Greenovate Awards: A first for South Africa

Werner van Antwerpen, head of utilities and sustainability at Growthpoint Properties.

The Greenovate Awards – an exciting initiative launched by Growthpoint Properties and the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – is set to inspire and encourage students of the built environment to discover, explore and invent ways to live more sustainably.

It’s a competition where everyone wins:

Werner van Antwerpen, head of utilities and sustainability at South Africa’s largest JSE-listed REIT, Growthpoint Properties, explains the Greenovate Awards will introduce university students to the thinking behind green building and encourage them to take it forward, into a better, greener future.

He says: “The built environment has a major impact on the environment and sustainability. With the Greenovate Awards, we want to recognise excellence and innovation in students’ own understanding of green principles for the built environment, across all aspects and disciplines. These aspiring young professionals have the potential to transform the way we live, with gentler impacts on the world around us. The Greenovate Awards will link environmental challenges to innovative thinking.”

According to the GBCSA’s CEO Brian Wilkinson, besides igniting a new wave of green thinking, the aim of the programme is also to educate as many property, construction and quantity surveying third year and honours level students as possible in green building principles. This includes awareness of South Africa’s own Green Star SA rating system.

Wilkinson notes: “We want to encourage students to learn about green building and sustainability early on in their careers. Investing in the youth is investing in our future. These are tomorrow’s leaders who will take the green building movement forward and ensure it continues to innovate and inspire. Essentially, we want them to enter the market as advocates for green building with a passion to create better, more sustainable, cities, towns and neighbourhoods. We’re excited at the incredible potential of this programme.”

The awards programme will be set up and piloted at the University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand and University of Pretoria, and the competition will test the interest of both students and faculty.

Yet, just like their vision for environmentally innovative thinking, the founders see the awards programme becoming much, much bigger.

If the pilot is successful, it will be rolled out to all universities in the country with the appropriate built environment faculties.

For its inaugural programme, organisers are not only looking for smart green thinking, but big thinking too. The challenge is for students to come up with ideas that would result in a research project that promotes a more sustainable built environment. These can be applied to any aspect of a building – design, development, planning, construction, materials – anything that makes the way we live greener and our environmental footprint lighter.

Round one of the competition will take place internally and each university’s panel will select the top two projects submitted by student groups.

“Collaboration between different departments will be allowed. We really hope to see students placed in an environment that requires the use of an integrated approach to problem solving with a shared vision across all disciplines in the built environment,” says van Antwerpen.

Workshops with industry professionals will run from March through to September and the top six projects will be selected by mid-November. The top six groups will then have the opportunity to present their projects to a panel of industry experts selected by the GBCSA and Growthpoint. A gala dinner and prize-giving will be held on November 26 to announce the overall winners.

The winning group will receive the prize of a big stack of greenbacks for their big green idea – R30,000 in cash. They’ll also get to present their research to leading built environment professionals at the annual GBCSA Green Building Convention.

But the benefits of participation go far beyond the winning prize. The programme will also provide students with an opportunity to work with leading industry thinkers and possibly expose them to exciting employment opportunities. It will give leading companies direct access to real talent. Students will also be exposed to The Green Star SA Accredited Professional Programme (GSSA AP), which will be made available to entrants at a discounted student rate.

“This includes a supported online course and a face-to-face workshop. On completion of the GSSA AP Programme, students will then have the choice to go ahead and complete the online exam and become a GSSA AP and though it is not compulsory, it is definitely recommended,” Wilkinson says.

Importantly, everyone is a winner when innovation for a greener, healthier, more sustainable environment is nurtured, and this is exactly what the Greenovate Awards are setting out to do.