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Green building accelerates in Africa

With office buildings in Rwanda and Namibia both receiving 6-Star Green Star ratings, certified by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), green building is gaining rapid momentum in Africa.

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In Kigali, Rwanda, the Nobelia Office Tower has achieved the very first Green Star rating in the country – a 6-Star Green Star SA-Rwanda – Office v1 Design rating for shell and core. While in Windhoek, Namibia, Emcon Consulting Group’s offices received a 6-Star Green Star SA-Namibia – Existing Building Performance Tool v1 rating, becoming the second Green Star certified building in the country, and the first to attain a 6-Star rating.

Commenting on these landmark ratings, Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA, says: “The pace of green building in Africa is accelerating, not only in South Africa but across the continent. Green building is a growing global movement, but its implementation varies widely by country and region, including the rate of growth in green involvement, triggers and obstacles impacting that growth and even the degree of benefits noted.”

“Africa has already made great strides in green building, and these are only its first steps in the significant green building journey of a continent bearing the brunt of the negative effects of climate change,” he adds.

Adapting Green Star SA tools for specific local contexts

The GBCSA’s Green Star SA rating tools were developed specifically for the South African context but are also a natural touch point for green building movements and councils in other parts of Africa. The GBCSA, therefore, seeks to work with other green building councils and structures like the African Network of Green Building Councils to adapt Green Star SA tools for specific local contexts – this has been done through what the GBCSA calls a Local Context Report.

So far, Local Context Reports have been developed for Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia, Mauritius, and Uganda with the GBCSA working in collaboration with the relevant Green Building Councils to certify buildings in these countries.

In this way, the GBCSA is clearing the path for fledgling green building industries, like those behind the new Green Star certifications in Rwanda and Namibia.

The Nobelia Office Tower in Kigali, Rwanda has set its sights on being a leading green building in Rwanda and the wider Central East African region. The 19 storey tower will have 16 floors dedicated to office space, adjacent to commercial, residential, recreational and retail zones. It is constructed on previously developed land to prevent urban sprawl.

Manfred Braune, GBCSA’s chief technical officer, reports: “This project scored very high results in key areas of its rating, including energy consumption, water management, emissions and transport. It boasts several impressive sustainable building features.”

This includes the building’s ability to provide dehumidified fresh air, solar panels and on-site water treatment. Its façade is a tribute to the building’s green inner workings, with mesh that allows for plant growth and shading. The building’s waste management plan even includes an on-site composting facility to improve on soil, plant growth and biodiversity.

Lofty green goals

In Namibia, Emcon Consulting Group is leading by example. As an African consultancy firm that operates in the energy, electricity, building services and project management sectors, it set lofty green goals for its own office in the heart of Klein Windhoek.

Braune says what makes this project even more remarkable is that Emcon’s 6-Star Green Star Existing Building Performance rating submission was led by first-time Green Star Accredited Professional (AP), Emcon’s own Carina Muller, who achieved this in the first round of what is typically a two-round process.

Previously a private residence, Emcon’s office building’s green performance was boosted with a solar power plant, more natural light with daylight control, and an energy efficient evaporative cooling system that provides 100% fresh air – cooling and humidifying the hot, dry Windhoek air. This has helped make it 79% more energy efficient than the industry average. It has an intelligent energy and water monitoring system, a live on-screen energy and water usage display, and a Xeriscape Garden with an artificial turf putting green.

Wilkinson says: “The Green Star certified projects showcase world-class, innovative implementations that benefit people, planet and profit. Results in the USA, Australia and now Africa clearly show there is no significant difference between the costs of green buildings compared to conventional buildings. However, green buildings show the potential to achieve better investment returns and higher valuations.”

As the market becomes more aware of these benefits, the GBCSA expects green building to gain even more traction in Africa.

“Green building presents a compelling business case. Our partners, associates and Green Star certified projects have already started reaping the rewards of their green investments through lower operating costs, higher returns on their assets, minimised churn and increased productivity – all while doing their bit for the environment,” Wilkinson says.

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Climate Changing and Environmental Pollution risking Food Production – Antioch Daily News

Climate change will have far-reaching impacts on food security – not only at the farm level but on the entire food chain from farm to fork, according to an international report released at COP21 climate talks in Paris.A new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that climate change could impact the food supply in Colorado-and across the world.

