Sustainable design to address Cape Town’s rapid urbanisation

Chris Whelan - Private Edition photo

The challenges facing cities today are numerous.  Rapid urbanisation is a growing reality and Cape Town has the highest rate in South Africa.  This brings housing, infrastructure, social and biophysical challenges.

Yet if we look for solutions across business, government and communities, we find tremendous energy and innovation to address the challenges. This was the outcome of the latest Accelerate Cape Town Sustainability Forum. With a focus on the World Design Capital (WDC) 2014 sustainability projects, Richard Perez, Head of WDC 2014 for the City of Cape Town spoke about the World Design Capital’s aim to focus on the broader sense of design’s impact on urban spaces, economies and citizens.

‘Rapid urbanisation brings with it issues of energy and food security and we need to foster ‘African Innovation for Global Conversations’ to ‘Bridge our Divide’.  These are key themes of WDC 2014.  An excellent example of igniting South African ideas for home grown solutions is the Better Living Challenge. Funded by the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green programme, the Better Living Challenge aims to find innovative ideas for affordable housing solutions for lower income groups.

Join the competition for new homes

Due to rapid urbanisation, Cape Town is unable to meet demand and Fran Cox, Project Manager, highlighted the competition categories which include Structural Home, Comfortable Home and Connected Home.

Find out more, and enter your ideas before 31 May, by visiting

Another key project about community and spaces is Open Streets Cape Town.  Started in 2012 by Marcela Guerrero Casas and based on Bogota’s Ciclovia, Open Streets Cape Town aims to change how we perceive and use streets by opening them to people and the community to bridge social and spatial divides in Cape Town. Essentially it is connecting communities to their urban spaces in a car-free environment.

Successful projects include opening up Lower Main Road in Observatory and Salt River and Rubusana Street in Langa.

Visit to find out about 2014 projects.

Other WDC 2014 Projects at the Sustainability Forum who gave quick overviews of their projects included:

  • Lentegeur Spring Project at – re-designing Lentegeur psychiatric hospital by greening operations, implementing a landscape Masterplan and developing food gardening, and connecting to the community
  • 110% Green Berg River Project at – how biomimicry might help to solve waste water, storm water and solid waste challenges to re-establish the Berg River as a healthy and thriving ecosystem
  • Department of Design at – a Dutch- South African collaboration to showcase best practices of Dutch creative innovation and design thinking that are relevant to local issues in Cape Town.

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