As part of our special focus on design this February, we interviewed vice president of the South African Institute of Architects Kevin Bingham on the importance of sustainable design in SA, the role SAIA plays in promoting sustainable design, as well as the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation.
Kevin Bingham, VP, South African Institute of Architects
How important is sustainable design for a country like South Africa?
The increasing consumption of the world’s natural resources and global acknowledgement of their depletion is repeatedly flagged as a major concern. As a developing country, South Africa, while not having the capital to invest in extensive appropriate alternative technologies, must still push to develop its capacity to become self-sustainable. It is as important for a country with less means to respond to addressing sustainability issues as the wealthy countries. While some regulations ensuring improved sustainability are being enforced in the built environment professions, there is a lack of general knowledge amongst the public around the value of good design principles for sustainability.
What role does the SAIA play in promoting the use of sustainable design in architecture and construction in SA?
One of SAIA’s five new key strategic transformation objectives is sustainability. This advocates a resilient, sustainable and empowering built environment.
Our objective is as follows: “In South Africa, the current affairs shows architecture as a profession which is under-represented and therefore a scarce skill. By aligning to the South African Constitution and various Acts of the Built Environment that promote sustainable built and natural environments, our aim is to highlight architecture as a profession that is a vital contributor within the built environment.
Through aligning ourselves with strong affiliations and partnerships that promote a need for a resilient and sustainable built environment, we better position ourselves, regional institutes and the members we serve, to be more socio-economically empowered.
By using transformation as a tool to create awareness around the need for a socio-economic built environment, we not only educate, but we transform the mindsets of many on the importance of architecture and the socio-economic role it plays in South Africa.”
Do you have an example of a South African project that, for you, embodies sustainable architectural design?
There are a number of landmark buildings that have been recognised for their rated success in addressing sustainability. A personal favourite of mine architecturally is the Alexander Forbes office building in Sandton, Johannesburg. A previous winner of the AfriSam SAIA Award for Architecture + Innovation. However, I still believe that it is the smaller community-based projects and the research in the field that better embodies sustainability in the South African context. Examples of these are the recent Child Aid Tubatse Community Centre at Burgersfort and Koop’s Vukuzakhe initiative.
What instigated the inception on the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation?
The AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation is a way for us to recognise contributions that bring sustainable innovation to living environments through an integrated approach to communities, planning, design, architecture, building practice, natural systems and technology. The awards were initiated in 2013 and take place every two years.
Beyond the four key criteria, what will you be looking out for as an adjudicator of the 2015/2016 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation?
The four key criteria address harmony, social upliftment, evolution and place-making performance. While these will be the beacons of our judging criteria, I will also be reviewing economic prudence, attention to detail, and user needs.
Alexander Forbes headquarters in Sandton designed by Paragon Architects and Paragon Interface. Winner in the built work category at the 2014 AfriSam South African Institute of Architects Award for Sustainable Architecture.
How can design be used most effectively in addressing South Africa's challenges?
Our government and our people first have to recognise the value that architects bring any project. The education and training that an architect receives is geared to good contextural design and environmental awareness. Once we address this challenge, we will see architects designing appropriate housing for the masses and a shift in the perception that architects are only for the upper echelon buildings.
The deadline for entries in the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation is 24 March 2016. For more information, go to www.sustainabledesign.co.za.
Kevin Bingham is a professional architect and a director of the KZN-based FGG Architects Inc. He is the current VP of SAIA and immediate past-president of SAIA-KZN. Bingham serves on SAIA's ManCom and their transformation committee. His passion also lies in education and he is a founding director of Open Architecture, SAIA's transformation programme for assisting the progression of disadvantaged students through architecture education. Bingham is also an adviser to UKZN's Architecture Programmes and is an honorary senior lecturer.
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