GBCSA Academy AP Spotlight: Marko Coetzee
July 16, 2021
Marko Coetzee, a production architect in the Chief Directorate: Health Infrastructure at the Western Cape Government’s Department of Transport and Public Works, is the first Public Works branch official to qualify as an EBP Accredited Professional. Another 54 Public Works officials are currently registered for the course.
The Green Building Council South Africa’s (GBCSA’s) Green Star Africa rating tools measure the environmental and sustainability aspects of designing, constructing and operating a building across ten fields: management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions, innovation, and socio-economic impact.
The Existing Building Performance (EBP) training programme focuses specifically on the Green Star EBP tool. This tool rates both the objective measurement and the environmental performance of existing buildings, and it provides insight into all the major aspects of environmental sustainability that should be considered in the operational performance of existing buildings.
Registered Accredited Professionals (APs) have the knowledge to guide a project team in the design and certification of Green Star certification projects. They will also greatly assist Public Works to deliver more sustainable infrastructure and office accommodation.
Marko’s learning was initially done online through videos, downloadable GBCSA tools and technical manuals, e-books and quizzes. He then attended a bespoke workshop, after which he wrote a final practical exercise assessment.
The other members of the group pursuing this qualification are at various stages of completion. A second bespoke workshop will be held in July to enable more training delegates to progress to the next step. Eight of the candidates from Immovable Asset Management and the health, education and general infrastructure components are collaborating to seek EBP certification for one of the Department’s prime facilities. An exciting announcement about this is expected in the near future.
Tell us a bit more about yourself.
My early years were spent inside and out of a woodwork shed and a riverbed. These experiences between nature and how we build with it, have led to my creative focus. I was fortunate to start a young family and travel/work/study around the globe before returning to South Africa to help our country grow – having seen and learnt ways to help me do so. To this end I took up a post at DTPW in healthcare infrastructure delivery, and have found a good home for my passionate, persistent, and agile way of trying to get things done.
What is your academic background?
I qualified with a master’s degree in architecture in 2012, which I put to use initially in Australia from where Green Star hails. Here I worked on large, award winning, and well performing buildings – with much time spent on facades. Façade design and documentation drove my interest in the relationships between buildings’ performance, component parts, and aesthetics, which I furthered in commercial practice upon return to South Africa.
After joining the WCG’s Department of Transport and Public Works, my focus has flipped back to the inside of buildings and their complex systems. These combined experiences have given me a firm grasp of how buildings work holistically; which I view as necessary for the development of green approaches. I am a registered Professional Architect with SACAP and a Green Star EBP Accredited Professional.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Managing the delivery of complex healthcare projects.
Which projects are you most proud of working on?
Tygerberg Hospital ICU upgrades, the Cabrini Hospital new Gandel Wing and Bunjil Place.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
The facades of Cabrini Hospital Gandel Wing in Australia.
What set you on your current career path?
An interest in complex projects, public good and healthcare design.
Who or what have been the strongest influences guiding your professional life?
My parents’ commitment to change in South Africa through the arts has underpinned my choice of career and direction within it. The tutelage of particularly Hilton Judin, at Wits equipped me to work for firms such as FJMT, and Bates Smart; who, through their professionalism, rigour, and design focus, have guided my ability to perform in my work.
Which has been more valuable in your career, your education or your experience and why?
While my education laid a platform for the development of my interests, ultimately my experience in practice has been the most valuable to the direction my work has taken.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?
Comprehensive and coordinated documentation of well-designed buildings will ensure lasting and impactful outcomes. The absence hereof will lead to ever more wasteful and inefficient buildings. We need to tirelessly pursue excellent buildings to merit their material use and address their environmental impacts.
How has the industry changed since you started?
Tighter timeframes and lower fees has made it much harder to produce lasting outcomes.
What do you think are the changes needed for the industry to reach its sustainability goals?
The negotiation of professional fees needs to stop – firms require fees as promulgated by their various professional bodies to undertake good work and be held to successful outcomes. There can then be no argument for not designing well performing buildings and ensuring their proper construction.
What advice do you have for someone new to the green sustainable built environment sector?
Become solidly acquainted with how buildings are put together and the functioning of systems within them (much like healthcare workers understand the human body). This knowledge will prove invaluable in addressing building environmental impacts. Furthermore, embracing learning outside of your discipline is essential – be curious when speaking to other professionals in the built environment.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
One of the things I enjoy most about the green movement is that it is bringing architecture and engineering closer together. For buildings to truly perform well they need to be purposeful, that is, more than just aesthetically pleasing or functional structures. The Ancient Greeks used the term Telos to refer to the full potential of something – its beauty comes out of the way that it works, and it works in a way that makes it beautiful. Buildings need to be well designed and put together so that they last in order to live up to their environmental responsibilities – we cannot waste materials and other input streams anymore. Doubling the life cycle of a building will kick just about any other metric out of the park but requires the building to remain valuable in the long term.