GBCSA / Academy / GBCSA Academy: Green trailblazer: Hlologelo Manthose

GBCSA Academy: Green trailblazer: Hlologelo Manthose

August 18, 2021

Hlologelo is a sustainability and green building specialist at WSP in Africa. She combines her love and passion for employee wellness, health and productivity with green buildings to ensure that there is a balanced and positive co-existence between people and the spaces they occupy. She holds an honours degree in Industrial/Organisational (I/O) Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand.  Her academic background in I/O Psychology has been instrumental in fuelling her passion for pursuing a career that focuses on the interplay between people and their environments.

She was born and raised in a small village nestled by the beautiful Mogodumo mountain in Limpopo Province, Ga-Chuene, Thogoaneng. Her childhood was filled with great memories with family both immediate and within the greater community. In her community, the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true. She believes that her initial introduction to sustainability and the relationship between people and their environments spanned from her upbringing. Everyone in the village was extremely resourceful and mindful of what they put in and out of the environment. She believes that the terms reduce, re-use and recycle were popular in her village before she was introduced to them professionally. In the village, nothing went to waste. Cow waste (dung) was used as polish or building material; plastics were recycled into fancy, colourful mats and hats;  wild grass as roofing; and farming was a way of life.

She further notes that this realisation of how sustainability was always part of her life only came later in her career as a practising green building consultant, where she developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for sustainability.

She was first introduced to the green building industry by Prof Andrew Thatcher during her postgraduate studies in I/O Psychology, where her research focused primarily on identifying the challenges faced by sustainable facilities managers in Gauteng Province. The research project instilled in her a passion for, and an understanding of, green facilities and operations, which became the gateway for her career in the green building space.

During this time, she met Jutta Berns, the director at Ecocentric Green Building Consultants, who further attracted her to a career in sustainability. During their encounter to discuss her research paper, she and Jutta immediately got along and noticed that they had similar interests; they both loved academia and were passionate about things that they hold dear. Jutta took an immediate interest in her and offered her a job shadowing opportunity in her organisation. She grabbed the opportunity with both hands and spent the next six months of 2014 working as an intern. This opportunity provided her with an overview of the green building space and it was during this time that she fully discovered the interplay between her academic studies in I/O psychology and green buildings. She rose through the ranks from intern to a sustainability consultant within the organisation.

“I will never forget the day in 2014 when this young woman bounded into my office, full of questions and bubbling over with ideas and enthusiasm. She interviewed me for her Honours Thesis at Wits on the challenges faced by facilities managers operating green buildings – a topic that was rather new in 2014. Within a few months, she joined us as a junior sustainability consultant and she took on any challenge that was thrown her way. I loved watching this young woman grow into a fully-fledged consultant within our small business. I am so proud to have been part of her early journey in this space – she is the kind of force that we need to ensure that our industry can play its imperative role in addressing the climate challenge,” said Berns about Hlologelo.

Hlologelo skillfully facilitated the delivery of green building projects using both local (Green Star Africa) and international (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-LEED) green building rating tools. Her initial project in the industry was working with Jutta on a prestigious hotel, which was targeting both a Green Star Existing Building rating and a LEED Existing Building Operations certification.

It was during this period in 2015 where her Accredited Professional (AP) journey with the GBCSA began. She notes that it was a no-brainer that she first sought Existing Building Performance accreditation, which focuses on the ongoing operations of facilities. To get her accreditation, she attended the face-to-face workshop, followed by an online assessment and an online exam. During her tenure at Ecocentric, she worked on multifaceted projects from hotels, offices, gyms and retail pursuing both LEED and Green Star certifications.

Currently, Hlologelo works as a sustainability and green building consultant at WSP in Africa. WSP is one of the world’s leading engineering professional services consulting firms. The organisation brings together over 48 000 staff, based in more than 550 offices, across 40 countries to provide engineering and multidisciplinary services in a vast array of industry sectors, with a focus on technical excellence and client service.  In collaboration with WSP in Africa Regional Director, Alison Groves, she manages and guides complex projects from inception to project closure, where she champions the adoption of green initiatives and green building certifications. She focuses on energy efficiency, comfort, water management, material selection and wellness.

Upon joining WSP, she added the Office and Net Zero AP accolades to her toolkit. She works with multiple blue-chip clients across the continent and has extensive sustainability experience in various functional buildings – commercial office, residential, retail, public and healthcare. Her passion for sustainable operations and wellness is evident in all the projects she undertakes. Within the organisation, she is part of the pioneers of the Professional Growth Network which seeks to expose both aspiring and existing professionals in the organisation to skills development and networking activities.

Hlologelo notes that there were several hurdles that she had to overcome when she initially entered the industry. She found that one of the biggest challenges within the industry was the underrepresentation of young black females. As a result, she constantly felt pressure to prove herself and to show that she deserves a seat at the table. Coming from a Bachelor of Arts background, another challenge that she encountered was trying to decipher industry jargon. Each industry has its language and she had to quickly adapt to the way people in the industry communicate. She recalls, at the beginning of her career, she had a notebook that she used exclusively for jargon and would carry around to every meeting. She also notes that she was not shy to raise her hand and politely ask for clarification or elaboration so that she is not left behind in the conversation.

She has risen above challenges and has focused her energy on empowering upcoming green building professionals. For the past two years, she was nominated as a mentor for the Greenovate Awards, where she mentored a diverse group of young university students under the built environment category. Hlologelo has also served as a guest speaker for the Existing Building Performance AP course where she shared her journey with upcoming APs and is currently serving as an assessor for the Green Star Office tool.

She was recognised as a Rising Green Star runner up for 2019-2020. Her work as a sustainability professional has been very rewarding and has imparted valuable lessons which she continues to apply in her daily life.

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