• Manfred Braune

Finding Inspiration in Many Places

Updated: Mar 5

Manfred Braune, University of Cape Town

Have you ever watched a bird fluttering back and forth in a shower of water having the time of their life in a garden sprinkler? I recently found myself transfixed by this event in our garden at home. There are many moments like this that I find inspiring, because there’s something very intriguing and relaxing about humans connecting with nature.

As an engineer who loves the outdoors, I find inspiration in many places, but most of all here, spending time in nature or watching nature, whether it’s for a walk, surf, skate or just sitting having a coffee watching the waves crash against the rocks at my favourite coffee shop

Spending time with family, friends, and colleagues is also something that inspires me, listening to people’s story’s, sharing ideas, laughing together or sharing concerns or hardships. I love spending time with my wife and two daughters – I’m a lucky man with three girls in the house!

I also find joy and meaning connecting with my Creator, God, and growing my relationship with Him, who inspires me daily, both directly through my walk with Him and through His beautiful creation.

The other thing that gives me great joy and inspiration in life is innovation. I enjoy innovating and being inspired by other innovations or innovators, whether technological, social or economic. There are so many incredible ideas and innovations out there that can do good and are incredibly transformational.

Growing Up

These same things inspired me growing up – as a family growing up we went on regular holidays into the South African wilderness, the Kruger National Park ( ), or camping at the sea ( ) and so my love for nature grew. When I was a young teenager the effect of rhino poaching was at its worst in South Africa, with the rhino populations being the lowest they ever were in the country. White Rhino are one of my favourite wild animals – they are like a stealth machine on steroids with two curved spear on their heads, ready to charge at anything in their way (and I’ve experienced that – it’s scary!). The save the Rhino campaign ( ) became something that as a teenager I keenly followed and supported, which cemented my love for conservation and protecting the environment.

The other passions in my life were science/technology, sport (mostly soccer, skating and surfing) and playing electric guitar. My days at school and after school were filled with these things that gave me joy and allowed my creativity to flow. At 15 my brother and I built a halfpipe skate ramp in the back garden and we had the neighbourhood coming to our house regularly to skate. At 16 I was playing in a grunge rock band making lots of noise (we thought it was amazing!). While living a typical teenage boy life, at the same time my love for nature, science, mathematics and design kept growing. At 17 I went to a career counsellor to get some sound advice on what career path to follow, and the conclusion was that I should study either architecture, electrical engineering or actuarial science. They said there were no jobs in architecture, which left engineering and actuarial science. So we decided to speak to family friends who were working in these two areas – the actuarial scientist I met was a little boring and the engineer was a “cool dude” so as a teenager the obvious conclusion was therefore to study engineering 😊.

Making a new home

I decided I had to study engineering at the coast - I couldn’t stay in land-locked Pretoria, the city I grew up in, where I had skated on every pavement, a street surfer, dreaming of the ocean, not realising that this was also teaching me a lot about how cities and public spaces are designed. The sound of the ocean was calling…and so I chose to apply at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN based in Durban). When I called them, UKZN didn’t answer the phone and UCT did, and so I ended up at UCT. The move to Cape Town and UCT to study engineering was exciting and brought with it many new friendships and adventures. My final thesis project was focused on green buildings and so my journey into the property and green building sector began, where I have spent the past 22 years applying my creativity and passion.

It has been an incredible privilege playing a significant role amongst many other leading professionals in South Africa establishing and growing the green building standards and driving change in this sphere of the built environment, whilst working at WSP Green by Design, the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), and now at back UCT, not as a student but in a strategic role to advise the university on environmental sustainability matters. Much has been done, but there is still so much more to do. So I’ll keep at it and hopefully you will too.

Now at UCT my role is to lead the development and implementation of UCT’s environmental sustainability strategy, touching on operations, teaching, research, governance and social responsiveness. It is a real privilege being back at UCT ( ) in this role where I once learnt the ropes that led me into engineering and green building in the property sector.

Making the world a better place

There are so many enormous environmental challenges that we face, but most of these can actually be solved and practical solutions already exist to solve them. The real challenge that is common to them all is getting people to understand the issues fully, getting them to want to do something about it, and as a result, getting people to make critical decisions that will support environmental sustainability.

Getting more committed citizens and leaders on board is essential – without this, all the amazing solutions being led by a few solitary leaders and citizens will only affect small isolated pockets of the environment and society.

Let’s each do our part to make the world a better place!

If you're interested in learning more about the various sustainability initiatives at the University of Cape Town, please check out their website linked down below!


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