Without over subscribing to any religious narratives, it is important for us to begin our conversation with the notion that since our arrival on this planet, mankind has been the prime custodian of Earth. If not that, then we are certainly a species that has made a remarkable impact on the ecosystems and environments that we occupy. For millennia, our presence and the balance with nature have stood strong but over the last few hundred years, global population growth, advancements in technological achievements and an appetite to expand our dominion has led us to a precarious tendency of perpetuating a destructive force.
While we are a resourceful species, we are guilty of wanton and inadvertent squandering of the planet’s natural resources, hunting beyond our immediate needs as well as hunting for trophies in some cases. We have created an extinction level where countless species of fauna and flora are dwindling at a rapid pace as we endeavour to heighten our appetite for industrialisation. The results are immeasurable pollution, depletion of natural habitats and erratic weather patterns that we now describe as global warming. The extinction of a few species here and there, or the altered migration patterns of animals that would otherwise constitute as food for some groups of indigenous peoples have not had immediate impact on the overall status quo of humans everywhere. However, over the last seventy years, awareness and activism have brought global cooling, global warming and the greenhouse effect into mainstream dialogues with an acute focus on the negative patterns and behaviours that are blazing a destructive trail of undesirable footprints and evidence.
Fortunately, thanks to climate campaigners like Kenya’s Wangarĩ Muta Maathari, Swedish champion Greta Thunberg and young Zimbabwean environmental activist Nkosilathi Nyathi, the world’s positive efforts have begun to correct, remedy and mitigate the negative precedence, resulting in less harmful consequences for our planet. Some professional disciplines have taken these efforts more seriously than others and the built environment is one such field that acknowledges the magnitude of its impact. Various technical participants in this sector are performing their work within the ambit and agenda of cultivating holistic sustainability – economic as well as environmental. Measures are being instated that require projects to prove the efficacy of designs and systems and actionable discourse that seeks to develop healthy and universally accessible built environments that not only perform better aesthetically, but also excel in their response to local contexts as well as optimising incoming and outgoing energies and materials.
The World Green Building Council is a thought leader in this regard, and many new building constructions bear a Green Star Rating as a contemporary mark of worldwide excellence. The car manufacturing industry and the transportation industries are also taking steps towards having less reliance on fossil fuels and managing the subsequent bi-product of carbon emissions. Brands like Tesla are purposely advancing the use of advanced technologies and renewable electrical energy as an alternative to traditional petroleum-based sources. If today’s brands wish to align themselves with progressive innovation they must begin to embody a savvy and sensitive outlook to environmental consciousness in order to be counted amongst those creating a liveable environment for future generations. This is the new “cool”. In the not so distant future, more industries will exhibit this enlightenment, if not to satisfy their own needs, then certainly to resonate well with their clients and an increasingly younger customer base who are becoming discerning of any systems, products, companies and industries that are not sustainable or participating in creating a healthier environment.
We at BAKO including our various associates and collaborating partners are well aware of these ever-changing dynamics. On every project we endeavour to sensitize our clients and end-users to these elements. Although it is still unfortunately true that the additional costs associated with environmental sustainability are beyond many of their initial financial budgets, we are able to convince them that they are reasonably justified. Local governments and municipalities encourage, facilitate and enforce directives in order to raise standards in our society too. As our client base expand into the metaverse, particularly in Ubuntuland in collaboration with Mann Made X, we will continue to push boundaries.
Nature has always proven to reset itself and establish a sustainable equilibrium. If mankind wishes to remain and participate within its bountiful future, then professionals, brands and businesses should be wise enough to support its longevity and not threaten or work against it.
Simba Bako is the Managing Director and lead architect at Bako and Associates – a start-up Architectural firm which is focused on designing in an environmentally sustainable manner.