Makhosazana Mthethwa: Towards an Integrated Design Approach

Makhosazana Mthethwa: Towards an Integrated Design Approach

Makhosazana Mthethwa joined the vibrant team at Solid Green in November 2018 and has had a pacey start in her new job with work on several exciting Net Zero and Green Star project submissions. Here, Khosi shares her experience.

A Ndebele girl originally from Zimbabwe where I was born and raised, I graduated with a master’s in architecture from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Cape Town has a special place in my heart as I spent my early adult years there but, in the true nature of an explorer, I moved to Johannesburg in 2015. It has certainly been an adventure! Jozi has a very distinct pulse and energy which I enjoy being a part of.

I joined Solid Green in November 2018 but have interacted with the team since the company’s inception in 2011, mainly through meeting Marloes or Chilufya at conferences and at the offices of my previous workplace in Cape Town.

My first project at Solid Green is one of my favourites. It was the preparation for a Green Star Net Zero Carbon submission for MDA’s offices. When I started working in the green building industry, there was a big drive towards energy efficiency with the focus on reducing carbon emissions, but very few professionals were looking into nullifying carbon emissions altogether. Presentations by Bill Reed and Jason McLennan at a GBCSA convention inspired me to think of net zero and net positive buildings as very feasible and imperative in the path to restorative architecture and urban spaces.

Almost eight years later, I joined Solid Green and was fortunate enough to have my first project – for MDA Attorneys – awarded its certification in March of 2019. I am currently also working on a potential net-zero project in Harare, Zimbabwe; and have worked on two EGDE office buildings in Nairobi, Kenya, which received their certifications in May 2019. In addition, I am coordinating four office buildings targeting 4 Star Green Star ratings in Durban, Cape Town and Midrand. And my latest challenge is preparing a Green Star Interiors rating submission under the guidance of Marloes.

All in all, it has been a pacey start!

Being a part of the Solid Green family is great. Individually, everyone has strong, unique characters and talent. However, a wise person once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We function well as a team and we’re all passionate about each of the roles we play in the team. Everyone is very supportive of each other, which is essential in a multidisciplinary office. I believe that’s one of the things that make the difference in our industry. Simply put, we get the job done.

At the same time, there is not a day that goes by without laughter, jokes or, more recently, a game of chess. The office is run in a very people-centric way which, in a high-speed industry, is a breath of fresh air. On the subject of fresh air, one of the appealing aspects of being a part of this team is the office building that shelters us. The Solid Green offices are pleasant to work in due to the amazing quality of daylight and natural ventilation and the inclusion of plant features everywhere. Sick building syndrome is a real phenomenon in the building industry and, quite honestly, the people who work in our office don’t get sick as often as other people working in office spaces seem to. Our office environment also supports our ability to be alert and focus on our work. I guess that’s why the space holds both a LEED Platinum certification for commercial interiors, and the first 6-Star Green Star Interiors v1 certification in the country.

As an architect who’s had substantial experience in sustainable developments, I believe it’s imperative to have an integrated design approach. Integrated design is a holistic approach that brings all built environment specialists to the table at concept stage. This provides a platform for collaboration between architects, consulting engineers, sustainability specialists and stakeholders upfront. It is the most effective way to achieve green developments that are also cost effective. It’s also the best way to achieve truly innovative architectural solutions.

I also believe that, when looking at sustainable developments, the focus should not only be on energy efficiency, responsible water use and waste management, but also on finding ways to offer our society an equitable built environment where all occupants can thrive. This should be a top priority.

My experience at Solid Green is certainly influencing my direction. I think there is something special about working in a group of people with a shared purpose. We all ultimately want to create spaces that are essentially good for the planet and people; and my experience here reinforces my convictions. I’m also excited about our footprint expanding beyond our borders. There is so much potential to build ‘green’ in African countries and, because our built environments are developing, it gives us an opportunity to do things right from the outset. Solid Green has set up the platform that allows me to engage in such projects across the African continent.

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