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SA needs a sustainable construction industry

If South Africa is to meet its full potential, we will need to develop human settlements which are socially acceptable and capable of economic development and growth.

According to surface mining industry association ASPASA, sustainability is not only the sphere for environmentalists, but rather the whole supply chain within construction and infrastructure development processes who should be keenly aware of sustainable development issues.

This should include the protection of our earth’s natural resources where building materials are derived from and the essential need for building products and services to be made at a fair and affordable price.

Hard work

Around South Africa ample work is needed, there are still many communities without sufficient housing. Urban development is putting ever more pressure on our cities’ infrastructure and facilities which need to be upgraded to correctly aid our communities.

“In future South Africa will need to create cities where economic and social systems support the notion of long-term sustainability. We will also need to create business and living spaces that enable the creation of jobs and that facilitate wealth-building. Communities can then become more socially coherent, and this will enable individuals to work together for the greater good of their own society.

“This can only be done if people have proper shelter and adequate affordable housing. They need to have a livable environment and have a sense of belonging, as well as a sense of pride in their surroundings and in their city. Infrastructure must therefore be created that enables the ongoing sustainability and improvement of these areas,” says ASPASA environmental auditor, Anthony Bowen.

Forward thinking

Associations such as Aspasa play a crucial role in the sustainable construction industry. These associations supply the key ingredients of all building and construction projects in the form of sand and stone, which creates vital building blocks for concrete structures, roads and others.

At the core of its existence the association’s main objective is to tend to the long-term sustainability of the quarrying industry and to align it with quality labour and social requirements as well as legal and environmental compliance. The building industry can increase its standards by simply dealing with accredited sustainably operated suppliers of building materials and therefore discredit unethical and illegal suppliers.

As the legal and regulated quarrying industry is at a constant with cleaning up its act and ensuring social environments, health and safety commitments are being met. The illegal operators are growing and selling their goods and creating an immense impact on the sustainability of the legal trade our country possesses.

Key points to having a truly sustainable industry are as follows:

  • Sustainable and energy efficient designs
  • Environmentally friendly practices
  • Sustainable maintenance practices
  • Materials must be produced in a sustainable way
  • Quality of materials should be a prime concern
  • Surrounding communities should derive maximum benefit from all building and construction activities
  • Skills development and job creation should leave a sustainable legacy

Implementing these measures of sustainability will ensure that the structures and roads that are built will last and ensure that businesses remain profitable into the future. By supporting quality suppliers, the industry can help grow quality building contractors.

Governmental cooperation

“In addition, role players need to be identified to drive development and act in a leadership role to ensure sustainability,” explains Anthony.

“Our first most important role-player is our government, focusing on the development of infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads, police stations, houses, hospitals as well as other key structures, it all needs to be well mapped out and developed into the community in a sustainable manner.

“The money allocated through the fiscus needs to be spent wisely to ensure it ticks all the boxes of sustainability in terms of ethical social environments etc. Putting this infrastructure in place to facilitate employment and social coherence, and as a result no shortcuts can be taken at this point as this is what will form the basis of our future developments.

“The government’s duty is to legislate the quarrying industry and create equal opportunity by cutting out illegal mining, preventing imports of low-grade building materials such as cement. Following the government’s duty, it is the responsibility of the built environment professionals to strive for quality sustainability as well as social and economic upliftment. By simply insisting on locally produced cement, we can have a sustainable supply system, having correctly manufactured ready mix from accredited suppliers such as ASPASA members.

Being compliant

“By ensuring that companies comply with regulations and meet the standards of the South African Bureau of Standards (SANS), professionals can affirm suitable care is taken of employment conditions, residential areas, and communities.

“For this reason, we plead with role players to look at the big picture when planning for sustainability. Government and building professionals need to look beyond the use of “green” products for new developments. To have a truly sustainable building industry we need to make sure the products we use are ethically derived and comply with standards. We also need to deal with suppliers and contractors that are focused on true sustainability in terms of social, environmental and economic upliftment of the region and the country,” concludes Anthony.

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