Ten Questions with Manfred Braune

Manfred Braune has recently started an exciting new journey as the director of environmental sustainability at the University of Cape Town. He was part of the team that achieved the first four certified green buildings in South Africa at the very start of the country’s official green building journey, and followed this by joining the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), where he played a pivotal role at the organisation for almost nine years.

1. Where do you go for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from multiple sources, but the four most dominant ones are:

  • Nature: spending time outdoors or watching nature, whether it is for a walk, surf, skate or just looking at nature, all of these activities connecting with nature are an inspiration for me.
  • Family, friends, and colleagues: I enjoy spending time with others, and am inspired by the positive things they do. I am inspired by connecting with family, and by building my relationship with my wife and two daughters.
  • The Creator, God: I enjoy connecting with God, and growing my relationship with Him, who inspires me daily, both directly through my walk with Him and through His beautiful creation.
  • Innovation: I enjoy innovating and being inspired by other innovations, whether technological or social or economic. There are so many incredible ideas and innovations out there that can do good and are really inspirational.

2. What do you think is the most urgent global environmental challenge facing us?

There are so many critical environmental issues, and they are so interrelated. The two most important ones in my mind are:

  • Extinction and removal of multiple species and natural environments – these species and systems are so beautiful, and also so necessary for our survival and sanity.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change – far too few countries are taking this seriously enough to really commit to radical legislative change that is well resourced, which means it is actually a much greater issue than what governments and citizens realise globally. The impacts and consequences are often not immediate, and therefore not always directly attributable to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and therefore even more dangerous, because it could silently destroy entire cities and economies over the next 50 years and people and governments will still not attribute it to climate change and therefore not act radically enough at a leadership and legislative level. The response and responsibility cannot be voluntary, it must be legislated at various levels and spheres, and must be well resourced.

3. What is the most useful tool that helps you every day?

There are a few, that are practical and add value to reducing my footprint:

  • Google maps to monitor traffic flow and avoid sitting in traffic unnecessarily, emitting more unnecessary GHGs.
  • Wearing work clothes that allow me to feel comfortable and not require me to use heating or air-conditioning as far as possible.
  • SAPOA, GBCSA and SAFMA are probably the most useful and beneficial networks of people to engage with in my environment, with regular events and activity that relates to the property sector.
  • LinkedIn as a platform to hear about and share essential activities and news in the property and environmental sector.

3. What do you feel is the biggest issue in the environmental sustainability industry that we have to overcome?

There are so many technical challenges that we face in solving the environmental issues, but most of these can actually be solved and practical solutions already exist to solve them. The real challenge that is common to them all is getting people to understand the issues fully, getting them to want to do something about it, and as a result, getting people to make critical decisions that will support environmental sustainability. Getting more committed citizens and leaders on board is essential – without this, all the amazing solutions being driven by a few solitary leaders and citizens will only affect small isolated snippets of the environment.

5. When was the last time you were scared? What is it that scares you?

Natural disasters, the power of nature and sickness scare me. These are mostly powers completely out of our control, that can come very quickly and completely destroy life that was vibrant just a few seconds, hours or days before.

6. What are you reading or listening to?

I enjoy listening to music that is uplifting, that inspires me to connect with God and creation, and that celebrates musical talent – I enjoy a huge variety of music, especially where the instruments are identifiable in the music, such as piano, guitar, drums, saxophone, violin, etc. Whether its U2’s incredible sounds, Lauren Daigle’s amazing voice, or Third Day’s rock guitar sounds, and maybe even Kurt Darren’s Kaptein vibes…ok, maybe that’s pushing it!

7. What achievement are you most proud of?

I would not say pride, but rather privilege. It has been an incredible privilege playing a significant role amongst many other leading professionals in South Africa establishing and growing the green building standards and driving change in this sphere of the built environment, whilst at WSP Green by Design and GBCSA, and now at UCT. There is still so much to do, so I’ll keep working on it!

8. What is the best part of your workday?

There are many, but it is typically when connecting with colleagues, students or industry folk on something in a personal way on common objectives, or even just socially, and when there is progress and milestones are reached on significant projects or programmes.

Outside of work, the best part of the day is coming home to see my wife and daughters.

9. What is a message you would like to shout from the rooftops? Something you wish everyone could know and take to heart.

Stop taking what you have outdoors for granted, like the air quality or the views, or the fields, or the ocean, or animals, or even colleagues or family – if we continue behaving like we are at the moment, all of it will be gone or suffering much much more in 20-30 years time because of our lack of commitment to act more responsibly. Live life to the full, and love and care for others, and love and care for yourself.

10. What is a nifty, ‘sustainability hack’ that you use in your daily life to live more environmentally friendly?

I must say, I don’t have a sustainability hack that I can think of – I find that we are so surrounded by everything that is trying to push us to consume more, to be more selfish and behave less environmentally responsibly, so it takes a concerted effort to go against the flow – I don’t really get the sense that there are many short cuts to sustainability. Hopefully, this will change in future, where the norm will be to be sustainable and if you are not you will be going against the flow.

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