GBCSA Convention day one in a nutshell

TOP TAKEOUT: We are getting results, but we have A LOT of work to do. (Oh, and try to do it without air conditioning.)

The day started with the Green Cafe Satellite Session, which was facilitated by the Green Building Design Group’s (GreenBDG) Songo Didiza and C40 Cities’ Paul Cartwright. It was packed!

It’s great to see that South African Cities are joining the C40 network in pledging Net Zero goals – Net zero carbon new buildings by 2030 and Net Zero all buildings by 2050. Building codes are aggressively ramping up to meet this. It will, however, require a paradigm shift in how buildings are designed, with drastic reductions in air conditioning. People-focused design and managing perceptions of thermal comfort will be key in achieving this.

The GBCSA has launched its own member magazine called +Impact, which has an in-depth feature on Net Zero – check it out on p.21. 

Between the Green Cafe and the opening ceremony, there was enough time to catch up with long-lost connections and investigate the exhibition. 

The opening plenary gave delegates a chance to reflect on how much work has been done in the green building industry in South Africa over the year. GBCSA CEO Dorah Modise and non-executive chair Faieda Jacobs gave some of the latest stats:

  • 400 Certifications since 2009. This amounts to:
  • 5.7 million square metres of certified space
  • R143 billion worth of green certified property
  • 570 million kWh/y will be saved
  • 530 million litres/y of drinking water will be saved 

Edward Colle from Belgotex then said a few words and introduced the keynote speaker – Paul Hawken from Project Drawdown who immediately won over the crowd when he pointed out he would prefer to drink from is reusable water bottle than drink the bottled water on offer. “The race to zero is a race to regenerate life on earth. Beyond zero is a transformed world that you are creating,” he reminded delegates.

Paul Hawken at the GBCSA Convention: Maybe when you get to game over, it’s actually game on.

He shared the most effective ways to turn around climate change – the most highly ranked solution, surprisingly, being refrigerant management. Particularly apt for the built environment industry. Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling.

Drawdown is based on meticulous scientific research that maps, measures, models, and describes the most substantive solutions to global warming that already exist. Project drawdown gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. 

It uncovers a path forward that can roll back global greenhouse gas emissions within thirty years. The research revealed that humanity has the means and techniques at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented, yet many more solutions are coming due to purposeful human ingenuity. The solutions we modeled are in place and in action. “Humanity’s task is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible as soon as possible. It is the most important goal for humanity to undertake,” says Project Drawdown.

Hawken also emphasised that we need to change the way we communicate about climate change and put the emphasis on restoration, understanding, renewal, rejuvenation, regeneration, reversal, connection, purpose, meaning, stability and respect.

Following Hawken’s keynote address and during the networking cocktail function on the first evening, the Department of Public Works (DPW), represented by Nkosazana Khubaka, launched its Green Building Policy to provide strategic leadership in green building sector.

The Public Works Green Building Policy was approved by Minister Thulas Nxesi in June 2018 and aims to provide leadership in the sustainable building sector; efficient energy, water and waste management, indoor environmental quality and comfort, and ensure sustainable product and materials management.

The DPW is responsible for over 90 000 buildings in South Africa and recognises that it wants and needs to play a role in greening South Africa’s building stock.

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