As cities across the African continent grow, and the construction of new buildings on city skylines also grows in tandem, so too does the need to create greener buildings. And, that’s where multi-award winning engineering entrepreneur, Vere Shaba, founder of the Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions, comes in. She is advising companies to think and plan differently using an Integrated Green Design approach to design energy-efficient, water-efficient and low waste building engineering systems.
LoA chatted to the award winning, green building innovator, Vere Shaba, to find out more about this unique business.
What does your company do?
Shaba & Ramplin is an engineering consulting firm specialising in green building certifications, engineering solutions, energy solutions and strategic partnerships across the African continent. With experience across the continent, we believe that sustainability is a solution to some of the greatest challenges in Africa. As part of Africa’s natural growth path, we recognise the need for construction across the continent, but we also realise that we need a sustainable way to integrate this with the natural environment.
At Shaba & Ramplin, our vision is to maximise sustainability through minimising the environmental effect of construction on the natural environment through engineering solutions. We are currently working with green building councils across the continent where we are lead consultants designing a local green building certification tool for the various councils through Green Star Africa. Shaba & Ramplin is also a member organisation of the Green Building Council of South Africa and is a Black woman owned consulting firm with a Level 1 BBBEE accreditation and a 135% contribution recognition for enterprise development.
"As part of Africa’s natural growth path, we recognise the need for construction across the continent, but we also realise that we need a sustainable way to integrate this with the natural environment."
What inspired you to start your company?
When I was in Grade 12, I found myself deciding between law and engineering as my first choice for university studies. I loved reading having started reading at the age of 3 years old but, more than that, I found that I loved advocating for the rights of others. As I was researching my choices, I came across a map from NASA which shows a satellite image of the world at night. When I saw the image, I was really saddened: the image indicates that Africa is dark at night and my first thought was: 'but how are the children in Africa reading?' If education is the greatest weapon that we can use to change the world, how will we ever be empowered as a continent if the education of African children stops when the sun rises.
I did more research on green engineering and became passionate about addressing the energy trilemma as posed by the World Energy Council conceptualised by Oliver Wyman. The World Energy Council’s definition of energy sustainability is based on three core dimensions – energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability. These three goals constitute a ‘trilemma’, entailing complex interwoven links between public and private actors, governments and regulators, economic and social factors, national resources, environmental concerns, and individual behaviours.
Building engineering systems has the potential to solve more problems than they create and Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions was founded on the premise that engineering and green buildings cannot continue to be seen as two separate disciplines in Africa. We use the Integrated Green Design approach to design energy-efficient, water-efficient and low waste building engineering systems.
"At Shaba & Ramplin, our vision is to maximise sustainability through minimising the environmental effect of construction on the natural environment through engineering solutions."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our integrated approach towards our green building services provides both engineering and green building service offerings to provide a significant technical competitive advantage on all of our projects to our clients. By providing both services within our team, we are able to capitalise on the significant energy and sustainability savings that exist between these services throughout the project life cycle. This has an economic, environmental and social impact for our clients and the world we live in.
Tell us a little about your team
Our office is based in Sandton in Johannesburg and the team is made up of professionally registered mechanical and electrical engineers with the Engineering Council of South Africa and with Green Star accredited professionals with the Green Building Council of South Africa. I love that our team develops bespoke solutions for our clients ranging from the development of green project implementation plans, green buildings and engineering tools and training. Our team is innovative and solution-oriented. We come alongside our clients and partner with them to solve their greatest engineering and green buildings challenges.
"Building engineering systems has the potential to solve more problems than they create and Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions was founded on the premise that engineering and green buildings cannot continue to be seen as two separate disciplines in Africa."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My entrepreneurial journey has been driven by my passion for green buildings and engineering. Knowing that I am in a market which most of humanity is not conversant with, but which all of humanity needs to be conversant with as resource depletion continues at a rapid pace globally, drives me to push through some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur. I am a first generation entrepreneur, having not come from an entrepreneurial background, and most of my learning has been through having worked and led practice areas at two of the largest multinational engineering firms in South Africa.
In 2016, I was awarded the GE and Lionesses of Africa Women Entrepreneur Innovation competition which opened my network to invaluable resources on entrepreneurship. In 2017, I was selected as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans for Environment, Inspiring Fifty women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and as the Young Achiever for the SA Women in Property national awards.
I've found that it is so important to try find the balance between working on your business and in your business, and on the importance of being a thought leader in your sector. It is not easy to be an entrepreneur, but seeing one's vision grow is worth navigating the challenges that arise.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Our aspirations for the company are that we will have additional offices in key economic hubs in Africa and Europe. There is not enough indigenous knowledge on green buildings and engineering in Africa and we would like to continue to develop bespoke solutions for our multinational clients. We would love to have a regional office in southern Africa and east Africa, and to have a regional office in Europe. In South Africa, we would love to offer more job opportunities to the new generation of future thinkers and leaders in green buildings and engineering through our regional office. We have founded the Green Building Institute, which intends to advocate on green buildings and engineering through online education and training.
"Our team is innovative and solution-oriented. We come alongside our clients and partner with them to solve their greatest engineering and green buildings challenges."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Knowing that I am solving a challenge that wasn't being solved to the extent that I felt it needed to be solved. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, that is how they add value. I get the most satisfaction when a client is pleased with the solution and goes on to give us more challenges to solve. Repeat work, I believe, is a sign of credibility and we have gotten a lot of repeat work.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Start with the why. If your 'why' for looking to start-up does not compel you, it will not compel anyone else. Clients pay for solutions. Make sure that you are creating a product or service that solves the challenges of your clients and that has a significant economic, environmental or social impact on the lives of others.
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Why LoA loves it….
As globally, debates rage in the world of business and government about the environment and the shared responsibility to tackle climate change through innovation and proactive interventions, the built environment needs specialist help to change. It also needs passionate and experienced innovators to find the solutions. Vere Shaba is one entrepreneur on a mission to bring green building solutions to the table that are implementable across the African continent, and beyond. She is a force for real, measurable change, giving companies and organisations the support they need to create sustainable, greener buildings that are better for everyone. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa