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Biophilia: Nature immersion and the city

By Jason F McLennan

In part one of a series about biophilia and its relationship to the built environment, Canadian architect and founder of the Living Building Challenge, Jason F McLennan, shares some insights around the central concept and specifically how it to relates to city planning and urban environments.

Canadian architect and founder of Living Building Challenge
Jason F McLennan

E O Wilson described biophilia in his 1984 book by that name as “the innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.” 

I first wrote about the importance of biophilia in 2004 in my first book, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design. I included biophilia as a guiding principle in version 2.0 of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) that came out in 2009; making LBC the first green building programme in the world to focus on the subject. Since then, I have watched the field of biophilic design evolve, gaining shape, definition, and serious consideration on projects all over the globe. 

However, as easily happens, a checklist mentality around biophilic design has emerged within the design industry, while simultaneously nearly anything and everything is being described as ‘biophilic’ in order to satisfy this newfound interest. As has happened in other areas of green building, the essence and scientific basis of biophilia is being lost in point tallying – right now, a design need only include superficial applications and check the right boxes to call itself biophilic.

It is my hope that clearly naming what is essential to biophilia, will engender a more nuanced understanding and ultimately, a more successful application of biophilic patterns and attributes to design.

Frameworks and checklists will always benefit designers, but it’s time to dig in deeper to what we mean when we talk about biophilia and biophilic design. We need to focus on design strategies that actually have positive impacts and do more than merely justify a design through yet another trendy lens. 

Science is only recently corroborating the long-standing, instinctual wisdom we’ve carried as humans for millennia – that we thrive in close connection to nature. I believe nature immersion is the single most important element of biophilia; if we only allow ourselves adequate time in nature, we can reap bountiful biophilia-associated wellness benefits.

Inside out

Estimates place 70 percent of the world’s populations in urban environments by 2050. With this migration, our connection to nature has dwindled and our feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression have filled the vacancy. Harvard School of Public Health Professor John Spangler puts a number to Americans’ disconnection from nature, and it’s shocking: we now spend 95 percent of our time indoors.

At the same time, a growing body of evidence suggests that if we reconnect to nature, we will become whole again.

Therefore, a key principle to establish under the framework of nature immersion is that any design that can get people outside, for as long as possible – using porches, covered walkways, courtyards, balconies, etc. – will always greatly outdistance anything that can be done inside a building. These types of design features prolong our exposure to nature, drawing down that 95 percent. The task isn’t the architect’s alone, but also the landscape architect’s, the urban planner’s, and that of each individual that occupies a building.

Immersive experience

Given so much of us live in, or are moving to, urban environments, we must, at a city planning scale, do the work of the biophilic designer to draw people outside through design. What do our cities look like? City parks provide immense opportunities for immersive experiences to urban dwellers and we should urgently create more, even on a small, pocket park scale. How many parks do we have now and how equitably are they dispersed? One recent, powerful study showed significant decreases in self-reported feelings of depression in test groups tasked with restoring vacant lots in economically-depressed urban areas.

Green Point Park, Cape Town

This study illuminates the social justice aspect inherent in any discussion about urban planning and access to nature: “neighbourhood physical conditions, including vacant or dilapidated spaces, trash, and lack of quality infrastructures such as sidewalks and parks, are associated with depression and are factors that may explain the persistent prevalence of mental illness in resource-limited communities.”

As the populations of our cities grow, it is important that the number of public places for city-dwellers to be in nature, keep pace. It is my belief that everyone should have walking distance access to a beautiful public park.

Native ecology

Also, as the world’s population continues to move into towns and mid-size cities grow into large cities; cities should strategically plan for and conserve sizable tracts of land as highly accessible urban wildlands. Stanley Park in Vancouver, Forest Park in Portland, and Central Park in New York City provide crucial, substantive outlets for high-quality nature immersion for their urban areas and highlight what’s possible when the conditions for wildness are fostered rather than subdued by design within city limits. These conserved parks connect people with place in a powerful way, often providing them with an experience of what their place once looked like while simultaneously creating opportunities for the native ecology of that place to thrive. Living in close proximity to this kind of life has amazing potential to foster the stewardship mentality crucial to the conservation of our wild places.

