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South Africa has shown positive developments in sustainability over the last few years, but there remains room for growth, according to AECOM Sustainability Practice Area Lead Candice Manning. She adds that there is also a need for greater industry commitment to more sustainable technology and practices.

“In some developed countries, the construction-materials market is possibly more advanced than we are, with a greater range of available materials with sustainability certifications that can be taken into consideration,” Manning says.

Industry must commit to sustainability

In South Africa, advances in the context of sustainable construction, consulting and planning have resulted in a trend of net zero status for new and existing developments. However, an integrated approach to achieving such an ambitious target is required upfront in the planning process, with the entire project team collaborating to achieve these stringent requirements, she adds.

“Sustainability drives innovation and resilience, while reducing risk for clients, and provides an attractive return on investment (ROI) for the entire project lifecycle. A positive ROI encourages and reinforces the need for sustainability. It has been a challenge for some, and an absolute must for others – but it has generally been received positively.”

Manning says that while many still see green building certification as a ‘nice to have’, this has become a critical element of sustainability, not to mention reputation management for the client itself. “It’s up to the client and project team to ensure the best sustainable technologies and designs are adopted and implemented, and not just the bare minimum required for a green building certification. This promotes better design, construction and operation, and ensures that best practices are adopted. The South African Green Star tool has influenced much change in the industry, and it is time for a new version to be released to challenge the market again.”

The 2017 AECOM Sustainability Report found that last year was one of the costliest on record in terms of the damage and loss of life caused by natural disasters globally. “Our designs have to be resilient as a result, while legislation and accountability must be a key driver in ensuring sustainable principles are incorporated in all projects,” Manning says.

“This applies to Africa as a whole. Our designs, whether applied in South Africa or other African countries, are always in line with our core value of sustainability. We educate project teams based in African countries, and we work with local materials and practices to ensure sustainable solutions.”

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