Hlologelo Manthose is a sustainability consultant, building services, at WSP in Africa.
Tell us a little more about your background?
I am a sustainability consultant involved in certifying green buildings. I have always been interested in human behaviour, health, wellbeing and human interaction. My academic background in industrial/organisational psychology has been instrumental in fuelling my desire to study the interplay between people and their work environments.
I was first exposed to the green building industry during my postgraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, where I undertook a qualitative research project that focused primarily on identifying the challenges faced by sustainable facilities managers in Gauteng. The research project instilled within me a love for, and understanding of, green facilities and operations. It also led me to venture into the green building industry.
Why is sustainability so important in the building industry?
The building industry has been proven to have a big impact on the natural environment and is subsequently the key contributor to climate change, resource depletion and human health. While the built environment presents these challenges, there lies a great opportunity in the industry to address these significant problems through sustainable design.
Designing sustainably presents the opportunity for the industry to thrive without being invasive to the natural environment and its resources. It encourages the reduction of carbon emissions and extensive water usage through efficient design and management of resources such as energy and water. It also ensures that the environments which we inhibit positively contribute to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Incorporating sustainability into the built environment is important as it future proofs the natural environment and the building stock by ensuring that we design and construct flexible and adaptable spaces for future users and ones that are resilient to the effects of climate change.
How do you see the future of the industry on the continent?
I see a lot of growth in the industry, particularly in Africa as we are currently mobilising towards the design of multi-use and densified spaces/precincts. This creates the opportunity for the industry to innovate and rise above the norm by using sustainable approaches to solving problems. As a continent, we are more conscious of our needs and are beginning to incorporate region-specific designs and initiatives that work for our environment and climate.
Professionals in the industry are beginning to be more cognisant of the immediate and prolonged effects of their developments and are seeking innovative and mostly passive and minimalistic designs to create sustainable and future-proofed spaces. Moreover, the continent is embracing sustainability and realising that the approach is multidirectional and can have a greater impact in addressing our issues as a continent – including unemployment, lack of infrastructure and brain drain.
What advice would you give young women wanting to work in this space?
The opportunities in this space are limitless. However, one must be open-minded and conscious of their surroundings to be able to realise them. Be conscious and deliberate in your choices as a professional and have an appetite for what you do. The beauty of being passionate about what you do is that even on the gloomiest days of your career, that spirit will see you through.
What do you like to do to relax?
I am a very outgoing person and relaxing for me means taking time out to be with family and friends sharing conversations and great laughs. I like to meditate on my experiences, which often involves some alone-time and journaling. I am also a nature lover, and hiking allows me to admire the natural beauty and tranquillity of my environment.