Smart buildings technology, combined with secure connectivity, will enable customers to better digitalise, analyse and optimise energy use in buildings. This is part one of a two-part series.

Alison Groves, Regional Director, WSP in Africa. Image supplied by WSP

Alison Groves, Regional Director, WSP in Africa. Image supplied by WSP

As the World Green Building Council commemorates World Green Building Week (WGBW23), Alison Groves, Regional Director at WSP in Africa, shares insights on #BuildingTheTransition in the local market through a Future Ready approach.

The construction sector must not be overlooked in the drive towards achieving Net Zero. While sectors such as industrial manufacturing, mining and fossil fuel power generation tend to grab more headlines, the construction of buildings and infrastructure accounts for approximately 7 Gt CO2e, or 20% of global carbon emissions, where 4 Gt CO2e is associated with the materials used for construction. When the operational phase of buildings and infrastructure is included, the share of global emissions increases to around 70%, including energy production and use, traffic and so on.

The impacts of climate change – beyond hotter, drier climate conditions and more extreme weather events – are already having an impact on society in ways that we do not intuitively realise. Increases in disease and civil insecurity result, as resources become scarcer, food security is threatened, and natural disasters become not only more frequent but also more destructive. At the core of all the trends driving the adoption of net zero targets and policies is people. Human beings’ ability to live, work and play in changing climate conditions really is the most important focus – without people there is no change.

Taking a Future Ready approach to sustainable building design and construction is about addressing some key questions: How do we build to mitigate against the impacts of climate change, including societal impacts? Can we ensure a just transition to the green economy that addresses unemployment rates, access to resources and other social ills, rather than exacerbating inequality?

Social insecurity is a critical consideration in South Africa. With unemployment rates widening the inequality gap, we must seek out opportunities to enable economic participation in the green economy. This requires a circular approach to how we design and construct buildings, rather than the more traditional cradle-to-grave approach. A circular approach is about considering how we use resources such as water and energy, and how we manage waste and recycling. But it also speaks to the skills we need to develop amongst people to enable them to participate in the shift towards achieving net zero.

As it stands, there is a lot of legislation that developers and contractors need to adhere to, and these regulations intersect on matters pertaining to the natural environment – including but not limited to water and energy efficiency, natural environment and land contamination considerations, clean air and endangered species and protected land in special circumstances. But these codes – as important as they are – define minimum practice, not best practice.

Continued in part two…