In recognition of National Environment Month, leaders in the green building sector have highlighted the industry’s potential to address both climate change and unemployment in South Africa. As one of the few industries that regularly makes the news for its growth, rather than its decline or instability, it has become a welcome source of good news for environmentalists, economists and job seekers alike.
“The built environment offers one of the biggest climate change mitigation opportunities and it’s backed by a solid business case. Designing, building and operating green buildings requires that we grow a workforce that have the necessary skills and experience to ensure that the projects deliver on their promise of “treading lightly” on our very stressed and fragile environment,” says Green Building Council (GBCSA) CEO, Brian Wilkinson.
Recent reports from job listing giant Indeed show that new jobs in green technologies are beating out competition across the globe. “The business world is starting to adjust to meet the criteria of the Paris Agreement, creating a big demand for sustainability know-how at every skill level – from builders to architects,” says John Schooling, Director of construction, development and renewable energy group STAG African.
“We need to leverage off this opportunity in South Africa by promoting internal development through green skills and green jobs. The private sector needs to work with government with a commitment to creating unique skills in the use of new green technologies and techniques,” says Schooling. “We project around 6 700 employment opportunities based on STAG African’s work scope, this will go a long way in addressing high unemployment rates and upskilling young job seekers with sustainable skills.”
A property industry slump in 2008 and the looming student accommodation crisis lit the fire that saw STAG African pioneer the use of Innovative Building Technologies (IBTs) for the construction of student residences. IBTs reduce construction time by up to 40% and costs by 13% through relying on 87% recycled lightweight steel frames and requiring zero water in the construction process.
In recognition of this, the South African government now requires that IBTs be used for 60% of all new social infrastructure. As a reflection, the growth of green building in South Africa trumps that of established sustainability building regions such as Europe, Australia, United States, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Brazil, this was confirmed in a World Green Building Trends survey run by US-based McGraw-Hill Construction.
“If industry and urban development is going green – and we know it is – then it is key that we equip the youth with knowledge, experience and interest in IBTs and sustainable building,” says Wilkinson.
The industry is taking off in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent, and it shows great potential to address more than one challenge facing a pressured economy and planet.