Creating connections

What further opportunities can we identify to foster nature connections in cities? Do trails winding through untamed places connect us to the modern and convenient amenities that spurred our move, as a species, to cities? If not, can they? What is the state of our urban canopy and how can we revitalise it, and reap the associated biophilic benefits, alongside all the others, that make trees so essential to city landscapes? What is our relationship to water in our cities? Can we utilise design to daylight streams and stormwater, creating visual and auditory onnections with our life-source at every opportunity? Are our cities walkable and bikeable, with amenities spaced for pedestrian and biker access? 

I believe one of the reasons Americans flocked to the suburbs in the post-World War II era was for these kinds of natural connections that had been choked out of industrialised cities. As our urban populations rise, it is critical that we invite nature back into city centres, creating nature-pedestrian connections that get us walking and interacting with our surrounding natural and human communities, immersing us more often and more completely within biophilic settings.

Chill out with the family at the Kirstenbosch Winter Wonders

Create some heart-warming memories with your loved ones! Experience the “chilling” magic of the Winter Wonders programme when it returns to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, from 15 June to 8 July 2024.

With free entry for children 17 and under, it’s the perfect school holiday escape.

Take part in some sand art, rock painting and more at Moyo Restaurant 

From creative art sessions to interactive book readings, Winter Wonders has something to ignite the imagination in everyone. Kids will have an opportunity to explore, create and learn in Kirstenbosch’s beautiful setting.

This year’s Winter Wonders includes activities such as sand art, rock painting, chocolate experience, canvas painting and drumming. Each session costs R180 per child, which includes the experience of your choice, a kid’s lunch box, a photo magnet and more. Sessions run twice daily, offering you plenty of flexibility to plan your visit.

The activity schedule is as follows:

  • Sand art: 17 June, 27 June and 5 July
  • Rock painting: 18 June, 28 June and 3 July
  • Canvas painting: 19 June, 24 June and 2 July
  • Drumming: 20 June, 26 June and 1 July
  • Chocolate experience: 21 June, 25 June and 4 July

Each session runs from 10.30am to 11.30am, or 12.30pm to 1.30pm. 

Booking for these activities at Moyo Restaurant is essential. Book on 021 762 9585 or kirstenbosch@moyo.com 

Fynkos children’s menu and soup 

Fynkos (formerly known as the Kirstenbosch Tea Room), has just introduced a kid’s menu for R60 per child. Each child under 18 years who orders any meal at Fynkos during the winter school holidays will receive a free milkshake. 

Fynkos’s range of delicious winter soup is also back!  

For more info and menu, visit Fynkos on Facebook or call 021 797 4883. 

Book readings at the Botanical Society Bookshop

Complementing the hands-on activities, the Botanical Society Bookshop will host interactive book readings and mini workshops. Children can look forward to meeting authors and participating in engaging activities that bring stories to life. These events are free, but bookings need to be made in good time.

International Day of Yoga 

There’s also a special celebration of International Day of Yoga on 22 June 2024, on the Kirstenbosch concert lawn from 9am to 11am, organised by the Indian Consulate General in Cape Town. 

Yoga teachers will lead a free yoga session for people of all ages, and everyone is welcome to join. 

Register in advance to join the free session: https://forms.gle/vEYPjCmaka5McShJ8 

Plan your visit – connect with us

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is open daily from 8am to 6pm, providing you with ample time to enjoy the activities as well as explore our diverse flora and fauna. To make your visit much smoother, consider arriving on the City Sightseeing red bus, which offers you and your family special deals.

