Gregory Rice: green by design

By Ilana Koegelenberg

Gregory Rice initially pursued a career in architecture, but during his postgraduate studies, he traded ‘how a building looks’ for ‘how a building works and serves its people’, moving into sustainable design.

Gregory Rice is a sustainability consultant, working for WSP’s Green by Design team. He has a great interest in recognising sustainable architecture in South Africa.

DSC 0060Gregory Rice of WSP’s Green by Design team.

An early interest
Rice’s interest in buildings can be traced back as far as his childhood Lego set. “I spent many hours building houses and enacting life in these projects,” he remembers. This later evolved into spending numerous afternoons after school drawing house plans, building scale models, and visualising space. Towards the end of his high school career, he had his eyes set on becoming an architect.

Throughout his architecture education, his mindset shifted more towards an interest in sustainable building. “The industry is still related to the aesthetics of a building, but includes more details on the context, the inner workings, and the experiences of the people within the building.”

After completing his undergraduate architecture degree at the University of Pretoria, Rice established a desire to explore the environmental impacts and energy use associated with the production and operational energy of building materials. He joined WSP in 2013 while completing his master’s dissertation.

He has since completed his master’s degree after presenting his research at the biennial Eco-Architecture conference hosted by the Wessex Institute of Technology in Siena, Italy.

Sustainable design
Together with the team of sustainability consultants, Rice assists in recognising and establishing sustainable development in South Africa using the Green Star South Africa green building rating system, energy research for the clay brick industry, and general sustainability principles.

“All buildings are built for people, but sustainable buildings protect people and the environment,” he says. “I enjoy waking up every day to question the norm, to introduce the option for healthier and responsible design and construction choices into the minds of architects, engineers, and property developers.”

A large part of his career has been focused on providing guidance to buildings that undergo ‘As Built’ Green Star ratings. The most important part of an ‘As Built’ project is commissioning, says Rice, thereby confirming that the building and its systems have been set to operate in an efficient manner. The value of Green Star lies in setting a suitable baseline for the operational phase of the building. “Commissioning motivates me; it’s onerous but definitely worth it.”

Rice has been involved in many projects over the years, including 102 Rivonia (EY) – Sandton; FNB Acacia House – Umhlanga; FNB @Parkside – Windhoek, Namibia; 129 Rivonia (ENSAfrica and MMI) – Sandton; and Batho Pele House (refurbishment and addition to historical Agrivaal Building) – Pretoria.

Future plans
“My absolute goal is to provide sustainability guidance to a large refurbishment.” The concept of refurbishment captures the essence of sustainability by reusing a structure that is already there and selecting a site often with a responsible response to context.

“In the future, I would like to spend more time on sustainable urban design and creating sustainable public space.”

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