Habitat Portfolio

The SAIA aims to advocate and support members and the inhabitants of our country in the delivery of sustainable, human(e) and inclusionary built environment through architectural design supported by SAIA’s Habitat Policy drafted in 2010 (insert hyperlink to document on SAIA server).

SAIA’s advocacy work is undertaken at two levels, at National level through the SAIA Executive and national office, whilst regional interactions are undertaken by SAIA Regions through their respective Habitat committees.

The Habitat Portfolio interacts with various key stakeholders as follows:

National Government: this constitutes attendance at forums, commentary on policy, the predominant activity is to increase the understanding of the role of architect in the built environment and socio-economic restructuring through the National Department and Ministry of Human Settlements predominantly through the Rental Housing, Stakeholder Management departments.  Other forums include the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the National Planning Commission.

Local Government / Municipalities: SAIA has through the Local Government for COP17 engaged at Mayoral Committee levels enabled through collaborative initiatives with Government Agencies below. SAIA Regions committees engage with municipalities on an adhoc or project related basis.

Government Agencies: Regular interactions aiming to build relationships with potential partners including South African Local Government Association, National Home Builders Registration Council, the Construction Industry Development Board, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (formerly the Social Housing Foundation), the Housing Development Agency

Institutions: Interactions vary from regular to project related interactions with SA Cities Network, National Association of Social Housing, Schools of Architecture, South African Council for Planners, other non-governmental organisations.  SAIA hold representation at the Green Building Council through nominated SAIA BoR representative and members participate on working groups.

Key Stakeholder: partnerships are developed to assist SAIA in the delivery of its mandate.

Members: the Committee has called on specific contributions from active our members

The Habitat National Committee constitutes specialists in the sector in the areas of green buildings, accessibility, academia, urban design and through SHiFT housing and policy expertise.

Since April 200 SHiFT acted as the delivery agent for the Habitat and Heritage Portfolio, a not-for-profit organization with the cross cutting expertise to manage and coordinate the activities of the SAIA objectives.  SHiFT responds to SAIA’s policies and protocols in the delivery of the portfolio activities.

Some of the recent outcomes include:

  • “Faster, harder, smarter: towards a shared vision for sustainable human(e ) settlements” for the NDoHS establishing the Tsela Tshweu Design Team
  • Participation in working groups in the development of SABS 10400 chapters including Part XA (Energy usage) and Part S (Accessibility)
  • Curatorship of the Cities Month at the South Africa Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo in 2010, including focus group discussion, including the Launch of the State of the Cities Report 2011
  • Executive Curatorship of the Local Government Pavilion at the UNCC COP17-CMP 7 in Durban 2011
  • The hosting of the UIA COP17 parallel event at COP17 29+30 November 2011 as “Built environment strategies in response to Climate Change: Agro-urban settlements”
  • SAIA SHiFT position paper on Inclusionary Housing
  • SAIA comment on UIA sustainability international report
  • Scope of work and fees related to low income housing work group
  • NHBRC Industry Advisory Committee
  • Participation on expert task teams at the H D A, SHF, GBCSA, SABS, NHBRC
  • Several papers presented as guest lecturer or at conferences targeting strategic planning forums and Post-graduate academic courses
  • Key stakeholder invitation to the Minister of Human Settlements Budget Vote Speech 2011, Parliament Buildings, Cape Town

Sustainable Human(e) Settlements: The Urban Challenge

International conference: Lamunu, Braamfontien, Johannesburg 17th-21st September 2012In September 2012, the University of Johannesburg, with its partners and sponsors, hosted the international conference on Sustainable Human(e) Settlements: the urban challenge. This was an activity of the CIB W110 group on Informal Settlements and Affordable Housing, which is led by Prof Happy Santosa (ITS, Surabaya, Indonesia) and Prof Amira Osman (University of Johannesburg). This research group has also been closely collaborating with CIB W104 on Open Building Implementation.

The conference partners and sponsors were the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB), Cement and Concrete Institute (CCI), Social Housing Focus Trust (SHiFT), the National Association of Social Housing Organisations (NASHO), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), COROBRIK, National Research Foundation (NRF), 26’10 South Architects, Sharp Shop Architects, South African Institute for Architects (SAIA), Association of Schools of Construction of South Africa (ASOCSA), 1:1 Agency of Engagement and the Netherland Architecture Fund. The conference organizing committee was: Amira Osman, Finzi Saidi, Ferdinand Fester, Clinton Aigbavboa, Wellington Thwala and Jhono Bennett.

