Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) held the 16th Green Building Convention in Cape Town recently, including the GBCSA Leadership Awards, celebrating remarkable achievements in the green building sector, including HVAC&R. This is part one of a two-part article.

GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds. Image supplied by GBCSA

GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds. Image supplied by GBCSA

Green Building awards are a great way to recognise and celebrate the efforts of individuals and organisations that are committed to promoting sustainable building practices. These awards are given to those who have demonstrated excellence in designing and constructing buildings that are environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.

One of the key areas of focus for these awards is the HVAC system, which plays a critical role in ensuring that buildings are comfortable and healthy while also minimising their environmental impact. By recognising the importance of energy efficiency in HVAC systems, these awards help to promote the development of innovative and sustainable building practices that can help to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Held from 15–17 November 2023, the gathering brought together industry leaders, experts and stakeholders committed to advancing sustainability in the built environment. Lead sponsors, Rand Water and Nedbank partnered with GBCSA to make the convention another resounding success.

The event has grown into the largest and most significant built environment conference in South Africa, and hosted 700 professionals, featuring more than 100 speakers, workshops and discussions showcasing innovative and sustainable initiatives that indicate an extensive commitment to a greener and more sustainable world.

But this needs to include everyone, says GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds, reflecting on the strong theme of inclusive sustainability running through many of the presentations: “When GBCSA was established, the goal was focusing on the ‘top 5%’, with the buildings achieving certification indicating a commitment to limiting their impact. But sustainability is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Anyone who lives in a building is now part of this movement – we are broadening the spectrum and I think that’s exciting.”

A significant milestone, GBCSA’s 1 000th certification awarded to Stellenbosch University’s Visual Arts Building, was celebrated during the convention.

Mbuyiswa Makhubela, General Manager of Corporate Services at Rand Water, expressed appreciation for what he describes as a newfound focus on water, positioning it alongside energy in terms of its importance, and calling for partnerships to influence green building discussions.

Genevieve Naidoo, Divisional Executive: Property and Finance, described the convention as ‘one of a kind’ and commended its progressive approach, praising the quality of speakers, the depth of discussions, and the diverse range of stakeholders involved at the convention.

Polar Explorer Robert Swan, in a gripping keynote speech, stressed the urgency of the journey towards sustainability, with a focus on achievable goals and the necessity of collective efforts.

Dr Sara Candiracci, associate director at Arup, highlighted the need for creating inclusive spaces and discussed some of the challenges faced by cities. Huge emphasis was placed on the importance of finding solutions that cater to various age groups and socio-economic conditions.

Dominika Czerwinska, director of engagement and networks at the World Green Building Council, launched the ‘Building a water-resilient future for everyone, everywhere’ paper, addressing the global water crisis and calling for collective action in the building sector.

Offering an interesting perspective on global warming, comedian and OGO creative partner in strategy and marketing, John Vlismas says: “We cannot give people clean, limitless energy, as that will kill the planet. In the long run we are helping if we can educate children at a younger age, and if we can incorporate sustainability into the different professions.”

Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis celebrated Cape Town’s A-ranking for climate action and transparency in the 2023 Cities A-List by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – the only city in Africa to achieve this ranking. He says: “We will be leading the charge, moving to a more decentralised, more cost-efficient, more carbon neutral power supply in the City of Cape Town.”

André Theys, Chair of GBCSA, reflecting on the convention’s success, emphasising the importance of the GBCSA’s mission amid the challenges of climate change denial and alarmism. He outlined plans for future initiatives, including a focus on existing building performance, a potential ‘Green Star Lite,’ and the development of a ‘sustainable home framework’. Despite economic challenges, Theys expressed the need to drive resource efficiency in the built environment and acknowledged the vital role of partnerships in achieving sustainability goals.

Continued in part two…