Monday 19 October 2020

What Strategies Can Be Used to Improve Neighbourhoods?

The Built Environment Sustainability Tool enables the development of sophisticated and responsive plans and strategies to support improved local sustainability. These plans respond to and address gaps and aspects of current poor performance in the neighbourhood while supporting and improving aspects of good performance.

A wide range of options should be evaluated before a final selection of options for implementation is made. The tool should also be used to inform the mix, and sequencing, of interventions. Finally, detailed implementation plans and strategies should be designed and tested back against criteria in the tool to ensure that maximum impact is achieved.

The questions below, in conjunction with BEST, can be used to inform detailed implementation plans and strategies aimed at supporting sustainability.

New infrastructure

  • Is new infrastructure required?
  • Can existing infrastructure be used or adapted?
  • Can management and operation agreements be developed to support multifunction use of and shared access of existing facilities? 

Clustering and partnerships

  • Can clustering and shared use of infrastructure be used to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs?
  • Can partnerships be developed with neighbouring landowners and communities to increase the scale of interventions to support shared benefit and improved cost-effectiveness?

Linkages and synergies

  • How can systems be linked to reduce wastage and improve efficiency?  
  • Are there synergies that can be developed for mutual benefit?

Location and land use

  • Which location(s) for interventions can be used to support symbiotic relationships between functions and land uses?
  • Which location(s) for interventions draw on, and work with, natural and artificial features of the existing site to improve efficiencies and reduce operational costs?


  • Which procurement processes are most suitable for creating local jobs and supporting local small businesses?
  • Which procurement processes can be used to reduce risk and improve local self-reliance concerning funding and long-term financial sustainability?


  • Which construction processes are most suitable for creating local jobs and support local small businesses?
  • Which construction products and materials are most suitable for creating local jobs and support local small businesses?

Operational management

  • Which operational management models ensure affordable local access and use of infrastructure for community benefit?
  • Which operational management models include governance mechanisms which ensure that infrastructure is responsive to local needs and opportunities?

These questions can be used to develop detailed designs, specifications, plans and implementation methods that ensure that the resulting interventions not only support local sustainability but also ensure that implementation processes are also used to support sustainability. The Built Environment Sustainability Tool can be accessed here.

How Do You Develop More Sustainable Neighbourhoods?

Aerial view Alexandra

 Neighbourhoods appear to be complex and difficult to assess in terms of sustainability performance. A review of green precinct assessment tools for urban areas revealed that these tend to focus on environmental issues and did not take into social and economic issues. Many of the tools are also complex and do not encourage the involvement of communities and non-professionals. Also, many tools and rating systems are prescriptive and do not encourage or support the exploration of innovative solutions that respond to local opportunities and challenges.

The Built Environment Sustainability Tool addresses these issues by being based on a sustainability approach which includes social and economic aspects as well as environmental impacts. The tool aims to be simple to use and to encourage the active participation of all role players including local communities in assessing local sustainability performance and developing plans to improve this. It encourages a range of solutions to be explored and tested to support responsive solutions that work with local opportunities and challenges.  

The BEST methodology provides practical ways of developing more sustainable neighbourhoods that enable you to address the following questions:

  • What is sustainability?
  • What are the implications of sustainability for urban areas and settlements?
  • Do existing and proposed urban areas and settlements have the appropriate configuration and characteristics for sustainability?
  • Can this configuration and characteristics be assessed?
  • Can these assessments inform the development of interventions and solutions to improve sustainability performance? 
  • Are there ways of identifying the most optimum solutions and interventions to address gaps and rapidly improving sustainability performance?
  • Can sustainability plans and strategies be developed to ensure that sustainability targets are achieved in a structured, efficient and effective way?

The BEST can be accessed here.

Updated Built Environment Sustainability Tool

The Built Environment Sustainability Tool (BEST) supports an integrated and responsive approach to achieving sustainable neighbourhoods. The tool is based on a holistic approach to addressing sustainability and includes the following social, economic and environmental criteria. 

