JSE-listed energy and chemicals group Sasol’s enterprise development vehicle, ChemCity, believes alternative building technology (ABT) has the potential to curtail unemployment and poverty – two of South Africa’s most pressing issues.
Addressing delegates at the fifth South Africa Innovation Summit, held in Johannesburg from August 28 to 30, Sasol ChemCity manager Sven Graef said that, while South Africa had come a long way in its 18 years as a democratic country, there are still significant challenges that need to be mitigated.
“ChemCity has some innovative ways of helping government in terms of service delivery and believes ABT could be a viable and sustainable solution to some of the key issues,” he said.
While the enterprise development vehicle focuses on entrepreneurship and business development, the team at Sasol ChemCity seeks to implement some of its innovations and technologies in the community.
“For Sasol, technology and the innovation of technology is important,” said Graef.
He added, however, that the technology being developed at ChemCity needs to be assessed to determine whether the innovation is relevant to South Africa and whether it has a role to play in society.
“This is where ChemCity comes in,” he explained.
Sasol ChemCity works with entrepreneurs to indentify a market for proposed technology and, if viable, upskills the entrepreneur and helps take the product to market.
“Business is nothing without the market and to penetrate the market, one has to understand who the decision makers are,” said Graef.
He identified architects, engineers, nongovernmental organisations and government departments as ‘the market’ that ABT innovators need to target.
“The construction industry also needs to be upskilled, with ABT being able to install these technologies,” Graef said.
He added that ABT construction has also become key for job creation. Owing to the creative methods used in the manufacturing and installing of these technologies, women and the youth are now able to join the workforce of what was once a male-dominated industry, as some of the ABT materials and technologies are lightweight and easy to handle.
These materials and technologies include Sasol’s affordable fly ash technology, generated from Sasol’s and Eskom’s waste products, and lightweight insulated precision blocks, insulating concrete form, as well as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is being used in housing.
Sasol ChemCity operates on the premise that entrepreneurship is a key vehicle to drive economic and social change. In many countries, employment is provided through small and medium-sized enterprises, which, in turn, reduces poverty.
“ChemCity has the capacity and capability to [upskill] people and improve technologies in ABT,” said Graef.
He added that implementing these technologies would stimulate local manufacturing and decrease overall energy demand.
“Creating manufacturing capability rather than importing products will result in job creation,” he said.
Graef also highlighted the South African Bureau of Standards’ SANS 204 regulation, which stipulates that all new commercial buildings in South Africa have to comply with a minimal energy rating.
“Brick and mortar, however, do not comply with this standard. We believe ABT is the way forward for the building and construction environment,” he said.