BLOG: Hlompho Vivian helping City of Tshwane to transition towards green buildings

Hlompho Vivian is a Technical Officer for the C40 South African New Buildings Programme, seconded to the City of Tshwane by Sustainable Energy Africa. The aim of the C40 Buildings Programme in South Africa is to support the City of Tshwane along with three other metropolitan municipalities in the country to go above & beyond current minimum building efficiency requirements, through the accelerated implementation of low carbon building actions.

 1. You are a Technical Officer for the C40 South African New Buildings Programme, seconded to the City of Tshwane by Sustainable Energy Africa. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your journey that led you to join the C40 South Africa Buildings Programme?
My passion for the environmental sciences resulted in an interest in both geology and environmental management. I began my professional career as a geologist supporting the monitoring and rehabilitation of sinkholes and other ground movements in the mining sector, this included the prevention of damage to infrastructure where possible.

I then transitioned into development cooperation with a focus on the implementation of alternative waste treatment and green building flagship projects and programmes to mitigate climate change. It is during this time that I developed project management, multi-stakeholder engagement and management skills crucial to ensuring effective cooperation and delivery of climate change projects.

As a result of the development cooperation experience I naturally moved towards the deepening of my experience in the green building sector, through my role as a business development and key accounts specialist of the Green Building Council South Africa. I held a public sector advocacy role and provided strategic support to government stakeholders to enable the green building transition.

Finally, my role as a Technical Officer of the C40 SA New Buildings Programme provided an opportunity to hone in on green building policy development at the local government level, critical to enabling the transition towards green buildings at scale. I view my role as a Technical Officer as critical to enhancing the enabling environment required to facilitate the paradigm shift in the best interest of society and the environment.

2. You are seconded to City of Tshwane with the City Sustainability Division. Why is the unit driving the programme?
The C40 SA New Buildings Programme is strategically located within the City Sustainability Unit (CSU), in the Office of the Executive Mayor, signifying the importance of the sustainability agenda in the City. The role of the City Sustainability Division is to advocate, provide advisory and mainstreaming of climate change throughout the City’s sector departments to mitigate climate change and enhance resilience. This will have bearing on procurement, the implementation of projects, integrated planning, master planning etc. The Division constitutes of mitigation, adaptation and financing mechanism and resource mobilization sub-divisions.

The CSU is leading the implementation of the C40 SA New Buildings Programme due to the high level of emissions associated with buildings in the City, and the vulnerability of buildings and their occupants to the impacts of climate change as demonstrated through the greenhouse gas inventories and vulnerability assessments undertaken to date amongst other research and feasibility studies. CSU is implementing the Programme in partnership with the City’s Building Control Office in the Built Environment and Enforcement Division, located in the Economic Development and Spatial Planning Department, as the custodians of the building plan approval process.
Furthermore, green buildings form a critical component to the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) currently under development, also led by CSU. The CAP outlines a pathway for a carbon neutral and climate resilient City by 2050.

3. Before you joined the City, you worked for the Green Building Council South Africa. What in your view have been the most significant changes in the “green building industry” in the last few years?

I have witnessed a major shift in the willingness of the property and construction sector value chains to engage on the practical implementation of green buildings in South Africa. The conversation is no longer limited to the barriers and challenges but rather the possible solutions to enable implementation at scale. This could be attributed to the wide acceptance that urgent climate change response is required to prevent the impacts of climate change already visible and to fulfil the objectives of the National Development Plan 2030, COP21 Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, the cost of green buildings has shown a steady decline in South Africa which will have a positive impact on the transition. Lastly, Covid-19 presents an opportunity to rebuild the economy sustainably.

4. For our readers not familiar with the green building industry, please explain what is a green building?
A green building is designed and operated in a manner that:
• Is highly resource efficient and therefore utilizes natural goods and services sparingly,
• Results in reduced utility costs if operated correctly,
• Has minimal adverse environmental impacts and,
• Positive health benefits.

5. It will take collaborative efforts to ensure all new buildings are net zero carbon by 2030. Which actors and sectors do you think need to come together to ensure that the 2030 goal is feasible?
It is crucial for the entire property and construction sector value chain to play a role in the transition towards the 2030 net zero carbon target. The role of each role player is outlined below:
Government will have a crucial role to play with respect to the development and enforcement of appropriate policies and standards to enable the transition; implementation of appropriate incentives; capacity building of officials and industry; public education and awareness.
Property professionals will play a crucial role with respect to compliance, education and awareness raising.
Investors such as developers and property owners will have a key role to play with respect to compliance to net zero carbon policies and standards.
The financial sector will play a crucial role with respect to delivering transformative incentives to enhance the adoption of the net zero carbon policies and standards.
The energy sector has a pertinent role to play in facilitating the transition towards a diversified energy mix, critical to the net zero carbon transition. This will include the distribution of offsite renewable energy and ensuring that reliable cost-effective technologies are on the market for onsite generation for example.

6. Net zero carbon buildings have previously been assumed by many to be attainable only by technologically advanced or wealthy countries. How can we ensure that developing countries are not excluded and that all buildings including low income houses are net zero carbon?
It is critical that all policies developed by Cities in South Africa consider the affordability and practical implementation of the requirements to ensure inclusivity. It is ultimately proven that passive design measures will yield the desired efficiencies. In the context of South Africa it is important to ensure that the communities most vulnerable to climate change benefit from the net zero carbon policies and standards. The most vulnerable are largely representative of the poor.

7. What is your message for young women who are starting out their career in the built environment and energy industry?
The transformation of the energy sector with respect to the diversification of the energy mix is currently underway, this presents an exciting opportunity to minimize the environmental impact of the built environment and other pertinent sectors that drive our economy.
“The energy sector is on the brink of change, make sure you are a part of it as a professional, entrepreneur through the local manufacturing of sustainable technologies and materials, or property owner”.

8. Post this programme what does the future hold for you?
I would most certainly like to continue pursuing a career in climate change as I believe that this provides an opportunity to be a real change agent. I hope to continue pursuing the climate change agenda in either the green building or waste management sectors through policy development or the implementation of projects. One of the largest threats faced by humankind is climate change, I’d like to be a part of the solution.