Sustainability is the preservation of natural, social, and economic resources by means of innovative construction methods and conscious decisions throughout the lifecycle of designing, constructing, and operating a project.
This is according to AECOM Sustainability Practice Area Lead Candice Manning, who adds that while South Africa has shown positive developments in this regard over the last few years, there remains much room for growth, in addition to greater industry commitment to more sustainable technology and practices.
“In some developed countries, the construction-materials market is possibly more advanced than we are, with a greater range of available materials with sustainability certifications that can be taken into consideration,” Manning comments.
AECOM’s extensive international and local experience in this regard means it is able to include sustainability in all of its service offerings to developers. “Sustainable development practice is integrated into all AECOM disciplines,” Manning notes. “Awareness of sustainability is very much a part of our design mindset.”
As a sustainability consultant, AECOM collaborates closely with the client to understand exactly what it wants to achieve, and to establish the most effective programme to achieve these end goals. “We design efficient, sustainable building services, and manage the process up until Green Star certification through the Green Building Council of South Africa. Our Green Star offering includes detailed energy, daylight thermal comfort, and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD),” Manning elaborates.
Whether it is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing new ways to conserve water, or promoting renewable energy, AECOM’s commitment to sustainability drives innovation and resilience, while reducing risk for its clients, and providing an attractive return on investment (ROI) for the entire project lifecycle.
“A positive ROI encourages and reinforces the need for sustainability. It has been a challenge for some, and an absolute must for others – but it has generally been received positively,” Manning points out. While many still see green building certification as a ‘nice to have’, this has become a critical element of sustainability, not to mention reputation management for the client itself.
“It’s up to the client and project team to ensure the best sustainable technologies and designs are adopted and implemented, and not just the bare minimum required for a green building certification. This promotes better design, construction and operation, and ensures that best practices are adopted. The South African Green Star tool has influenced much change in the industry, and it is time for a new version to be released to challenge the market again,” Manning notes.
Importantly for South Africa, though, advances in the context of sustainable construction, consulting and planning have resulted in a trend of net zero status for new and existing developments. However, an integrated approach to achieving such an ambitious target is required upfront in the planning process, with the entire project team collaborating to achieve these stringent requirements.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has advanced exponentially over the last few years. AECOM currently has a strong BIM team that can analyse a project’s carbon emissions associated with energy consumption, the thermal comfort of the occupants, and also daylight modelling.
“We can interrogate the design of projects until they perform as required. 6D BIM is incorporated into our offering, whereby performance/value engineering and ROI are included. We are in the process of the high-level implementation of 7D modelling in the healthcare sector,” Manning reveals.
Such technological initiatives are changing perceptions around sustainable building. “When we provide our clients with sustainable development solutions that have a robust cost-benefit analysis and positive ROI, it then becomes a sound business decision that makes economic sense,” Manning elaborates.
The 2017 AECOM Sustainability Report concludes that last year was one of the costliest on record in terms of the damage and loss of life caused by natural disasters globally. “Our designs have to be resilient as a result, while legislation and accountability must be a key driver in ensuring sustainable principles are incorporated in all projects,” Manning asserts.
This applies to Africa as a whole. “Our designs, whether applied in South Africa or other African countries, are always in line with our core value of sustainability. We educate project teams based in African countries, and we work with local materials and practices to ensure sustainable solutions,” Manning concludes.