As first time at a COP conference, agriculture had its own dedicated focus-day

This week, these concerns have been prominent on the agenda at the COP21 climate talks in Paris. For the first time at a COP conference, agriculture had its own dedicated focus-day, held on Tuesday by the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), a partnership established between France and Peru to showcase and strengthen on-the-ground climate action in 2015 and beyond. “For years, agriculture, food systems, including oceans, including forests, have been knocking hard at the door—and now there’s movement starting,” said David Nabarro, former special representative of food security and nutrition for the United Nations, at the LPAA agriculture press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change. Mess around with this interactive map, created by the U.K.’s national weather service and the World Food Programme, to get an idea of what levels of carbon reductions and adaptation activities will bring in regard to food insecurity. A farmer tills his field. “Accurately identifying needs and vulnerabilities, and effectively targeting adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate”.

“Changes in society and changes in climate will both be critically important to food security in the coming decades”, O’Neill said. “The risks are greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions”. “We must do all of this in the face of climate change that is threatening the productivity and profitability of our farms, ranches and forests”. However, this is likely to hit consumers and producers with changes to the prices of imported produce, as well changes to infrastructure, export demand, processing and storage.

That door should have been yanked open a long time ago, considering that our food systems are due to bear so much of the brunt of climate change. But there are strong signs of progress. The world needs creative solutions if we are to reduce agricultural impact and feed everyone on the planet (an estimated nine billion by 2050)—and some of the best have recently been aired at the talks.

Here are three that caught my eye: each places our global food system squarely on the climate table.

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Future of Food Production in insecurity

The first step in prioritising food systems is to confront what will happen if we don’t. On Tuesday at COP21 the World Food Program and the U.K.’s Met Office Hadley Centre launched a new, interactive mapping tool that predicts, in unprecedented detail, how future climate scenarios could influence food security, especially in the world’s developing nations. Based on five years of meteorological and agricultural research, the Food Insecurity and Climate Change Vulnerability Map shows how food security could change at the individual country level, either worsening or improving depending on three variables that users can tweak on the map: time scale (you can choose between the present day, 2050s, 2080s), emissions (low, medium, high), and adaptation (high, low, none).

As a starting point, the map could help countries forecast their food security risk and inform their planning, says Richard Choularton, chief of climate and disaster risk reduction at the World Food Programme. “The results of the analysis can provide some insight into vulnerability at the national level, when the specific factors behind the index are unpacked.” For example, in one country road access might emerge as the main limit on food security, in another it might be the variability of rainfall.

The map also shows what can be achieved if reduced emissions are paired with increased adaptive measures—like climate-smart agriculture—to make food systems more secure. “What’s most important, especially in the context of Paris, is that mitigation or adaption alone is not enough,” Choularton says. “We need a very serious combination of both.”

Keeping soil carbon on lockdown

The planet’s soils naturally hold vast quantities of carbon—two to three times more carbon than the air. Releasing it through unsuitable, soil-degrading agricultural techniques will contribute to climate change and also reduce soil health—but, if we keep more carbon locked in the soil, it has the power to both mitigate climate change and increase agricultural productivity.

On Tuesday as part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, hundreds of partners joined to launch ‘4/1000’, an initiative designed to increase the storage of carbon in the earth: “If we were to increase the amount of carbon in the soil by just 0.4% then we would compensate entirely for the increase of carbon in the atmosphere—just to show how huge the potential is,” says Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Centers, one of the partners contributing to the initiative. As part of 4/1000 the CGIAR itself is proposing a $225 million project that aims to increase carbon storage by promoting better farming techniques in developing world agriculture. Methods like agroforestry and reduced soil tillage could keep carbon enclosed in the soil, leading to a 20 percent boost in yields, and in theory offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent. The benefits will be three-pronged, says Rijsberman: “We will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; adapt agriculture to climate change and thus improve food security; and improve ecosystem functioning.”

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Global Collabration on Waste Treatment

An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is lost and wasted annually between farm and fork, producing 3.3 Gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. On Tuesday at COP21, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute announced that to counter it, they’re launching a new platform that will encourage G20 member countries, the private sector, and NGOs to pool their resources toward the goal of fighting food waste. Today, that new forum—called the G20 Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste—goes live.

The platform is designed to “provide up to date information on policy, strategy and actions for food loss and waste reduction, and share best practices across countries—something which is badly needed,” says Anthony Bennett from the Rural Infrastructure and Agro-industries Division at the FAO. G20 member countries—which include China, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States—along with other countries, will be encouraged to use the forum to share what works for them in cutting food waste, and what doesn’t. As the platform grows, it will also feature a database of low-cost, accessible technologies available to tackle this problem. The hope is that the platform will become a place where countries can unite and ultimately scale up their efforts to reduce the global impact of food waste.

These are just three of the many projects worth knowing about: as part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, several other food-focused initiatives were launched this week, touching on everything from low-carbon beef to the sustainable management of marine food systems.

