As cement, aggregate and readymix concrete producer AfriSam marks ten years since the inaugural AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Design + Innovation, the 2019/20 edition is likely to set new trends.
The fifth round of the biennial awards is taking place amid an era of worldwide economic lockdowns, movement restrictions and physical distancing recommendations to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infections.
Owing to the resultant disruptions, the entry submissions to participate in the longstanding awards, with AfriSam the founder and core sponsor of the initiative, has been extended until July 3 – with virtual judging on the cards.
The awards, which recognise innovative solutions that are less harmful to the environment and help conserve natural resources for current and future generations, will be analysed, starting August, by a panel of six adjudicators, says AfriSam group marketing manager Ebeth van den Berg.
The awards ceremony will be moved to early next year, with the extended deadline affording participants the opportunity and time to step back and examine their achievements over the past two years.
However, changes will need to be made during this year’s awards, with expectations that the adjudication process will be re-examined and adjusted accordingly, she highlights.
During the previous awards, adjudicators traditionally toured all the selected final project submissions, meaning that chartered flights, transport and accommodation for six people were often required at each project site countrywide, following which, the judges convened to discuss the potential of the initiatives.
“This year is going to be very different. We are now going to have to look at possible virtual visits, and review some changes in terms of the actual process and how we approach the awards,” she tells Engineering News.
While the mapping out of the actual process will depend on the submissions selected as finalists, discussions are underway to debate the possibility of virtual presentations and tours.
“A local representative could present the entrant’s solution virtually, with submitters filming the project, walking through the details during a virtual tour of the site or capture the relevant footage,” Van den Berg explains.
Some projects will be a little easier to review remotely than others and the diverse submissions will dictate the approach of final adjudication.
“Another alternative is to have one selected adjudicator visit the sites and do the reporting for everybody else.”
This will negate the need for travel across the country for six people, saving money, time and resources – and contribute toward sustainability efforts in the long-term.
The actual awards event, planned for early next year, is also being reviewed for the potential to be hosted virtually.
The move could be model for future awards.
Meanwhile, the past decade has seen the AfriSam-SAIA Award programme evolve to become more responsive and inclusive.
Two of the current four categories were introduced during the 2017/18 round, namely sustainable products and technology and sustainable social programmes, adding to the flagship sustainable architecture and research in sustainability categories.
All four categories are geared towards the recognition of regenerative whole system designs, highlighting contributions that bring sustainable innovation to human living environments through an integrated approach to communities, planning, design, architecture, building practice, natural systems and technology.
“Sustainability is no longer just a concern of a niche few individuals. In recent years, it has gained considerable traction from all quarters to safeguard the future of our planet and future generations,” she adds.
The two elements of cement and the concrete, on their own, cannot contribute fully to sustainability – it is about what is done with the products that makes a difference.
“It is not about the building of the school, it is about the education that the children get. It is not about the hospital, it is about the possibility of medical advancements. It is not about just the structure of the bridges, it is connecting communities. It is about what our products make and the legacy that it leaves for the future generations,” van den Berg comments.
Further, this year will see a new criteria introduced: leadership.
“What we saw out of the previous rounds, was that in terms of the criteria that we normally use, one of the areas that stood out was that of leadership. That one person with the leadership ability that made a difference.”
The official introduction of the student challenge piloted last year, however, has been postponed until the next awards in 2021/22.
“It was important for us to tap into this next generation of designers and to promote sustainable solutions thinking,” she says of the pilot.
However, with the pandemic significantly impacting the academic year, the category has been withdrawn to allow students to focus on their main curriculum.