Living Future Collaborative SA & Thinking Beyond Our Current Actions

Thulani Kuzwayo is Co-Founder of PaperThinkLAB. He is an experienced sustainability professional who also served as the WorldGBC Africa Regional Network Chairperson. We chat about his inspirations and the Living Future Collaborative South Africa, challenges for African cities, stakeholder collaboration, trends and opportunities in a Covid world and what happens after, his vision for future cities and the importance of thinking beyond our current actions.

Key Takeaways

About Thulani and the Living Future Collaborative South Africa

  • Thulani Talks about who inspired him and his approach to design.
  • Focusing on regenerative design got him to start PaperThinkLAB
  • SA is part of the International Living Future Collaborative with a mandate of creating places that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.
  • Volunteer organisation and collective of professionals sharing of knowledge.
  • Advocacy strategy put together by liked minded individuals with a view to influence key public and private sector stakeholders.
  • Networking platform and sharing project information and how to implement.
  • Get in touch via or

Challenges for African Cities and Stakeholder Collaboration

  • Thulani explains key challenges of urban governance, urban safety and resilience.
  • Each city if different.
  • Coordination is a challenge.
  • Relationships between Public and Private sector must be strengthened to work towards a common goal and vision and incentives should be worked out
  • Thulani explains the role of government in decision making that protects the citizens.

Trends and opportunities

  • Companies start to question the size of space they need.
  • Developers expecting an increase in number of vacancies, they will rethink what other services to offer.
  • Thulani believes there will always be some need for an office. Daniel, with a newborn at home, agrees.
  • The real knowledge will only be gained at the end of the pandemic, although many are preempting what this will l look like.
  • Covid-19 has gripped so much of our attention, we need to ask what collaboration looks like?
    There opportunities to look at how professional are educated. How will systems thinking be made part of the way we operate
  • We need to think beyond what we are currently doing.
  • How do we build the necessary skills to build the future we want and be better prepared for any future crisis? What system must be in place and is the infrastructure ready?

Thulani’s vision for future cities

  • At the end of the pandemic we will have more ‘bandwidth’ to think about other things.
  • We had problems before the pandemic that’s been there before and is still there.
  • Inequality is still there, climate change is still an issue
  • Covid-19 highlighted the need for interdisciplinary in the workplace
  • Covid-19 showed a need for collaboration between different sectors. We did it.
  • Government has proven it is possible for different departments to work together and deliver.
  • Cities have latent potential. Every city is different and has different priorities.
  • The to-do list is long but cities should select a key small number of actions to target for the next 5-10 years and really focus on that.
  • Thulani’s vision has not changed and remains positive.

About Thulani
Thulani Vuyo Kuzwayo is the Design Strategy lead at PaperThinkLAB- a regenerative design boutique firm. His role involves the development and implementation of the company’s design methodology anchored on human-centered design and systems thinking.

Some of the projects currently underway is Green Building consulting work on a 33,000sqm commercial office and scoping work for a sustainability rating tool for existing homes. The defining feature of the firm's collaborative work is trans-disciplinarity which is enabled by his blended knowledge and experience.

Thulani is an experienced Sustainability professional who also served as the WorldGBC Africa Regional Network Chairperson, served on other government advisory committees and participated in green building tool development and operation. He is a board member of EcoStandard South Africa holding the Business Development portfolio. He makes time for using photography and text to document the human experience of the built environment in African cities.

About Living Future Collaborative SA

The task of the Living Future Collaborative SA is to advocate and work collectively with all stakeholders towards a Living Future. As such, the voluntary organisation has set itself the task of promoting strategies and approaches that operationalize regenerative design by creating awareness and contextualising the Living Building Challenge in South Africa.


The South African built environment faces numerous challenges and risks. These include cities that are still riddled with the vestiges of apartheid spatial planning; projects currently underway that inadvertently reinforce spatial injustice; scarcity and mismanagement of valuable resources such as water; cities running out of landfill space due to waste management issues; and a lack of climate resilience planning to mitigate the effects of extreme weather impacts such as drought and flooding.

This is a future that many professionals cannot accept and are actively seeking to change. The Collaborative believes in the Living Building Challenge philosophy and comprehensive approach because it holistically addresses the multiple challenges faced by cities.

As a symbol of this commitment and belief in the arrival of positive change, the Collaborative has adopted the yellow-billed hornbill as its guiding animal. A symbol of faith, belief and optimism due to his constant skyward glance, this bird is known as ‘umKholwane’ in Zulu, or ‘Little Believer’.


At a meeting of like-minded professionals in the Magaliesberg just outside Johannesburg on 18 January 2020, the Living Future Collaborative formalised its ‘raison d’être’ and set itself an ambitious set of tasks.

With the vision of bringing change beyond individual buildings, integrating urban systems and communities with nature, and creating a coherent future for South Africa’s built environment, the Collaborative aims to organise quarterly events centred around showcasing examples, workshopping what it means to go Net Zero Water/Energy, introducing the concepts of sustainability at schools, and advocating to bring transformation in policy.

The mission is:

To advocate for a regenerative future by providing a platform for thought leadership in the area of regenerative design principles and application;

To transform the building value and supply chain for a living future;

To promote projects that move beyond sustainability and demonstrate strength in ecological restoration, social justice and cultural richness.

The Collaborative is currently active in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and relies on the collaboration of people that volunteer their time and energy to implement its goals. For more information, please reach out to


About PaperThinkLAB
A regenerative design boutique firm that moves projects beyond sustainability. We are driven by the power of intentionality. Our intention is to catalyze design interventions that are socially responsive and environmentally responsible to enable thriving communities.

We have a blended knowledge and experience in resilience thinking that incorporates climate action approaches, indigenous knowledge, beauty, technique, and social justice. We follow an Integrative Design approach.

We value transdisciplinarity through COLLABORATIONS. We inspire project teams through using our PLAYBOOK. We use EDUCATION. We develop MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS. We do it by means of sound DESIGN and ARCHITECTURE.


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