For even greater convenience, do yourself a favour and sign up for the SANBI Gardens membership. This membership offers you access to all the National Botanical and Zoological Gardens for a year to stay connected with nature, support the maintenance of these beautiful spaces and improve your wellbeing in an affordable way. For more information visit www.sanbi.org/sanbi-annual-membership

Don’t leave it too late – follow @KirstenboschNBG (Facebook and Twitter) and @kirstenbosch_nbg (Instagram) or visit www.sanbi.org/events  for updates and more information.  For any inquiries, contact the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden information office on 021 799 8783/021 799 8773, or email Kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za

Polyco to deliver keynote address at the 9th Annual Green Youth Indaba during Youth Month

Ahead of Youth Day on the 16th of June, Polyco will be attending the Green Youth Indaba conference at the Durban International Convention Centre over the next two days. The event is expected to draw approximately 850 attendees, including senior government officials, industry experts, business executives and young leaders to discuss how skills development,  entrepreneurship and green economic investments can contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for South Africa.    

Polyco is a proud sponsor of the event and will be participating in the first panel discussion at the conference, which will focus on the role Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) can play in advancing sustainable waste solutions that benefit both the environment and society.  

Polyco Executive Francois Marais, will also be delivering a keynote speech on day two of the conference on the implementation of national government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme and the progress achieved by registered PROs to improve recycling infrastructure and increase recycling and collection rates in the country. 

The theme of the conference, “Nurturing Entrepreneurship, Cultivating Skills and Attracting Global Green Economy Investments for Job Creation,” resonates with Polyco’s broader commitment to educating the youth about recycling through its Million+ programme.

In collaboration with the Pick ‘n Pay School Club, Polyco has reached over 2.6 million learners to educate them on how to recycle plastic packaging while engaging with over 120 000 educators across the country from 2600 schools.

At the event, Kyle Dewar, Polyco’s Marketing Manager stated, “It’s been inspiring to see the enthusiasm and dedication of the attendees at the Indaba so far. As a responsible business advocate, we believe it’s crucial to empower young people to become drivers of sustainable change. At Polyco, we’re committed to supporting initiatives that promote environmental education, awareness, and action to achieve our goal of eliminating plastic waste in South Africa’s environment.”

The conference follows two successful days of engagements at the Dakota Beach Cleanup and the Green Youth Careers Expo earlier this week.

On Monday, Polyco sponsored personal protective equipment (PPE) and sturdy bags for the beach clean-up event, where 150 participants collectively worked towards reclaiming waste and restoring the Dakota beach in Isipingo in the south of Durban. 

On Tuesday, the Polyco team engaged with 300 attendees from four schools who were presented with various green career paths at the careers expo. Through interactive discussions, the team emphasised the importance of separation-at-source recycling and the value of plastic waste, encouraging the youth to make environmentally conscious choices in their daily lives. 

Additionally, Polyco presented at the Wastepreneur Masterclass where attendees were educated on how to start a business in the waste sector and where to get funding. Polyco provided more information on the types of funding it offers to waste entrepreneurs as well as the assistance it provides to businesses, in particular, buy-back centres and enterprise development. 

Polyco looks forward to its engagements with other key industry stakeholders over the next two days.  By sharing its expertise and passion for sustainability, Polyco hopes to empower the next generation to embrace recycling and become champions of positive change.

Polyco remains committed to working with its members, government, the private sector and the youth to continue developing and innovating our country’s recycling capacity to end plastic waste and, at the same time, develop local economies and create jobs.

For more information about Polyco or the Million+ programme, please visit: www.polyco.co.za or www.millionplusrecyclers.co.za

Statistics prove infrastructure’s outsized returns for people and economies

By: Roelof van den Berg, CEO of the Gap Infrastructure Corporation (GIC)

Infrastructure has been named a top priority for South Africa over the next few years as we seek to bounce back from global economic shocks such as the pandemic and war in Ukraine and refocus attention on promoting socio-economic development. 

But beyond major national concerns such as logistics and energy infrastructure, it’s important not to overlook the fundamental role of less headline-grabbing, “bread and butter” infrastructure development projects for uplifting households out of poverty and driving economic growth.

Here are just three examples that demonstrate the importance of infrastructure development as a key mechanism for nation-building:

  1. Roads

Several studies suggest a direct link between road development and economic growth. But one particularly significant World Bank study by Fedderke and Bogetic, which analysed three decades of data for South Africa from 1970 to 2000, found that a 1% increase in the road network led to a 2.8 percentage point increase in the country’s productivity growth.

