SI Projects

Buildings and Cities

SI Projects was formed in 2011 as the consulting arm of the Sustainability Institute to offer its clients access to sustainability expertise shaped by the insights of the SI’s academic programmes and the latest research conducted by its students, lecturers and associates.


Projects are managed by a core group assisted by individuals and institutions within the SI’s South African, African and international networks, offering expertise across a range of sustainability-related areas, including:

  • Sustainable Cities
  • Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Food Systems
  • Green Buildings
  • Green Economy
  • Oil Shock Mitigation
  • Sustainability in the African context
  • Urban Metabolism


We offer the following services to our clients:

Sustainability strategy

Effective sustainability interventions require experience and a thorough understanding of the issues and options available. SI Projects offers its clients relevant insights into sustainability opportunities, and partners with them in the formulation of strategies, models and designs that balance economic concerns with environmental and social responsibility.

Capacity building

Sustainability can be daunting if it is not explained in a clear manner that engages the target audience. Many of those best positioned to make the changes necessary to incorporate sustainability into business, government and community decision making do not have time to complete the academic programmes offered by the Sustainability Institute. SI Projects provides short training courses tailored to the needs and expertise of the audience, from housing developers to financial institutions.


As the sustainability field is relatively new and growing rapidly, staying up to date requires access to the latest thinking on sustainability issues. SI Projects undertakes transdisciplinary, applied research that addresses the specific problems and challenges faced by partner institutions in government, civil society and business. Connections with academic institutions from around the world allow the team to provide a range of outputs from summaries of academic literature and current trends to situation analyses and systems modelling.


The compilation of sustainability literature requires a thorough understanding of the field and a network of reputable contacts. Guided by Prof. Mark Swilling and the academics at the Sustainability Institute, SI Projects has developed expertise in the management of large writing projects including international reports and books on sustainability, and is able to draw on experts from around the world to compile documents that are relevant and accessible to a variety of target audiences.

A list of some of our clients can be viewed here.


As part of the Sustainability Institute, SI Projects prioritises those projects that contribute to positive change toward a more equitable, sustainable world. Proceeds from consulting projects support the Lynedoch Creche, Youth Development Programme and the Agro-ecology Programme which empowers unemployed youths with organic farming skills.

Current Projects

Researching Resource Futures for Urbanisation (REFURB)

  • Client: UNEP’s International Resource Panel
  • Project focus area: Cities around the world
  • Project description: This project looks at the resource requirements of projected urbanisation to 2050, and consists of the following components: (1) an estimation of the amounts of various resources required to accommodate the urban resource growth anticipated in the next 35 years, (2) Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) of alternative / sustainable technologies and systems to estimate how they could reduce this overall resource impact, (3) an assessment of how urban morphology can reduce resource requirements, (4) case studies of cities pursuing integrated infrastructure planning to optimise resource use, and (5) the governance configurations required to achieve an urban transition toward more sustainable resource use.
  • Project partners: CSIRO, PBL, UCSB, MIT, UMN, Urban Morphology Institute
  • Status of project: Underway

Promoting Urban Metabolism to Cities

  • Client: UNEP’s Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC)
  • Project focus area: City decision makers around the world
  • Project description: This is an ongoing collaboration with UNEP that started with a comprehensive review of the approaches to assessing urban metabolisms and green city indicator sets in 2013. This led to the development of a draft toolkit for urban practitioners in the developing world. In 2013 and 2014, this was further refined in collaboration with city representatives from Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, and UNEP’s partner institutions. The toolkit will soon be piloted in cities around the world, and we are currently working on a strategy to raise awareness of the urban metabolism concept.
  • Status of project: Underway

The Impact of German discount retailers on Farmworker Conditions on South African Grape Farms

  • Client: Oxfam
  • Project focus area: South African wine and grape industries
  • Project description: This project investigates the wine and grape value chain between South Africa and Germany. In particular, it seeks to discover the influence that the practices of German discount retailers might have on the working conditions experienced by farm workers in South Africa. Germany is one of the most significant purchasers of South African wine exports, and the bulk of this is sold through discount retailers. 
  • Project partners: Women on Farms Project
  • Status of project: Underway

The Energy-Food-Water Nexus in Kenya: A Case Study

  • Client: DFID-UK
  • Project focus area: Kenya
  • Project description: This case study will expand on the 3 case studies of Malawi, South Africa and Cuba prepared by the SI for the DFID report entitled “Mitigating vulnerabilities in the energy-food-water nexus in developing countries” in 2016. Kenya, a lower-middle-income ‘frontier economy’, represents an interesting and useful case study of the WEF nexus that complements the 3 existing cases. Kenya has been a leader in Africa in developing certain types of renewable energy, such as geothermal power and roof-top solar PV. However, following discoveries of oil resources in recent years, Kenya is poised to begin oil production in 2017. This could have a major impact on the development trajectory the country follows over the coming decades.
  • Project partners: QGRL
  • Status of project: Underway 

To view completed projects, please click here.