Her inspiration: There are lots of developments happening globally that go above and beyond green building. The Living Building Challenge is one example of a new benchmark for regenerative buildings – it is about pursuing what is good and beneficial rather than pursuing “less bad”. I am a proud ambassador for the Living Building Challenge in South Africa, trying to create more awareness around the Challenge.
Another new standard that is changing people’s thinking is the WELL Standard, which deals with the health and well-being of the people working or living in a building.

What excites me about these programmes is that they promote a shift in our thinking to designing buildings for people who spend most of their time indoors, looking very carefully at the initiatives that impact health and well-being, for example:
•    Thermal comfort.
•    Acoustics.
•    Daylight.
•    Views.
•    Fresh air.
Also the fun stuff like:
•    How to promote fitness in a building.
•    How to integrate biophilia into the design.
•    How to design lighting systems that assist our circadian system.


Green products
The Green Star Interiors tool has placed a focus on green products such as furniture, flooring, wall coverings and assemblies. Allocating 30 points (out of the 100) towards sustainable materials has significantly driven greener choices. The challenge, however, is how one classifies a product as green, looking at recycled content, VOC levels, eco-labelling and local content.

In the last two years, we have been helping suppliers to understand what these requirements are and how they can improve the environmental status of their products. It is encouraging to see how this is changing the market. More and more local green products become available and local eco-labels (like EcoStandard and Ecospecifier) help to define how green a product really is.


2 exciting new greening movements
1.    The sustainability approach to communities and precincts
The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) has released the Local Context report for the Green Star Sustainable Precincts tool and we are currently working on four precinct developments that aim to look beyond buildings and make an effort to implement initiatives to ensure that the spaces in-between are also in line with sustainability goals.

2.    GreenED (Green Education)
We are busy launching an education platform for green buildings in Africa – an online resource for professionals and students who want to learn about green buildings and green rating certifications. GreenED will offer online courses and webinars that are CPD validated, covering all topics related to the sustainable built environment. The launch will happen soon!

Cool projects
Local
One of my favourite green projects is the new Google Head Office in Johannesburg. This was an exciting project with some serious green targets! The interior architects did an amazing design job and the space reflects South African culture integrated into every little detail of the offices. A lot of recycled and reused materials were used to create different features and break out spaces. The project met its green targets: Five-star Green Star SA Interiors, Healthy Material Challenge and LEED CI Silver.

The Egoli breakout space in Google’s Johannesburg office was inspired by the city of gold and features wheel barrel stools. Main Image: The canteen in Google’s Johannesburg office. Photographs by Graeme Wyllie www.graemewyllie.com

International
The Bullitt Centre in Seattle is the pinnacle of sustainable building – it is the first commercial office building to achieve the full Living Building Challenge certification.

The Living Building Challenge takes green buildings to the next level; and, to achieve certification, a building must meet every imperative of the challenge. This implies that the building must be able to generate sufficient energy to power all its activities; it must harvest sufficient water to supply all water demands; it must be adapted to the climate and site; it should only use healthy materials (no toxins); it must operate pollution-free; and it must be aesthetically beautiful.

The Bullitt Centre in Seattle was the first commercial office building to achieve the full Living Building Challenge certification. Courtesy of Urban Land Institute.

What gets you excited about going to work in the morning?
Solid Green is entering its seventh year of existence and along the way we have built an amazing team of people. We have renovated our offices and practiced what we preach: We seriously greened it! We achieved the first six-star Green Star SA Interiors Certification in the country; a LEED CI Platinum certification; and received the GBCSA’s Green Star SA Leadership Award for the Highest Rated Building in 2016.

We are also continuously exploring new areas of work and making an effort to stay at the forefront of innovation in our field. Our line of work never gets boring – there are always new challenges to tackle and new avenues to explore.