The conference was held at Lamunu, Braamfontein. This was an apt location because of the interesting urban regeneration that is happening in the area – which buzzes with student life due to the proximity to both the University of the Witwatersrand campus as well as the University of Johannesburg campus.

The conference was conceived as a “small but significant conference” intending to shed light on issues believed to add value to the debate on housing and human settlements in South Africa – ideally to be achieved through active engagement between the architectural profession and other professions and stakeholders in human settlements.

Architecture is a profession that is critical in the achievement of human settlements that are more equitable, more beautiful, more functional – human settlements that increase peoples’ opportunities, offering people a better chance at improving their lives and livelihoods. It is a profession that has the potential to offer both technical and social expertise towards the enhancement of social cohesion and integration through the achievement of a mix of income groups, housing types, functions etc.

In other words, the architectural profession has the potential to make significant contributions to environments and human settlements that are more human(e). The role of architects and architecture is critical. Yet, the profession remains largely untransformed and disengaged from these issues… something that is changing, but too slowly. This needs to change and we need to re-think the way in which the built environment is conceived, designed and delivered.

The conference had a particular approach and aimed to promote thinking on alternative strategies for design and delivery of housing and human settlements – as well as emphasize the role of architects and the architectural profession in spatial transformation and achieving more sustainable, human(e) and equitable cities. The conference themes also built on a vision for human(e) settlements developed by a partnership of individuals from various agencies (CSIR, SHiFT, SAIA, SAICE etc.), calling themselves the Tsela Tshewu Design Team, which listed 10 principles for transformation in the built environment – these principles all emphasized the need for distributed decision making and innovation in the manner in which the built environment in general, and housing in particular, is designed, funded and delivered. The need for viewing the built environment at different levels requiring careful management of the relationships between the agents that operate at those levels as well as the need to “disentangle” those levels to allow for a degree of permanence without restricting the necessity for constant transformation becomes apparent.

The 10-point vision presented a set of guidelines to apply this principle in South Africa on new developments as well as in the transformation of existing suburbs and townships and in the upgrade of informal settlements. This approach allows for the integration of low cost housing within strategies that address the development of complete housing eco-systems rather than isolating housing for the poor. It also allows for the development of housing models that make “business sense” by allowing for the involvement of small-scale construction industries in the delivery of the “lower level” of the built environment (the infill or fit out levels) while the large and more experienced companies deliver the base buildings, that is the more permanent component of the built environment.

The idea here is to allow for constant transformation and innovations at the lower level of the environment – with more players being involved in decision-making at those levels – while ensuring the delivery of high quality and efficient base buildings which might be leased or sold to various agents including, possibly, subsidised rental housing institutions.

Due to this particular approach to viewing the built environment, a strong link with Open Building thinkers and thinking led to collaboration between the CIB W110 research group on Informal Settlements and Affordable Housing and the CIB W104 group on Open Building Implementation. The focus on Open Building also generated a strong Netherlands influence and interest as it is premised on writings by key thinkers in the field such as John Habraken. The strong link with thinkers and projects in the Netherlands was evident in the papers presented, the delegates that attended and also influenced the movies that were produced.

The preparations for the conference started many months before with an important collaboration internally between the Multi Media Department at FADA, UJ and the Architecture Department. The intention was to produce two movies that looked at the South African situation and presented innovation in thinking about residential developments in the Netherlands. Produced in partnership with ximage, Amsterdam, the Sustainable Human(e) Settlements: the urban challenge documentary films premiered at the Urban Film Festival organised by UN-Habitat, World Urban Forum, Naples, 3rd-5th September 2012. The movies have also been selected for the India-AARDE Film Festival, partnering with the School of Architecture, Anna University in Chennai, December 20-22, 2012. The movies have been used for lectures and presentations nationally and in the Netherlands.

