Schalk Grobbelaar, through his work in the field of sustainable design and development, including people’s skills, is making a difference that will contribute to reducing the effects of climate change. He is a lecturer in the faculty of engineering, built environment and information technology at the University of Pretoria, and the chairperson of a strategic partnership with York Timbers at UP. The initiative focuses on multidisciplinary research — civil and chemical engineering, architecture, material science, data science, biological sciences and bioeconomy disciplines — training and networking programmes on the structural engineering of advanced wood products in the context of a sustainable, timber-based built environment and the wood-based bioeconomy in South Africa. Schalk leads a team that is performing a feasibility study for the department of trade, industry and competition to promote timber construction in South Africa. Replacing carbon-intensive building materials such as cement and steel with carbon-negative building materials like timber would have a positive effect in reducing anthropogenic climate change. Given that the construction industry is moving towards modular construction because of its predictability, low impact on the construction site, and project completion speed, Schalk champions the design and construction of a modular, mass timber building to enable building material to be competitive, cost-effective, reliable, sustainable and allowing for quick construction. In addition, Schalk has written numerous papers and published in various journals, including the Journal of Forest Science and the Journal of Industrial Engineering. He is also the co-founder of Woodtechie, a company that makes unique wooden products.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
Growing the connections between various parties interested in promoting timber construction in South Africa.
Among others, we have arranged training courses for students.
We also ran a Timber Construction Conference attended by more than 200 delegates.
We are running a Timber Design Competition for students from South African architectural schools.
We promote an Open Innovation approach with the intention to stimulate innovative collaboration between various organisations interested in promoting timber construction.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
Wood sourced from sustainably managed plantations sequesters carbon. We actively promote timber construction through research, training and networking.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
Climate change is a significant threat.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
There is a significant threat of severe damage to infrastructure and loss of life.