Similar studies in other countries also demonstrate what can be achieved through road infrastructure development. In China, for example, the economic impact of road infrastructure development on rural roads was four times higher than on high-grade roads. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, another developing country, saw a more than 60% increase in industry output following investment in its highway infrastructure.

Ultimately, roads are how we connect people to job opportunities, healthcare, education, services, and each other. Plus, higher quality paved roads lower travel times and costs, provide access to a wider range of vehicles such as delivery trucks, and enhance overall road safety.

So, as the public sector continues working diligently to upgrade road networks, this could unlock immense economic and social benefits. For example, in our experience, the long-term positive effects of GIC’s work on roads in rural communities have been exponential.

  1. Housing

Homes have the potential to generate a steady income for homeowners. According to the Centre for Housing Finance in Africa, informal housing generates an estimated 11% of total rental income in South Africa, which creates a crucial income stream for homeowners who rent out rooms in their backyards.

Furthermore, research shows that a rise in house prices leads to an increase in job creation, as homeowners can leverage their homes as assets as collateral for loans to invest in their businesses.

Beyond being an important source of income for many households and a key driver of economic growth, housing also acts as a catalyst for improved living standards.

Having a safe place to live and sleep provides a sense of security, improves people’s health and well-being, and better enables breadwinners to find employment and children to further their studies. The impact of housing on lives and on the wider economy is therefore tremendous, serving as a powerful tool to combat poverty.

  1. Water and sanitation

Clean running water and reliable sanitation systems are critical for preventing disease, maintaining food safety, and supporting a strong and productive workforce that can participate in economic activities and earn an income.

Notably, water-related health issues are still a major concern worldwide. It’s estimated that some 1.4 million deaths, or about 2.5% of all annual deaths globally could be prevented by providing more people with access to clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Installing in-home water points and sanitation networks in towns across South Africa greatly reduces people’s risk of diarrhoea and resulting undernutrition, as well as respiratory infections, and other health risks. And in the long-run, a healthy population has the capacity to take the broader economy to new heights.

Fortunately, the country has been making strong headway in this regard, having already provided access to clean drinking water to around 90% of the population. Additionally, this number is set to increase as new infrastructure development projects get underway.

So, while often underappreciated, these areas of infrastructure remain vital to breaking the barriers to opportunity, and building a supportive environment for a brighter, more equitable future.

Haier Biomedical offers improved access to liquid nitrogen storage

Haier Biomedical – a leader in the development of low-temperature storage equipment – has launched the wide neck CryoBio series, a new generation of liquid nitrogen containers offering easy and convenient access to stored samples. This latest addition to the CryoBio range also features an enhanced, intelligent monitoring system that ensures precious biological samples are kept safe and secure.

Haier Biomedical’s new wide neck CryoBio series is designed for the cryogenic storage of plasma, cell tissue and other biological samples in hospitals, laboratories, scientific research institutes, disease control centres, biobanks and other facilities. The wide neck design allows users to access all racking stacks to remove samples more easily. Samples are protected with double lock and dual control features, plus three password protected levels of user authority for enhanced security. The lid design also contains an integral vent to reduce the formation of frost and ice. Alongside the physical features, the wide neck CryoBio is controlled by a touchscreen monitoring system that provides real-time status information. The system also benefits from IoT connectivity, allowing remote access and data download for full auditing and compliance monitoring.

The launch of the wide neck CryoBio series is complemented by the UK availability of the latest YDZ LN2 supply vessels – available in 100 and 240 litre models – which are the recommended supply vehicle for the CryoBio range. These vessels are CE and PED certified, and benefit from an innovative, self-pressurising design that uses the pressure generated by vaporisation to discharge LN2 into other containers.

To learn more about Haier Biomedical and find out about introductory promotional offers for the wide neck CryoBio series, visit www.haierbiomedical.co.uk

Wind down into muted tranquillity – this winter’s favourite interior colours are soft and soothing

While the zeitgeist is said to be the cultural climate of an era, colour has an uncanny ability to reflect how people think and feel, and showcase climatic conditions. Think Grecian seaside villages coated in scintillating white and Aegean blue as a case in point, and how everyone turned to greys in the 2009 global recession; one is about the weather and the other weathering a massive social and commercial crisis.