The movies were produced with an intention to initiate a debate on Open Building in South Africa. The workshops had a similar aim and started the day before the conference and overlapped with its activities. These workshops aimed to better establish OB thinking in South Africa among practitioners, academics, social housing institutions and developers. Detailed reports on the workshops are being compiled.

The workshops and conference were addressed by key international figures in the field of Open Building thinking and practice. Stephen Kendall (Ball State University, USA) is one of the coordinators of CIB group W104 Open Building Implementation gave a keynote talk as well as jointly ran a workshop with Amira Osman (University of Johannesburg). Phil Astley (the Bartlett, London) led the workshop on Open Building for Healthcare Systems Separation with Georgio Macchi (Director and Chief, Real Estate and Public Buildings for Canton Bern) and Marianus de Jager (Sharp Shop Architects, Johannesburg). Jane Stanley (Director of People and Communities for the City of Ballart, Victoria, Australia), who was sponsored by the CCI, gave depth to the discussion by raising issues of participation, community engagement and re-defining community partnerships through her thoughts on “gnarly planning” and international experience in the field.

Other important events at the conference were:

  1. Technical tours organized by SHiFT which aimed to introduce the delegates to different sections of Johannesburg and using the Rainbow Rating Tool developed by SHiFT to assess the viewed projects and neighbourhood in terms of various sustainability and design criteria.
  2. A 3-hour debate on what the term “human(e) settlements” implied was hosted by Thorsten Deckler of 26’10 South Architects – the debate was convened by Anton Harber (author of the book “Diepsloot”) and the presenters were selected from a range of fields and people who had varied experience in the field of housing and informality.

One day of the conference also included academic presentations based on scientific papers, which had been subjected to a double, blind-peer review in a 2-stage process. The scientific committee and reviewers was comprised of national and international academics – this committee ensured the high standard of the papers presented and published in the proceedings.

The activities of the conference were endorsed by the South African Institute for Architects, SAIA, and are CPD accredited.


Saia Involvement in Parallel Events at COP17 

This report outlines SAIA’s contributions to parallel events to the UNFCC COP17‐CMP7 conference held in Durban from 28 November 2011 – 09 December 2011.

SAIA was involved as, the detailed description of each are contained below as the main body of this report:
Local Partner to the Umkhanyakude (Local Government) Pavilion (‘the Pavilion’) and Expo, in a curatorship capacity
UIA COP17 parallel event on the 29th and 30th November 2011. 1

The opportunity to engage with the Local Government Partnership through SA Cities Network (SACN) as curator of activities including the:

  • Design of the spatial experience of the Pavilion
  • Curatorship of content for a Local Government exhibition (Expo)
  • Coordination and management of a 12 day programme of activities (Convention)
  • Legacy project

SAIA worked closely with the SA Cities Network as the Project Management Unit for Local Government Partnership to deliver the above. The other partners include:

  • Partners:Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA),
  • o South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
  • o City of eThekwini
  • o Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
  • Primary Sponsor: Siemens in collaboration with Ogilvy as their brand and event managers

SAIA acting as principal agent, engaged service providers to assist in the delivery process respective to the activities listed above are as follows:

a. Makeka Design Lab (Mokena Makeka)
b. Whatwewant Branded Entertainment
c. Alive2Green Event Management
d. Discussions underway with Sci‐bono Discovery Center
A. Design of the spatial experience 
A 2000sqm temporary dome structure was erected to house the 1100sqm exhibition area, 230 seater auditorium and the support services which constituted the pavilion. The story of local government successes was told in one single spectacular integrated multimedia experience that demonstrates the ‘evolutionary settlements’, in three voices – a high level editorial narrative that captured the position (through Department of Environmental Affairs), targets of the climate change agenda from a local government perspective through a demonstration of case studies from municipalities; and the public voice (through Resource Africa and youth conferences), with a focus on communication to children and youth through a youth exhibition developed for the Expo. The narrative voice describes the journey that “starts and ends with you” and links projects according to their climate regions, sectoral response, and the scale of on the settlements. These links encourage the development of partnerships between municipalities responding to similar conditions.

The architects chose the moëbius strip or infinity loop as the driving metaphor for the design as it suggests a continuous flow and interdependence of life, materials and environment. Contrast this to the stereotypical approach of dividing sustainability into distinct silo’s of water, energy, waste etc. The design uses the infinity loop and segments of it in terms of an interactive ribbon that faces the public square as a means of suggesting closed looped systems as the future of resilient societies.

