Greenovate Awards 2016: inventing ways to live more sustainably

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Keynote speaker Dion Chang from Fluxtrend
with guest speakers Gillian Hamilton and Edna Peres from the African Climate Reality Project.

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The built environment is the biggest contributor to climate change. This can be reversed through ‘regenerative’ and ‘resilience’ development thinking, as illustrated by the ideas presented by student finalists to industry leaders at the Greenovate Awards in Johannesburg on 1 December 2016.
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The awards – organised by Growthpoint Properties and the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – recognise innovative solutions for the property industry to environmental challenges. They are designed to expose the finalists, who are finishing their degrees in construction studies, property studies and quantity surveying, to the key areas of sustainability which will impact their chosen field, as well as introduce industry leaders to the exceptional talent that is now available to them.

“By bringing together experience and great new ideas, we can turn our biggest problems into our biggest opportunities”, says Growthpoint’s Remy Kloos.

The Greenovate Awards take place in a context where African communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, yet can no longer blame only the developed world for causing it, or failing to do enough about it.

Despite the desperate levels of poverty in Africa, the continent as a whole is expected to be responsible for between a quarter and a half of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030. Making matters worse, African’s carbon sinks (areas such as forests and grasslands that capture unwanted carbon in the atmosphere) are rapidly declining.

In order for Africa to break its vicious cycle of poverty without increasing carbon emissions, it will need buildings and cities that are built more efficiently – possibly generating their own electricity and working as carbon sinks to reduce the impacts of climate change.
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This year’s participants were from the University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Students were challenged to come up with ideas for any property-related project that makes the way we live greener and our environmental footprint lighter. Groups from each of the participating universities competed internally first and the two top projects from each were chosen as finalists.

The winners were announced at a gala dinner in Sandton Central with keynote speaker, trend analyst Dion Chang of Flux Trends, who warned: “If you don’t take the time to think proactively, you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it.”

The UCT team of Cédric Fournier and Priscilla Nthai, with supervisors Saul Nurick and Abby Street, were named the winners of the Greenovate Awards 2016. They focused on the perceptions of occupants in office buildings that contain green building features and initiatives.

The University of the Witwatersrand team of Nthabiseng Makgabo and Bongiwe Dlamini, supervised by Samuel Azasu, scooped second place with their comparative analysis of the factors that influence the choice between green and conventional buildings in selected nodes in Gauteng.

The third placed young green thinker came from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Lungela Gcwabaza, supervised by Gerrit Crafford, investigated the obstacles to effective implementation of strategy within quantity surveying firms as a method for enhancing business sustainability in the long run.
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Dr Edna Peres, an acclaimed urban planner from the University of Johannesburg, presented to these students, industry leaders and planet shapers as part of the gala’s activities.

Dr Peres is perfectly situated at the intersection of the built environment and climate change leadership, as a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps.
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She engaged guests on the major issue of our time by drawing on her expertise in both fields. Following on a brief presentation of the reality of climate change by African Climate Reality Project Manager Gillian Hamilton, Dr Peres demonstrated how to move beyond sustainability thinking in the built environment by adopting ‘regenerative’ and ‘resilience’ thinking, thereby closing the gap between theory and practice.

This means building buildings that give back more energy and resources over their lifetime than they extract from the earth for construction, and creating cities that do the same.

For the built environment industry, she said, this not only makes sense from the perspective of creating resilient buildings and cities that adapt to change and keep giving back, but it is becoming more and more critical to think in this way because climate change with its catastrophic socio-political, economic and environmental pressures is changing the way we build.

She concluded: “Climate change is changing our world. We need new stories for the future of our cities that inspire hope and positive action.”
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