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The need for collaboration and inclusivity: key takeaways from the 16th Green Building Convention 2023 

Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) held the 16th Green Building Convention in Cape Town recently, including the GBCSA Leadership Awards, celebrating remarkable achievements in the green building sector.

Held from November 15-17, the gathering brought together industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders committed to advancing sustainability in the built environment. Lead sponsors, Rand Water and Nedbank partnered with GBCSA to make the convention another resounding success. The event has grown into the largest and most significant built environment conference in South Africa, and hosted 700 professionals, featured more than 100 speakers, workshops, and discussions, showcasing innovative initiatives that indicate an extensive commitment to a greener and more sustainable world.

But this needs to include everyone, says GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds (pictured above), reflecting on the strong theme of inclusive sustainability running through many of the presentations: “When GBCSA was established, the goal was focusing on the ‘top 5%’, with the buildings achieving certification indicating a commitment to limiting their impact. But sustainability is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Anyone who lives in a building is now part of this movement – we are broadening the spectrum and I think that’s exciting.”

A significant milestone, GBCSA’s 1000th certification, awarded to Stellenbosch University’s Visual Arts Building, was celebrated during the convention.

Mbuyiswa Makhubela, General Manager of Corporate Services at Rand Water, expressed appreciation for what he describes as a newfound focus on water, positioning it alongside energy in terms of its importance, and calling for partnerships to influence green building discussions.

Genevieve Naidoo, Divisional Executive: Property and Finance, described the convention as “one of a kind” and commended its progressive approach, praising the quality of speakers, the depth of discussions, and the diverse range of stakeholders involved at the convention.

Polar Explorer Robert Swan, in a gripping keynote speech, stressed the urgency of the journey towards sustainability, with a focus on achievable goals and the necessity of collective efforts.

Dr Sara Candiracci, Associate Director at Arup, highlighted the need for creating inclusive spaces and discussed some of the challenges faced by cities. Huge emphasis was placed on the importance of finding solutions that cater to various age groups and socio-economic conditions.

Dominika Czerwinska, Director of Engagement and Networks at the World Green Building Council, launched the ‘Building a water-resilient future for everyone, everywhere’ paper, addressing the global water crisis and calling for collective action in the building sector.

Offering an interesting perspective on global warming, comedian and OGO Creative Partner in Strategy and Marketing, John Vlismas, says: “We cannot give people clean, limitless energy, as that will kill the planet. In the long run we are helping if we can educate children at a younger age, and if we can incorporate sustainability into the different professions.”

Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis celebrated Cape Town’s A-ranking for climate action and transparency in the 2023 Cities A-List by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – the only city in Africa to achieve this ranking. He says: “We will be leading the charge, moving to a more decentralised, more cost-efficient, more carbon neutral power supply in the City of Cape Town.”          

André Theys, Chair of GBCSA, reflecting on the convention’s success, emphasising the importance of the GBCSA’s mission amid the challenges of climate change denial and alarmism. He outlined plans for future initiatives, including a focus on existing building performance, a potential ‘Green Star Lite,’ and the development of a ‘sustainable home framework’. Despite economic challenges, Theys expressed the need to drive resource efficiency in the built environment and acknowledged the vital role of partnerships in achieving sustainability goals.

 Awards were conferred on recipients in the following categories:

 Established Green Star

Recognising continuous contributions to the green building economy.

●      Winner: Simon Penso, Imbue Sustainability

●      Runner-Up: Sally Misplon, Misplon Green Building Consulting

Rising Green Star

Acknowledging emerging Green Star Accredited Professionals (APs).

●      Winner: Kagiso Sebetso, Time Projects

●      Runner-Up: Elri Syfert, Solid Green Consulting

EDGE Residential Leader

Recognising excellence in sustainability within the residential sector.

●      Winner: Sagewood Lifestyle Apartments, Century Property Developments; EDGE Expert: WSP; EDGE Auditor: Yvonne Pelser

Highest Rated Building (Asset Rating Design Project)

Awarded to the project with the highest Green Star rating.

