The role of decision making and management of construction projects in fostering sustainability for intensive urban development through public housing initiatives in South Africa.
Qwabe, Nombuso Nomfundo.
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The current discourse in sustainable development is centred on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals stipulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the New Urban agenda. The resilience, inclusiveness and safeness of human settlements and the need to readdress the manner in which these are planned, financed, developed, governed and managed is at the forefront of the narrative. In the South African context this soughtafter target of integrated and sustainable human settlements delivery has seen a trajectory riddled with a myriad of policies and programmes. One of the predicaments at the heart of the new urban agenda globally, and South Africa specifically, is whether population growth should be accommodated by extensive or intensive urban development. Both approaches have gained support in the South African context in recent years. The research looked at the role of decision making and management of construction projects within the context of producing sustainable housing through intensive redevelopment in South Africa and particularly in Durban. The intensive redevelopment approach indeed seems to address the ideals of the New Urban Agenda, however a case study analysis and an overview of recent research related to intensive redevelopment through building conversion and renovation has revealed that efforts to date do not address sustainability issues comprehensively. The study paid special attention to the social aspect of sustainability, which reflects recent increasing awareness that the construction industry must support the sustainable development agenda by including social considerations throughout the construction project life cycle in hopes of achieving sustainable buildings and communities. An environmentally friendly building requires only the minimizing of its environmental impact, however a sustainable building asks for more. The sense of a community is fundamental for a sustainable building, since it should increase social equity, cultural and heritage issues, human health and social infrastructure, as well as safe and healthy environments. The research adopted a multi-dimensional approach involving an extensive literature review, individual and focus group interviews with stakeholders, a questionnaire-based survey conducted with the occupants of buildings involved in intensive urban redevelopment and case studies’ analysis. Findings demonstrated that the New Urban Agenda needs to recognise and respond to drivers such as the demand for central city living from low and middle income groups desperate for the access to amenities and economic opportunities it provides. Core urban areas, inner suburbs and old transport routes are full of derelict and under-utilised land, former buffer strips and run-down buildings in need of renewal and regeneration. There are unrivalled opportunities within South African municipalities to rehabilitate worn-out infrastructure, to install new energy and communication systems, and to refurbish and construct better buildings. Rerouting capital flows to retrofit existing urban assets makes sense from a resource efficiency perspective. Long-term considerations, global thinking and local action, responsibility and transparency from a management and decision making perspective, and the purposive application of the principles of sustainability throughout a project lifecycle and to all stakeholders promotes continual improvement and distinctive steps towards archiving sustainable buildings and communities through the process of conversions and rehabilitation of existing buildings in urban areas.