This winter in South Africa, there is a move to slow down and find solace in meaningful moments with a harmonious palette of smooth transitional colours. Considering the pace at which the world is moving and the increasing political uncertainty in many countries, this mood is likely to last a good while.

In response, Plascon has released a soothing, slightly subdued winter colour palette dubbed Eternal. The complete palette comprises an array of colours where attention-grabbing brights are conspicuously absent. The key to using this palette is to craft colour combinations with different rooms and moods in mind.

Take a moment to reflect with a palette of dusky hues and romantic shades. Relax and unwind with a hazy duo of Grey Archo (P1-E1-3) and Fragrant Flower (B7-D1-4) in bedrooms, and admire the striking beauty of deep Terra Nova (R6-D1-2) in hallways. Grey Archo (P1-E1-3) brings a touch of elegance to warm neutral Ravine (62) in intimate spaces.

Reassuring and quiet, a delicate pair of ethereal purples, Cloud Number Nine (B6-A2-3) and

Smoke Bush (P4-E2-3), together with the gentle warmth of Wilted Leaf (31) and Stuffing (36), are designed for tranquillity. From calming nurseries to relaxed living rooms and kitchens, this palette will soothe your spirit and create a serene escape.

As another option, ethereal Cloud Number Nine (B6-A2-3) and wistful Smoke Bush (P4-

E2-3) shift into a duo of dusky, muted purples with Fragrant Flower (B7-D1-4) and Grey Archo (P1-E1-3).

A trio of warm neutrals, Ravine (62), Wilted Leaf (31) and Stuffing (36), bring calm and

comfort. The addition of deeply shaded red Terra Nova (R6-D1-2) acts as a grounding anchor in this palette designed for reflection and reassurance.

If the desire to create a space with a sedate yet sophisticated liveliness that will make you feel relaxed and nurtured without being lethargic, turn to this winter’s Eternal colour set.

For free advice on how to use the Winter Palette 2024, or any other Plascon colours, please contact the Plascon Colour Advice team via email: ColourAdvice@kansaiplascon.co.za

Copper 360 Limited has released its provisional consolidated financial results for the year ended 29 February 2024

Copper 360 Limited has released its provisional consolidated financial results for the year ended 29 February 2024, showcasing a year marked by positive growth and strategic initiatives that set the stage for continued success.

During the period in review Copper 360 focused on securing growth capital and providing adequate working capital to establish a strong foundation for future operations. “Our primary goal was to create a robust financial and operational base for Copper 360,” said Jan Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of Copper 360. “By securing the necessary capital and making strategic investments, we’ve laid the groundwork for significant future growth and operational flexibility.”

The company successfully raised R 380 million in growth capital and secured a R 650 million equity facility during the period in review. These funds aided critical acquisitions and capital projects, including the R 105 million investment in the Rietberg Mine and processing plant, and the R 27 million optimization of the SX/EW plant. The company also acquired the Nama Copper operations for R 200 million.

“These investments are not just about immediate gains,” Nelson said. “They represent our commitment to long-term operational excellence and sustainable growth. Our acquisition of the Nama Copper operations, for instance, provides us with a ready operational plant, allowing us to double our planned copper concentrate processing capacity.”

There have been a few challenges on the journey impacting performance during the period in review, but these were overcome. “Challenges such as load shedding and events of critical mill failures impacted performance,” said Nelson, Copper 360.

The company remedied same. A R 25.9 million investment in a 6.4MW (megawatt) generator farm was installed to mitigate the impact of load shedding while investments totalling R 37.8 million in a new mill and crushing facility were made in order to enhance processing capacity and efficiency. “We faced significant hurdles, but our team’s response was swift and effective,” said Nelson. “The investments in backup power supply and enhanced crushing capacity were critical steps towards ensuring operational resilience.”

Through these effective and impactful interventions Copper 360 achieved notable improvements in productivity. The volume, grade, and recoveries saw increases of 20%, 10%, and 24%, respectively.

