Economic and environmental challenges demand that the built industry plan for the future, and today it is doing just that.
Today the built industry is facing a series of challenges that demands an examination on how to move into the future in the most sustainable and powerful way possible.
The Sustainable Building (SB) conferences examined these issues and looked for ways the industry can develop solutions, innovations and collaborative initiatives.
The regional events that have run throughout 2013, known as the SB13 series, will generate critical conclusions that will be shared in the World SB14 in Barcelona in October 2014.
Within the halls and rooms of these conferences some of the greatest minds came together to explore economic, social and environmental concerns and look for solutions that can make a difference.
This series of conferences has reached an estimated 10 000 people through the regional and primary conference cycles, and has had some superb results.
The goal is to educate and inspire, and as the series grows and expands across the various regions and countries, it reaches more people and brings about more awareness and change.
The SB13 Southern Africa, hosted by the Central University of Technology (CUT), is one of the SB conference series that is being held across various regions and countries.
These conferences include both the developed and developing world and the entire series so far has received the first Triennial CIB Construction & Society Award.
The Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction was established in 1953 and upholds the objects of stimulating and facilitating international co-operation and information.
This applies to governmental research institutes in the building and construction sector, especially those that engage in technical fields of research.
Innovation, collaboration and learning
What makes this award so important is that it acknowledges how the SB conferences have taken on a pivotal role in raising awareness within the architecture, construction and engineering sector about the social, environmental and technological challenges that are being faced globally.
The conferences present an inspirational blend of both research and best practice, making each event into a centre where attendees are inspired to innovate, collaborate and learn.
"The built environment, through the agency of construction activities, has continued to contribute significantly to the changes that are occurring on earth with dire consequences for generations to come," says Dr Fidelis A Emuze, conference secretary and senior lecturer at the department of built environment at CUT.
"It is in this context that the sub-Saharan African continent, populated by countries with various levels of growth, must approach their development trajectory with responsibility. This event is vital to flag new thinking in a domain and to disseminate best practice," says Emuze.
"Sustainability is not a fad and it is important to the construction industry, which often acts as the barometer of an economy, to continue its contributions to that economy without compromising the environment and the people that are the driving force behind it."
The SB13 Southern Africa conference paved the way for the SB14 conference in Barcelona, and the value of its contributions are undeniable.
"The most inspirational part of this conference has been the contributions from within the region and the diverse range of insightful means of contextualising sustainable development, especially from the developing world perspective.
"The myth that 'going green' with building and construction is expensive has been challenged and the prerogative with respect to sustainable building types, methods and materials is no longer exclusive to developed countries," says Emuze.
The SB13 conference addressed the issues of climate change, natural disasters and resource depletion.
It was designed to raise awareness and to show the world the potential that the built environment can tap into to deliver sustainable solutions.
This academic conference is all about the research and how it can be used to transform.
"Applied research is used to solve real time problems in society. The majority of the papers presented, and the keynotes, will inform policies and practices going forward.
"These will, in turn, positively impact our ability to continue to develop our environment without setting a limit to what future generations would want to achieve in their time," says Emuze.
The Barcelona SB14 conference carries the torch further with the theme "Sustainable Building Results — Are we moving as quickly as we should?"
Here there will be a critical revision of the many situations regarding building construction and urban development in the world so that best practices can be widespread, and other integrative, collaborative, global-level proposals can arise.
The SB conferences have become the pre-eminent global events for the sharing of research and innovation in sustainable building and construction.
Emilio Miguel Mitre, SB13 conference co-ordinator and World SB14 Barcelona international representative, says: "It is a privilege to prolong this long line of events and people that have worked to achieve a sustainable built environment."
October 2013 sees the SB13 Southern Africa conference take off and lead the way on the continent.
It will be extremely exciting to see what this event will bring to the world table next year.
The SB conference series embodies the values of research and innovation to the benefit of society and looks to tackle the major societal challenges of sustainable development, depletion of resources, resilient urbanisation, health and housing, among many other things.
Next year, in Barcelona, there will be critical revision of the regional situations and the analysis used to find solutions that can be applied globally or fine-tuned to match the individual regional needs.
Today, it is about looking to Africa and allowing the brightest minds to find the brightest futures.
This article forms part of a supplement paid for by the Central University of Technology. Contents and photographs were supplied and signed off by the institution