A team of environmental game changers in the Department of Construction Economics and Management won first and second prizes at the 2017 Greenovate Awards. It was the department’s third consecutive win since the competition began in 2015. UCT also won the engineering stream, which is new to Greenovate this year.
An initiative by Growthpoint Properties in association with the Green Building Council South Africa, the competition challenges senior students to create innovative solutions to environmental challenges facing the property industry.
This year’s awards had a record 16 finalist teams from eight participating universities, including Wits, Stellenbosch, Pretoria and Free State. However, UCT was the only institution to take up the challenge in both streams.
First prize went to Mark McCormick (property honours), Daniel Navarro (quantity surveying honours) and Nicholas Tennick (property honours) for their green leasing project. This looks at upgrading existing medium-density residential buildings with strategic green building features and initiatives to effect energy, water and other savings.
These savings can be used by multi-storey residential property owners to subsidise rentals, creating previously unaffordable rental stock for tenants in the R10 000 to R15 000 per month income sub-market. The proposed solution to the critical affordable housing shortage in Cape Town is underpinned by all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social sustainability.
The students were supervised by Karen Le Jeune, a senior lecturer on the quantity surveying honours programme.
Container student accommodation
Second-prize winners, property honours students Gemma Watson, Tarryn Coles and Anthony Testa, supervised by property studies lecturer Saul Nurick, tackled a project close to the university’s heart: affordable student housing. Their project, Greentainer Accommodation, looked at using surplus shipping containers to alleviate the student accommodation crisis where demand outstrips supply.
Citing examples in the Netherlands and France, the trio’s study looked at what it would take to make container living environmentally and financially viable. They found that not only were containers a sustainable solution, they could provide student accommodation that is quicker to establish, more affordable for the end user (by 30 to 40%) and offers significantly better returns for investors when compared to conventional construction methods.
“Our students are very aware of the social and economic challenges facing the country … ”
Containers also offer space, water energy and construction waste reductions, they found.
Both projects tackle key issues at national and local levels.
“Our students are very aware of the social and economic challenges facing the country and look at pitching their projects in the context of these problems,” says Nurick.
While the final part of the competition stretches the entrants (they’re expected to deliver slick presentations to top-flight industry representatives before judging as well as a synopsis of their projects at the gala dinner), each group is allocated an industry mentor. Each year, UCT alumni are allocated to the UCT students, closing a circle.
“Some of the mentors are people we’ve taught and who’ve come through the department,” says Nurick. “Even if they don’t win, students see this as an opportunity because they engage with some senior people in the industry. It’s a real opportunity to promote themselves.”
He adds, “This department, which is quite small, has punched well above its weight in the past three years. We have quality students and small final-year classes and all our graduates find work in the industry because the supply is far less than the demand.”
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