Green lightbulbs set to spark at innovation awards

The built environment is the biggest contributor to climate change, but thanks to exciting developments in how we re-imagine the future, African cities of the future could become resilient, energy independent, carbon neutral systems.

Johannesburg, 1 December 2016

This and other kinds of ‘regenerative’ and ‘resilience’ development thinking will be presented by student finalists to industry leaders at the Greenovate Awards in Johannesburg tonight (1 December 2016).

Dr Edna Peres, an acclaimed urban planner from the University of Johannesburg, will be presenting to these students, industry leaders and planet shapers as part of the gala’s activities.

Dr Peres is perfectly situated at the intersection of the built environment and climate change leadership, as a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

At the Greenovate Awards she will be utilising her expertise in both fields to engage guests on the major issue of our time and her presentation is made on behalf of the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP), a branch of climate activist and former US Vice President, Al Gore’s, wider international Climate Reality Project.

The awards – organised by Growthpoint Properties and the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – are designed to expose the finalists, who are finishing their degrees in construction studies, property studies and quantity surveying, to the key areas of sustainability which will impact their chosen field, as well as introduce industry leaders to the exceptional talent that is now available to them.

“By bringing together experience and great new ideas, we can turn our biggest problems into our biggest opportunities”, says Growthpoint’s Remy Kloos.

The Greenovate Awards take place in a context where African communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, yet can no longer blame only the developed world for causing it, or failing to do enough about it.

Despite the desperate levels of poverty in Africa, the continent as a whole is expected to be responsible for between a quarter and a half of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030. Making matters worse, African’s carbon sinks (areas such as forests and grasslands that capture unwanted carbon in the atmosphere) are rapidly declining.

In order for Africa to break its vicious cycle of poverty without increasing carbon emissions, it will need buildings and cities that are built more efficiently – possibly generating their own electricity and working as carbon sinks to reduce the impacts of climate change.

In her address, Dr Peres will demonstrate how to move beyond sustainability thinking in the built environment by adopting ‘regenerative’ and ‘resilience’ thinking, thereby closing the gap between theory and practice.

This means building buildings that give back more energy and resources over their lifetime than they extract from the earth for construction, and creating cities that do the same.

For the built environment industry, she says, this not only makes sense from the perspective of creating resilient buildings and cities that adapt to change and keep giving back, but it is becoming more and more critical to think in this way because climate change with its catastrophic socio-political, economic and environmental pressures is changing the way we build.

She concludes: “Climate change is changing our world. We need new stories for the future of our cities that inspire hope and positive action.”