●      Winner: HPI d-school Afrika at the University of Cape Town (6-Star Green Star Public & Education Building Design v1. APs: Mlondolozi (Mlo) Hempe and Yogesh Gooljar from PJC + PartnersProperty Owner: University of Cape Town

●      Runner-Up: Nedbank, Namibia (6-Star Green Star Office As Built v1.1)

AP: Elri Syfert, Solid Green Consulting; Property Owner: Nedbank Properties

Highest Rated Building (Existing Operational Performance)

Recognising the project with the highest Green Star rating for operational performance.

●      Winner: Visual Arts, Stellenbosch University (6-Star Green Star Existing Building v1).AP: Simon Penzo from Imbue Sustainability; Property Owner: Stellenbosch University

●      Runner-Up: The Watershed, V&A Waterfront (6-Star Green Star Existing Building Performance v1). APs: Francois Retief and Mellissa Titus from Sow & Reap; Property Owner: V&A Waterfront

Highest Rated Building for African Green Star Submissions

Awarded to the top African project.

●      Winner: Nedbank, Namibia (6-Star Green Star Office As-Built v1.1). AP: Elri Syfert, Solid Green Consulting; Property Owner: Nedbank Properties

●      Runner-Up: First Capital Bank, Lusaka (5-Star Green Star Office Design v1.1)

Net Zero Submission

Recognising projects demonstrating commitment to Net Zero goals.

●      Winner: Firmenich – Firsouth (Net Zero – Ecology, Measured). AP: Marc Sherratt, MSSA; Property Owner: Firmenich (Pty) Ltd.

●      Runner-Up: The White Office (Net Zero – Carbon, Level 2 Measured). AP: Alison Groves, WSP; Property Owner: Black Mountain Mining

Best Quality Submission (Asset Rating – New Build, Interiors, Sustainable Precincts)

Awarded for the highest-quality submission.

●      Winner: Bracken Nature Reserve Visitor Education Centre (5-Star Green Star Public & Education Building Design v1). AP: Justine Powrie, Goal Zero Consulting; Property Owner: City of Cape Town

●      Runner-Up: Rewardsco Block A (5-Star Green Star Office Design v1.1). AP: Makhosazna (Khosi) Mthethwa, Solid Green Consulting; Property Owner: Umhlanga Rocks Property Trust

Best Quality Submission (Existing Operational Performance):

Recognising the highest-quality submission for existing operational performance.

●      JointWinners: 29 Springbok Road (4-Star Green Star – Existing Building Performance Custom Industrial Pilot). AP: Sally Misplon, Misplon Green Building Consulting; Property Owner: Redefine Properties


ERPM (4-Star Green Star – Existing Building Performance Custom Industrial Pilot). AP: Sally Misplon, Misplon Green Building Consulting; Property Owner: Redefine Properties

●      Runner-up: Grosvenor Corner (4-Star Green Star – Existing Building Performance v1); AP: Sally Misplon, Misplon Green Building Consulting; Property Owner: Growthpoint Properties

Transforming Tomorrow (Asset Projects)

Acknowledging leaders contributing to industry transformation.

●      Winner: University of Cape Town for The HPI d-school Afrika at the University of Cape Town. (6-Star Green Star Public & Education Building Design v1)

●      Runner-Up: Pick n Pay Clothing for Pick n Pay Clothing, Blue Route (4-Star Green Star Interiors v1)

Transforming Tomorrow (Existing Building Performance)

Recognising leaders in industry transformation for existing buildings.

●      Winner: Stellenbosch University (18 buildings rated using the EBP tool). This award is awarded to a group of 18 Stellenbosch buildings of which 1 was the 1000th Green Star certification.

●      Joint Runners-Up: Redefine Properties (12 EBP Custom Industrial PILOT projects)


Burstone Group (5 EBP Custom Industrial PILOT projects)