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GBCSA Academy AP Spotlight: Thobekile Gambu, Umgeni Water

Thobekile Gambu is a professionally registered environmental scientist and an Accredited Green Building Professional for New Builds. She currently coordinates Umgeni Water’s efforts towards environmental sustainability. She has played a key role in the development of Umgeni Water’s Green Building Policy which entails a commitment to ensuring Green Star certification for all of the organisation’s new buildings.  She also leads Umgeni Water’s Energy and Reducing Emissions task team whose role is to develop and implement emissions reduction projects including renewable energy and energy efficiency projects towards energy transformation.

She holds Master’s degrees in Science Chemistry and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a PhD in Engineering focused on buildings energy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She also holds a diploma in Transformation leadership from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

We had the privilege of talking to Thobekile about her career, her thoughts on the green building sector and lessons learnt along the way.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I enjoy the fact that I am making a meaningful contribution towards the sustainability and energy transformation agendas. In a country that is feeling the effects of climate change as much as we are, I am grateful that I can play the role that I play which is ensuring that one of South Africa’s biggest water utilities has in place a strategy and plan to transform towards a low-carbon water utility and lower its impacts on the environment.

Which projects are you most proud of working on?

The development of Umgeni Water’s Green Building Policy. So when Umgeni Water was introduced to Green Building it was necessary to put something in place which would serve as a guide for Project Managers, Engineers, Design teams etc. This policy document has paved way for the organisation to ensure that new buildings are considered for Green Star certification. We do not have any certified buildings as yet however a number are in the pipeline which was not the case a few years ago.

Which professional achievement are you most proud of?

I will be speaking at the 3rd Energy Transformation Summit which will be taking place in Germany, Berlin in March. I have had a number of speaking opportunities within the country but nothing outside of the country so I am really excited about this and hope it will open more doors to participate at an International level.

What set you on your current career path?

I think the passion that I have for sustainability and advancing the SDGs is what set me on this path. After completing my first Master’s degree in Chemistry I was employed as a graduate trainee. I had the opportunity of working within two major fields which were Water Quality Management and Environmental Management. At some point, I geared more towards Environmental Management and then decided to upskill myself by completing my second Master’s which is in the field of Environmental Management. I then was introduced to the topic of Green Building and my passion for sustainability just grew from there. Now pursuing a PhD in the energy field, I see myself growing more in the energy space and making a meaningful contribution there.

Who or what has been the strongest influence guiding your professional life?

Firstly God and then all of the wonderful women mentors that I have had over the years both here in South Africa and Internationally.

Which has been more valuable in your career – your education or your experience, and why?

I honestly think initially it’s been my education. I have realised that when you are starting off in your career people focus more on the certificates you possess. However over the years, you realise that that becomes less and less of a focus area – I mean on most platforms that I engage in now, people don’t really take notice of qualifications – and more on the experience and knowledge that you bring to the table and to solving problems. So currently it’s more the experience that is valuable than the qualifications.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

I have learnt that absolutely everybody has something to offer. We all come with different skills, talents, areas of knowledge and expertise and all these are required to solve the complex problems that we face as a society. We all bring something different to the table and everyone has a role to play. It’s important to realise this as a society because if we don’t then we stand the risk of missing important contributions/pieces to the puzzle.

How has the industry changed since you started your career?

I think the industry has changed in that more and more role players are accepting the fact that we cannot do business as usual. Previously some role players just wanted to build without considering the sustainability aspects and environmental impacts of that infrastructure down the line. However, now it’s more about, how we go about it. It’s mostly no longer a question of whether this needs to be done or not it’s a question of how we get it done. And I have seen that within my organisation as well. So that means we are making strides.

What are the changes needed for the industry to reach its sustainability goals?

We keep doing what we are doing and then just keep pushing the boundaries. Take everyone along, and educate more professionals and non-professionals.

What advice do you have for someone new to the sustainable green built environment sector?

I would tell them to equip themselves with all the knowledge and skills that they need. They must connect and engage at Conferences like the Green Building Convention. Put themselves out there to meet people, learn and grow.

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  • Total Employees: 1 - 5 Employees - R 4080.00
  • Total Employees: 6 - 20 Employees - R 12570.00
  • Total Employees: 21 - 50 Employees - R 24690.00
  • Total Employees: 51 Plus Employees - R 43840.00

Lisa Reynolds

Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director

Lisa Reynolds is the CEO of the Green Building Council South Africa.

Lisa was the driver for the drafting of Energy Efficiency Standards and Regulations for Buildings and has been involved in Energy Efficiency since 2003. She serves on many committees in the SABS and within the energy management professionals’ space. She was President of the SAEEC from 2016 to 2019 and was the previous President of the ESCo (Energy Services Companies) Association. Lisa was instrumental in the formation of SAFEE (Southern African Females in Energy Efficiency) within SAEEC.

She has assisted the South African Government with its Green Building Framework policies, Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives and Energy Efficiency Strategies

Her passion for the “Green space” started with the birth of the Green Building Council in 2007. Lisa served on the Board and the Technical Committee of the GBCSA, as well as on several Technical Working Groups for Rating Tools and Criteria. Lisa. became CEO in June 2020.

Lisa has a BSc, an MBA and a CEM. Lisa’s awards include the 2007 ETA Award for Women, 2008 Individual Energy (SAEE), 2012 SABS Standards Writer Award; the 2014 Women in Energy (SAWIEN); and the 2016 Ian Lane Hall of Fame award.

Lisa is committed to growing the Green Economy within a Green Recovery.

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