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Zero carbon for new buildings in SA cities

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Residents and businesses moving into new buildings in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Tshwane will soon enjoy lower energy bills, and will generate less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing their climate change impact.

High-efficiency energy performance requirements are being developed for all new buildings in these leading cities, thanks to their collaboration in the C40 Cities South Africa Buildings Programme. The ambition of the programme, launched this week in Tshwane, is to make zero carbon buildings the standard practice across South African cities.

The energy used to power, heat and operate buildings accounts for more than 25% of the GHG emissions produced by South African cities. Therefore, action to make buildings more energy efficient has huge potential to reduce GHG emissions. More than 70% of South Africans are expected to be living in cities by 2030. With growing urban populations comes increased demand for housing, commercial buildings, office space, schools, hospitals and other buildings. Ensuring these new buildings meet high-efficiency energy performance requirements will be crucial if cities and South Africa as a whole will deliver on its commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Representatives from ten cities across C40’s global network have gathered in Tshwane this week to exchange best practice on building energy efficiency. The cities outside South Africa include, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.

“South African cities are already seeing the effects of climate change, from the drought in Cape Town to the threat of rising seas and flooding in Durban,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40. “Fortunately, mayors of these great cities are taking ambitious action today. Given the urgency of the climate threat, it is critical that all new buildings are constructed to the highest levels of energy performance. The bold leadership of these four mayors is setting the standard which the entire world can learn from. “

The Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Cllr Solly Msimanga, has fully embraced his role as the Mayor of the country’s “Green Capital” and his duty to put sustainability into practice as the foundation of responsible leadership. “Expect to see major shifts in our urban landscape through the C40 Cities South Africa Buildings Programme enhancing our Green Buildings Programme. Accelerated uptake of all available greening criteria will be the order of the day starting off with our very own infrastructure. It’s no coincidence that our municipal headquarters, Tshwane House, is a five-star Green-Rated building.”

“We are committed to making eThekwini Municipality the most caring and liveable city in Africa by 2030. Providing sustainable, accessible and energy efficient buildings is just one way we are delivering that commitment for our citizens. Our city contains some of the world’s leading experts on energy, building regulations and green buildings, and as such we are working hard to document our further learning during this programme to share with other C40 cities around the world.” said Mayor of Durban, Zandile Gumede.

The City of Cape Town is one of the leading cities in South Africa and globally in actively addressing climate change,” said Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille. “We recently adopted a Transit-Orientated Development Strategic Framework, to address the apartheid legacy of spatial inequality, high urbanisation rates and to improve the cost effectiveness of public transport. Our participation in the C40 South Africa Building Programme is a significant opportunity to enable the City to support lower carbon new build in infrastructure provision, energy efficient building design and clean energy supply and significantly reduced transport demand.  Through the programme, we aim to develop and begin implementing more ambitious new building energy performance requirements that will build the path to a resource efficient, carbon neutral and climate resilient city by 2050.”

Since 2007, more than 230 buildings have been certified to the Green Star South Africa sustainable building rating system, developed and managed by the Green Building Council South Africa. The C40 South Africa Buildings Programme will support cities to move sustainable, energy-efficient new building to scale to become the new standard practice.

C40, in partnership with Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA), will support the four cities through locally employed technical professionals. City officials will be able to share knowledge and collaborate with cities outside of South Africa, facilitated through C40’s global city networks. This exchange will bring best practices in energy efficient building policy and practices to the four cities as well sharing these with other cities in South Africa. The C40 South Africa Buildings Programme is funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and is part of the Building Energy 2020 Programme.

Cllr Msimanga is delighted that the conference is being held close to home, in fact within the green-rated municipal headquarters, and trusts that the event is a great success. “This conference must serve to harness participating cities’ collective energies to transform our urban environments as we intensify the urgency of climate action.”

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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