  • Shelter
  • Mobility
  • Food
  • Goods
  • Services
  • Waste
  • Biocapacity
  • Health
  • Education
  • Employment

Each criteria is introduced and simple protocols provided for the measurement and recording of performance the BEST manual. Detail is also provided on how to interpret results and use this to develop high-performance synergistic interventions that can be used to improve the sustainability of the neighbourhood.

The BEST course shows you how you can use the BEST to assess neighbourhoods and propose and test interventions to improve their sustainability performance. It guides users on how to follow a standardised methodology and protocols in order to carry out accurate assessments.

Access the BEST, manual and course here

Monday 18 May 2020

New Course on the Sustainable Building Assessment Tool (SBAT)

Gauge Capability has developed a new course on the Sustainable Building Assessment Tool (SBAT). The course covers the latest version of SBAT Residential and shows how this can be used to guide the development of sustainable housing. 
The Sustainable Building Assessment Tool supports an integrated and responsive approach to achieving high sustainability performance in buildings. The tool is based on a holistic approach to addressing sustainability and includes social, economic and environmental criteria. 
SBAT criteria are based on a definition of sustainability found in the Living Planet Index (WWF 2006). This defines sustainability as the attainment of a living standard of over 0.8 on the Human Development Index (HDI) while also achieving an ecological footprint (EF) of less than a 1.8gha per person. 
The SBAT measures the performance of the built environment in terms of its capability to support the achievement of living standards of above 0.8 on the Human Development Index (HDI) and an ecological footprint (EF) of less than a 1.8gha per person. 
The focus of the SBAT, therefore, to measure the extent to which built environments have the required characteristics and the configuration to enable users and occupants to live in a sustainable way.  
The SBAT can be used to set targets for sustainability performance for buildings and their neighbourhoods. It can also be used to assess and validate the sustainability performance of buildings and designs.
For more information on the course click here.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Onsite service enterprises

Onsite service enterprises (OSEs) are enterprises that develop and maintain systems and facilities that provide services to occupants of a building or a precinct. Examples of onsite services include hot water, energy, lighting, waste and recycling, mobility, food preparation and delivery, childcare, education and personal care. The full capital and operating costs of providing these services, including installing and maintaining systems, equipment and facilities, are borne by the enterprises and transparent fair costing models are used to determine fees charged for services to ensure there is a reasonable return for the enterprises and that services are affordable.

The paper shows how the concept of OSEs can be applied to a housing development near Alexandra, Johannesburg. A critical evaluation of this application in relation to affordability and sustainability is carried out to determine the significance of the approach. The paper concludes that the OSE concept has significant potential and provides detail on how it can be developed and investigated further.

Saturday 19 October 2019

5 Questions to ask when choosing a building sustainability rating system

There are now many different rating and indicator systems for building sustainability so it is becoming increasingly difficult to choose and distinguish between these.
This presentation, therefore, goes back to first principles and focusses on 5 questions that can be applied to review systems to choose the one most suitable for your situation.
The 5 questions are:
  1. How does the system define sustainability?
  2. Does the system address your / local priorities?
  3. Does the system change behaviour as well as technical performance?
  4. Does the system help prepare the built environment for change?
  5. Is there an evidence base to confirm that the system will achieve the required levels of change?

Sunday 30 September 2018

Alternative sanitation for schools

The 2017 National Education Infrastructure Management System report indicated that of the 23,577 public primary and secondary schools in South Africa, there were:
  • 5,175 schools without water or with unreliable water supply
  • 68 schools with no toilets
  • 9,203 schools with pit latrines
  • 7,105 schools with VIPs
  • 2,912 schools with septic tank systems
  • 8,574 schools with flush toilets on municipal systems
This indicates some of the very significant challenges being faced by schools in relation to water and sanitation. One way of addressing this to investigate alternative sanitation models, such as the use of composting toilets, aqua privies and onsite biological systems. These alternatives avoid problems associated with flush toilet (such as large-scale water consumption) and pit latrine (the risk of contaminating groundwater) systems currently used in many schools and have some valuable advantages. Please feel free to contact us on studies, tools and papers being developed in this area.