Smart buildings technology combined with secure connectivity will enable customers to better digitalise, analyse and optimise energy use in buildings. This is part two of a two-part series.
As the World Green Building Council commemorates World Green Building Week (WGBW23), Alison Groves, Regional Director, WSP in Africa, shares insights on #BuildingTheTransition in the local market through a Future Ready approach.
…continued from part one.
Legislation, and certifications like Green Star and LEED, provide a legal minimum requirement and something to benchmark against respectively. But often the minimums are not good enough to make enough impact. Buildings must be designed for their occupants, not just to meet a legislated minimum requirement. For example, there is legislation that prescribes how much fresh air needs to be circulating in a building, but this stipulation is far lower than what we know to be optimal fresh air for human performance and health.
However, positive strides are being made. Out of the local power crisis, and since the legislated caps on private solar power generation capacity were lifted, renewable power generation capacity in South Africa has doubled in a year. It demonstrates how every crisis can also be viewed as an opportunity to make strides, to innovate and to see things differently.
For property developers to navigate the complexities of sustainable building, a clear vision or target is important. This allows us to quantify goals and work towards them, and making sure that benchmarking in design can take shape. The use of low embodied carbon in construction materials is a good example. At the moment we know very little about exactly what embodied carbons are in building materials, so we cannot say what a realistic reduction target looks like. But if there is no target for reducing it in the building and project plan, there is also no need to establish the current baseline and, therefore, no way to reduce it. We must start somewhere, even if it is only with a target that helps to define what we don’t know yet.
It’s also about not staying in your lane. Applying your knowledge or voicing ideas outside of your designated area of expertise is how innovation and change occur. There are principles inherent in Future Ready design and construction that can be applied in all aspects of building design.
First, design for adaptability and disassembly. Design buildings and infrastructure to be flexible and adaptable to changing needs, and easily disassembled at the end of their first life. Then, use materials that have a low environmental impact, and ensure that their origin and composition are transparent. It is important to prioritise the efficient use of resources and create closed-loop systems where waste is eliminated and materials continuously re-used across a full asset lifecycle, as well as to localise supply and skills in the value chain.
We must also shift away from short-term thinking – for example, building to meet minimum legislated requirements to save costs, without consideration for the long-term positive impact a best-practice design could produce. As an industry, we must take a long-term view, considering the past, present and future uses of buildings, their spaces, materials and technologies.
Where we can, we must regenerate nature, and draw inspiration from natural systems in which nothing is wasted, implement nature-based solutions and protect water resources. We must use materials that can eventually return nutrients to the biosphere.
And finally, we must ensure a just transition to the green economy by upskilling and educating people, while collaborating with communities and building industry stakeholders, including architects, engineers, developers and policymakers.
WSP’s Future Ready approach is a business offering and embodies active thinking about climate resilience, the circular economy and enabling human beings to thrive. Beyond environmental concerns, taking a Future Ready approach to building design and construction is really about business sustainability and resilience to the trends that we are seeing emerge through climate change.