Owing to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in South Africa last year, sustainability consultancy Solid Green altered its processes to assist the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) in meeting its net-zero carbon goal by 2030, developing an EcoDistrict methodology for the city.
Solid Green was appointed by the CoJ in March last year to be part of its EcoDistrict Team, which aims to understand viable ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the city at scale and allow for better adaptation to challenging climate conditions.
One of the objectives of the appointment is to assign responsibility for the development of the city’s methodology for achievement of neighbourhood- and district-scale equitable and sustainable development.
It also aims to explore different facets of sustainable district design, guiding public and private interventions and investments in nodes, or ‘EcoDistricts’, to achieve greater climate, social and economic justice for all in a collective impact approach. The intent is to use insights gained to inform the city’s policy, standards, and guidelines towards a sustainable low carbon future.
The study area for this project is the Orange Grove Special Development Zone, a neighbourhood in Johannesburg that is part of the Corridors of Freedom.
The CoJ EcoDistrict Team will consider sustainability issues at building, block, precinct and neighbourhood scale. Some of the outputs will centre on developing a carbon model that sets a baseline and targets for emission-reduction goals and pathways, as well as new standards and guidelines for neighbourhoods to meet local context constraints.
“With Covid restrictions in place, our team had to change how we interacted with potential role-players and we involved the community in our processes. Although the interaction to date might have been limited, there is significant support for change focussed on the improved environmental performance of neighbourhoods,” says Solid Green Sustainable Cities head of department Adrie Fourie.
Solid Green has also been addressing the lack of suitable data regarding energy and water consumption in city nodes during the past year, she adds.
“We have been working with the CoJ and the community in Orange Grove to identify suitable premises to install submeters, gathering useful insight about consumption patterns. This will inform appropriate green building and green infrastructure interventions at site, block, precinct and neighbourhood scale to reduce the overall carbon emissions profile of the neighbourhoods or precincts.”
Fourie points out that Solid Green aims to test the EcoDistricts Protocol to identify what works,what needs to be changed for the local context and, most importantly, which relevant city standards and guidelines need to be updated/created or included to allow for the replication of this approach for a wider city impact.
The EcoDistrict Protocol is an international tool and certification standard that outlines a sustainable urban development framework for achieving district-scale sustainability.
The protocol identifies three imperatives –resilience, equity and climate protection – that places socioeconomic and environmental sustainability at the centre of urban regeneration.
The CoJ is one of the four cities in South Africa that is working towards the implementation of policies and programmes that aim for net zero carbon emissions from newly built buildings by 2030.
This work is supported by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, with Sustainable Energy Africa as the local implementing partner. Five South African municipality, namely CoJ, Cape Town, eThekwini, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, will be participating in the programme.
As part of this programme, two city policy documents have been approved for comment by their respective councils and draft bylaws have been developed.
Meanwhile, the CoJ approved a Green Building Policy for public comment and the development of the related bylaw is under way. The final approval of the Green Building Policy is expected in the third quarter of the year.
The policy is focused on delivering international commitments regarding climate change declarations while improving the liveability and sustainability of Johannesburg as a developing urban centre.
The CoJ is constantly exploring innovative methodologies and approaches to evaluate and inform resource efficient built environment development practices, concludes Fourie.