – which is very different from a developed world perspective – and time and time again, I have seen innovative ideas that come out of Africa which leapfrog developed world ideas, trends and use of technology. The most unexpected innovations are coming out of Africa.”

Dion, who is a convention speaker, marvels at the fact that we are only now finding ways to build sustainably, and appreciate the human experience of a sustainable build. “In hindsight, I wonder why it took so long and think how much earlier we should have started.”

Vincent Truter is a cross disciplinary creative mind with a passion for sustainability and making profit and purpose meet. Vincent is taking South Africans, and convention delegates, on a two-wheeled journey that makes green mobility a reality for the country.

His electric bicycle project, Cycology, lets people zip around Cape Town and Joburg in a different and connected way, instead of being confined in a car. It is also driving change as electric bikes alleviate traffic on our roads, reduce emissions and transform the way we interact with the world around us.

Vincent explains: “Cycology and the decongest movement, created in collaboration with the GBCSA and Solid Green, is passionate about generating awareness of green mobility innovations. We consider this to be the next frontier in creating sustainable urban environments.”

He adds further advances in sustainability for the built environment are undeniably necessary. “I think current innovations are, for the most part, mere window dressing. I hope to see braver and more considered steps taken by developers and tenants alike to change behaviours and the environment.”

Prof. Edgar Pieterse is an urban scholar and writer who embraces his fascination with what he calls the drama of cities everywhere. His work has considered the challenging realities of cities and their constant change and experiences at different moments in time. South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, Director of African Centre for Cities and a speaker at this year’s convention, Edgar, believes that transforming the built environment relies on the core industries that shape the built environment understanding that we have no choice but to advance cities and towns that are low-carbon.

 “This is fundamental to a larger economic transition that will produce much greater inclusivity and social justice,” says Edgar. “Put differently, unless we are able to overcome the false dichotomy between environmental sustainability and economic development, we cannot address the manifold challenges that mark our cities.”

Conservationist, Braam Malherbe was the first to run the length of the Great Wall of China with running partner David Grier. Malherbe, also brought to convention by Redefine, takes the view that everything we do should have a distinctly green focus.

“The single greatest threat – on a par with overpopulation and to a large degree caused by it – facing humanity’s survival is climate change,” says Braam. “I’m not holding my breath in expecting governments to ensure legislation is urgently implemented to mitigate climate change. I do however remain optimistic. More and more ethical choices are being made in the corporate sector, especially in the property industry and I applaud the pioneering work being done.”

Malherbe heads up the Do One Thing campaign, or DOT, which encourages people to do one thing to help the environment and mitigate climate change.  “It is not just big things we need to address. Many small actions can accumulate to make a huge difference,” he says.

The exciting line-up of thinkers that will shine a light on the leading role that green building and sustainability is taking on the African continent at the GBCSA Convention also includes futurist Anton Musgrave, architect Mick Pearce and scientist Siyabulela Xuza, all critically acclaimed for their contributions towards sustainability.

* For more information or to register as a delegate for the Green Building Council of South Africa Convention 2014 in Cape Town go to www.gbcsa.org.za/green-building-convention-2014

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