News

Innovation is key in Building Sustainable Human Settlements

23 March 2015

Outcomes from the second annual Sustainable Settlement Innovation Summit 2015

Cape Town – On Monday, 2 March, 120 delegates from the academia, government, NGO and private sector gathered to attend, discuss and share ideas for the second Sustainable Settlement Innovation Summit 2015.

Welcoming guests, Head of Department for Environmental Affairs  and Development Planning, Pieter van Zyl, shared his hope for the summit as one where ideas and case studies are pooled amongst the different sectors culminating in a ‘better together’ approach for the way forward in building sustainable human settlements.

The Summit is the result of the positive response to the inaugural Sustainable Settlement Innovation Summit held in September 2013 and requests from Municipalities to repeat the event on an annual basis.  The first Summit revealed that the way business is conducted remains unsustainable in the long term in terms of the environment, financial resources and the social issues experienced.

Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, kicked off the jam-packed three day programme with a quote from Time magazine. The article reported that the planet’s seventh billionth citizen had been born and Bredell emphasised that there has never been as much pressure on Earth’s natural resources as there is today, “…despite our success, the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment still hinder our progress.  Exploring concepts of sustainability and innovation at summits like this will assist governments to successfully address these and many others challenges we are facing,” said Bredell.

The summit showed that global population trends of urbanization and migration add to the challenges that governments face. In the Western Cape, in 1996 there was an estimated 4 million people. By 2011, according to a recent national government census, the figure increased to 5.9 million people. The value and outcomes of the Sustainable Settlement Innovation Summit is to enable a resilient, sustainable, quality and inclusive living environment. Increasing the quality of settlements has an impact on wellness, opportunities for growth, jobs and education.

British architect, urban designer and Chair of Smart Urbanism, Kelvin Campbell, was the keynote speaker at the summit and addressed delegates providing numerous international case studies and research on innovative approaches to complex urban problems, with a special focus on informal settlements. Quoting John Turner of Freedom to Build, Campbell said that “informal settlements are cities in progress” and that we need to make a mind-set change in our approach as to how they are managed to transform them into sustainable and functioning societies.

Topics on the Western Cape Human Settlements Framework, opportunities within Public Private Partnerships and addressing different Settlement Scales kept delegates engaged and helped to facilitate debate amongst the different sectors and industries. Break away sessions were held tackling matters of transport, water and waste allowed guests to choose which forum they wanted to attend based on their interests and needs of their sectors and communities.

World Café sessions were held where eleven presentations from innovative pilot projects taking place country wide were held. Speakers got four minutes to present their project, with a Q&A session held afterwards.  Interesting concepts from using PET bottles to create a layer of insulation in shacks, to the first small-scale embedded electricity generation contract in Black River Park, left delegates encouraged and motivated about the way forward in building sustainable settlements.

The summit aimed to raise new levels of thinking to create vibrant and sustainable urban environments for future generations that efficiently use the planets resources.

Closing the conference, Campbell left delegates with some food for thought, “It’s time to harness the collection power of many small ideas to incite change. You’ve had an instruction from the top to change and Cape Town has world class talent to put South Africa on the map in terms of developing sustainable human settlement into vibrant urban and self-sufficient hubs.”