Looking ahead Nelson said that Copper 360 has set itself ambitious targets. By 2025 the company aims to achieve Revenue of between R1,2 and R 1,9 million and through stabilised operations achieve a 12000 tonnes annual copper producing capability. “We plan to increase production to 20 000 tonnes by 2026 and declare dividends,” added Nelson and said that the company’s strategy leads it to a three major copper mine system in production by 2027, outpu 50 000 tonnes of copper annually and creating a smelter capability in support thereof.

Planning is also underway to establish a solar farm within the next two to three years to further ensure energy supply stability supplemented by a wind farm to be developed shortly afterwards.

“Copper 360 is well positioned for a groundbreaking period of growth,” Nelson said. “With our strategic investments and clear objectives, we are ready to deliver significant value to our stakeholders and contribute meaningfully to the copper industry, the Northern Cape and South African economies.”

PICK n PAY EMPOWERS SHOPPERS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST E-WASTE, WHILE SUPPORTING JOB CREATION

Pick n Pay is taking proactive steps to address the escalating global issue of e-waste, the fastest-growing solid waste stream, by introducing 210 e-waste recycling bins in its stores.

So far, 29 bins are located near the entrance or inside of Pick n Pay stores mostly in Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal, with more to be rolled out in the Free State, Northern Region and Western Cape stores within the coming months.

The Global E-waste Monitor reported that by 2022 the world had generated 62 billion kg of e-waste, or an average of 7.8 kg per person, and just 22.3 percent of this waste was documented as properly collected and recycled.

In collaboration with EWaste Africa and the E-waste Recycling Authority (ERA), the initiative aims to empower customers to dispose of electronic devices and appliances responsibly, promote sustainable practices, and foster job creation. 

Pick n Pay introduced e-waste bins over 15 years ago, but recycled items were typically limited to light bulbs and batteries. “Our existing e-waste bins have been adapted for the growing diversity of e-waste, which changes yearly as technology advances,” says Steffen Burrows, Sustainability Manager at Pick n Pay.

The newly designed bins can accommodate items from cables, kettles and mobile phones to larger appliances like washing machines.

With e-waste outpacing municipal waste growth in South Africa by threefold, proper recycling is critical to preventing environmental harm and health risks outlined by the World Health Organization. E-waste often contains hazardous materials such as lead and lithium, which can pose significant risks if not handled properly. Low recycling rates also mean valuable metals and minerals remain untapped, while landfills approach capacity. Recycling laptops and batteries can conserve resources and reduce environmental impact.

The extended footprint of Pick n Pay’s e-waste recycling bins aims to bolster recycling infrastructure.

Pravashen Naidoo, Managing Director of EWaste Africa – the organisation responsible for collecting e-waste from stores for recycling – says that through the Pick n Pay store network, they aim to establish one of the country’s largest retail collection networks for consumer e-waste.

“The world’s resources are depleting at an exponential rate; these bins will help the momentum towards a circular economy where the waste is re-used,” says Naidoo.

To date, EWaste Africa has recycled over three million kilograms of lighting, solar, battery and electronic waste. “The by-products of the items recycled go into a few secondary sources, such as eco-blocks and paver blocks, which are made from 80% recycled e-waste products.

“This partnership will support the feedstock for the eventual creation of 200 jobs, up from the current 34 jobs within EWaste Africa.” 

Ashley Du Plooy, CEO of ERA – a non-profit company and registered Producer Responsibility Organisation spearheading the growth of South Africa’s national electronic waste collection footprint – stressed the importance of public participation, urging South Africans to declutter and drop off their old tech and appliances.

“Through our recent campaigns, it became clear that South Africans are e-waste hoarders. Our partnership with one of the nation’s largest retailers will strengthen the infrastructure for improved waste management and responsible citizenry for People, Planet and Purpose,” says Du Plooy.

This growing initiative forms part of Pick n Pay’s commitment to reduce unnecessary waste in the environment through strategic partnerships. “We want to make recycling easier for our customers by providing accessible and easy-to-use recycling solutions in our stores. By doing so, we can positively impact the environment and communities it serves,” concludes Burrows.

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