B. Curatorship of content for a Local Government exhibition (Expo)
The exhibition area of the Pavilion was designed as a walk through experience with submissions
from at least 35 metropolitan, districts and local municipalities and a limited number of private sector/government agency partner sponsors.
The 12 days of activities included contributions from municipalities, the Local Government Partners including the signing of the Mayoral Pact on climate change, youth conference, and a number of private sector conferences accommodated in the 230 seater auditorium, and an 80 seater (subdivisible in two 40 seater) meeting rooms.
Feedback from local government exhibitors and partners described the Pavilion in relation to other pavilions in the Climate Change Response Expo as “unique and special, the greatest, well positioned and coordinated, professional – the home of Local Government”
C. Legacy Project 
The relationships, content and models developed during the process of delivery of the Local Government Pavilion can be reused, recycled and re(intro)duced into medium term initiatives that build on the mandates of those of the Local Government Partnership in a Climate Change Learning Center (based on the Sci‐bono Discovery Center concept).
The legacy project also serves to give additional value to corporate sponsors, developing relationships between LG and such sponsors, and new partnerships with delivery agents.
A multi‐facetted legacy project that aims to educate and mobilise children, youths and adults in South Africa with regard to meeting Climate Change objectives in the short and medium term.
SAIA coordinated on behalf of the International Union of Architects (UIA) a 2‐day interactive conference in the Pavilion through the SAIA COP17 task team drawn from the Habitat Committee and SAIA UIA representatives. The committee constituted the following individuals in their respective capacities:

  • Trish Emmett: UIA representative, SAIA board member, as chairperson
  • Eric Noir: AUA Region V representative, Habitat committee member, as chair of Programme and Content sub‐committee
  • Joanne Lees: Habitat committee member as member of Programme and Content sub‐committee (and assistant facilitator)
  • Nina Saunders: President of KZNIA as observer
  • Bharti Vital: Vice President of KZNIA as observer
  • Diane Arvanitakis: SAIA Habitat Portfolio Manager tasked with management of COP17 activities

SAIA engaged the services of Meshfield as facilitators of for the event which is summarized as follows. The event integrated a unique format where our panelists, catalysts and specialists engaged with each other and the audience in a range of different facilitated participatory formats. The group of twenty nine dynamic practitioners doing fascinating work (both in the built environment sector, and in other areas) that impact the way we design and make our cities and settlement. These conversations were peppered with 4‐minute sound bites from global and local thought leaders, dropped into the dialogue at appropriate moments through the two days, that stretched and inspired delegates and panelists to think about built environment sector responses to climate change in innovative ways.
The objective for the conference was to begin to produce the first contours of position paper that could serve to inform and equip COP negotiators about built environment sector responses to climate change for input at COP18 in Seoul, December 2012. This will be developed and elaborated on in various online and face‐to‐face conversations through 2012.
The two‐day event is structured into 4 sections:

  • Setting the scene
  • Four future scenarios : Brown Tech, Green Tech, Lifeboats, Earth Steward (based on the
  • work of futurist David Holmgren (2008)
  • Sketching the contours of a built environment sector response to climate change
  • Outlining the position paper

A detailed summary of the conference is available on request, and visit the website http://uiasustainabilitybydesign.org/for more information regarding the event itself.
The conference was attended by approximately 110 architectural professionals, 23‐25 SAIA board members and 12‐15 UIA and AUA guests, the remainder of the total of 230 delegates were made up of local government officials (including the Mayor of Ekurhuleni) and non‐architect professionals.
Feedback from delegates described the event as “exciting and informative, very inspiring and educational, enlightening, empowering, informative, stimulating, appropriate, open, thought provoking, somewhat unsettling, exhilarating, professional conducted, intense – a mindset changing experience” to extract a few of the comments extracted from evaluation forms.

Key outcomes of the workshop suggesting a way forward:

  • Build capacity at national government on climate policy (including drawing up a built environment charter)
  • Develop a strategic plan for the built environment in the face of climate change
  • Build educational capacity at all levels
  • Develop a compelling story