’Belief that everything has to be about brick and mortar needs to change’

South Africa’s addiction to conventional building methods and their belief that everything has to be about brick and mortar needs to change if we hope to have a future that is green and sustainable.

This was a key message that emerged from the Green Building Council of South Africa’s Planet Shapers Online Event on Tuesday.

Panelist, architect Henning Rasmuss from the Paragon Group, said that although there was renewed interest in alternative building methods and materials, the market tended to lean towards the traditional brick and mortar approach.

He believed that there was a lack of imagination within government in creating sustainable jobs, and making things future-proof.

“The making of stuff creates jobs,” he said, referring to a project in Eswatini where his firm designed a seed-bank complex where local “bakkie builders” were able to secure contracts in its construction.

Songo Didiza from the Green Building Design Group said more needs to be done to educate people about the benefits of building green and sourcing local materials in order to reduce our dependence on traditional brick and mortar.

Fellow panellist Christo Pretorius from Saint-Gobain Africa, said that health and wellness was a cornerstone in their approach to building a sustainable future. The Paris-based firm has been in existence for 350 years, and develops and supplies sustainable and innovative insulation solutions.

“The market is hungry for new ideas of sustainable construction. There will be pushback, but it can be showcased for them by presenting case studies, to get the message across,” he said.

He said that according to the World Health Organisation people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, making it crucial that future building projects do not compromise the health and wellbeing of those who will occupy them.

Gracia Munganga, of the Carbon Trust Africa, said that the circular economy was a design approach which sought to limit the construction industry’s impact on the environment through the repurposing and reuse of materials.

Munganga made the point that 40 percent of the material that ends up in our landfills comes from the building industry.

“That needs to change,” she said.