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Proposed R5.3bn expressway to increase N3 safety, productivity

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) recently outlined the benefits of its proposed R5.3-billion De Beers Expressway, saying this would result in significant relief in congestion on the Van Reenen’s Pass route.

Sanral communications GM Vusi Mona noted in a statement that the expressway would result in higher levels of safety, comfort and productivity for road users.

The De Beers Expressway section of the N3 would be a 99 km dual carriageway, which would link Keeversfontein, in KwaZulu-Natal, with Warden, in the Free State.

Although the route was part of the N3 Toll Concession, it would not be tolled between Cedra and Heidelburg, and there would be no change to current toll tariffs on the road.

The route would be 15 km shorter than the N3 and would have flatter grades, a smoother alignment and fewer sharp curves. This would result in a 30-minute time saving for light vehicles and a 60-minute saving for heavy vehicles, as well as better levels of service and a reduction in accidents.

The route would reduce the effects of N3 road closures by at least 80% and remove bottlenecks at Van Reenen’s Pass.

Mona explained that the existing Van Reenen’s Pass route, which was built in 1961, was no longer able to effectively handle the growth in traffic volumes. Increase in Accidents The number of accidents on the route had increased in recent years, resulting in many fatalities and road users being inconvenienced through sporadic road closures.

“The existing stretch of the R103/N3 past Harrismith and across Van Reenen’s Pass will remain in place and continue to be maintained by Sanral. “Once the construction of the De Beers Expressway has been completed, there will be two highways crossing the Berg, providing all road users with an alternative route between Keeversfontein and Warden,” said Mona.

He added that, while businesses on the current route would be affected, not all existing traffic would shift to the new route.

Sanral expected one-third of the through traffic to remain on the current route.

Further, Mona stated that Harrismith would become a “boom town” during the expected four-year construction period.

The N3 route had been earmarked as one of the priorities of the multibillion-rand Strategic Integrated Project 2 that was crucial to unblocking economic development and providing much-needed capacity along key freight corridors in South Africa.

Important Component

Construction of the De Beers Expressway route formed an important component of plans to develop the Durban–Free State–Gauteng logistics and industrial corridor, which was vital to the future of the national and regional economies.

“With Durban handling over 40% of the country’s imports and exports and Gauteng being the country’s economic heartland, generating over 33% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the Durban–Free State–Gauteng corridor is by far the most important economic corridor in the country and this route will directly contribute about R4.4-billion a year towards South Africa’s GDP,” said Mona.

Source: Engineering News


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Balancing productivity, profitability and headcount in mining

By Craig Hook

Productivity is a hot topic in South Africa with economists frequently advising that productivity has not grown as well as it should have in the last few years. One sector where productivity is always in the spotlight is the Mining industry.

According to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the nation’s productivity has grown on average between 1970 – 2013 by a mere 1.02% a year. It measured growth in productivity of 1.92% per annum between 2010 and 2013. Despite the recent economic slowdown, productivity in the country has grown by an average of 2.8% a year during the 18 years spanning 1995 – 2013.

For many organisations, the one simple solution to balance costs against profits, is to cut-off the dead wood. This begs the question, is it possible to attain sustainable profit beyond headcount reduction? And if so, how do organisations strike the balance between productivity and maximum profitability?

According to Chamber of Mines chief executive Bheki Sibiya, labour costs were escalating to higher levels while productivity was not improving.” If the salary is growing at 10%, productivity should also grow at 10%.” In an interview with the Sowetan, Sibiya –  who is unhappy that President Jacob Zuma has returned the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to parliament for further consultation –  warned that the mining industry was a long-term industry and needed to operate in an environment that did not change too much.

One should ask though, is this a fair statement in the South African environment which is constantly in flux? With challenges such as a striking workforce, and load shedding impacting on the sustainability and long term profitability of the mines, it is not hard to explain why productivity would also be severely impacted.

Sustaining profits is about identifying and managing the economic drivers of costs (reduce) and revenue (increase) during the business cycle to achieve a desired profitability target.  Reducing headcount (people resources) can lead to sustainable profit contribution if it is linked to an economic driver. For example, if an economic driver is truck productivity and you can implement an operational improvement to reduce cycle time which means less truck hours to mine the same quantities of ore then headcount can be reduced. If however, headcount reduction is done without changing the operational processes to improve productivity then quantities of ore mined and sold may drop and profits will be impacted.

Likewise, reducing support function headcount without a corresponding process change may increase risks to product quality, reserves replacement, safety, etc.  In the medium to long term it is productivity improvement not headcount reduction that sustains profits and allows you to react to upturns in commodity demand.

Source: BizNews


 

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