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Green, sustainable future becomes top of mind for more

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Building a future that is sustainable and green has become top of mind for more people now than ever before, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the view of Lisa Reynolds, CEO of the Green Building Council of South Africa, which hosted its Planet Shapers Online Events on Tuesday – Building it back Better.

 “I believe Covid-19 has given us impetus, in that one of our concepts is to bring about a green recovery. People lost their jobs and we have to recover economically, so why not use this to implement a green recovery?

 “The retrofitting of old homes to make them carbon free energy-efficient is a great opportunity for job creation,” Reynolds said. She said that the drive towards sustainability should not be in conflict with a business’s sustainability, it has to be able to survive economically.

The Eswatini seed bank project was a private contract undertaken by the Paragon Group that made use of local workers and materials. Picture: Supplied

 “Covid-19 has brought about a complete new view on offices, and brought to bear the issue of healthy buildings. Before Covid, having water and energy saving in a building was an intangible ‘nice to have’, but with people working from their homes they realised they are not ideal as working places, with regard to things such as lighting and acoustics.

“Sustainability has become top of mind, because we always talk about climate change and the human impact on the planet, but lockdown allowed us to see the earth heal, and brought to the fore people’s understanding of our impact, like never before,” she said.

 Asked about the high cost of going off the grid, Reynolds said that demand has helped make it less expensive than it used to be, with the payback period where you start making savings, getting shorter and shorter.

The Eswatini seed bank project was a private contract undertaken by the Paragon Group that made use of local workers and materials. Picture: Supplied

 “But going off the grid is not just about the cost of it, it is also about providing security of energy. What happens to your business when there is load shedding?”

The GBCSA has been in existence since 2007, with the first Green Star accreditation in 2009 and it is approaching a significant milestone, that of achieving green certification for the 600th building project in the country.

Reynolds sees a green future where we are not pumping carbon into the atmosphere, have healthy housing and buildings, and flexible working arrangements. 

“My ideal is to have cities that flow properly without traffic jams, through the use of efficient public transport, where we all live a life of sufficiency,” she said. 

Architect Henning Rasmuss from the Paragon Group, emphasised during the webinar that everyone can play a role in shaping our future by questioning how things are made, what impact they have on our environment, and whether there is a local alternative to imported products used in the building industry. 

He said our mineral extractive economy made us financially vulnerable and did not support local production or create new jobs. “The making of stuff is what creates jobs,” he said.

Rasmuss said that too often we rely on imported products in construction, instead of looking at creative alternatives and developing them locally.

 Fellow panellist Christo Pretorius from Saint-Gobain Africa, which develops and supplies sustainable and innovative insulation solutions, said that health and wellness was a cornerstone in their approach to building a sustainable future.

 He said that according to the World Health Organisation people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, making it crucial that future building projects do not compromise the health and wellbeing of those who will occupy them.

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