“We shape our buildings, thereafter, they shape us.”
Over the past years, climate change has been a heavily debated topic, with a large number of people believing that it is still a hoax. That notwithstanding, what is evidently clear is that the earth’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarmingly rapid rate leading to increased carbon footprints worldwide.
Whilst Africa at present contributes less than 5% of the global carbon footprint, we bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. Nairobi, being one of the fastest growing cities within the continent, is no exception. Real estate development contributes to 5.9% of Kenya’s GDP.
Buildings contribute to 40% of carbon emissions, 7% more than the transport industry. Yet, it is seemingly elegant to drive around in the latest Toyota Prius than it is to invest in a sustainable building, despite the fact that 90% of our time is spent within the confines of architecture. Furthermore, the built environment contributes to 70% of the diminution of the earth’s natural resources.
It is therefore imperative to address this challenge by prioritizing adaptation within the built environment, drawing upon all skills within the industry, to ensure implementation of actions for the sustainable development and prosperity of the nation.
Following the climate change agreement signed in Paris during the Conference of Parties (COP21), developers are now being advised to incorporate the use of environmentally sustainable methods in construction. Hence, the term building green.
Green Buildings are energy and resource efficient, utilizing resources in an environmentally responsible manner. They incorporate design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment and its occupants. Building green requires an understanding that the built environment can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the natural environment, Thus, sustainable buildings implement a design that amplify the positive effects and mitigate the negative effects.
Some examples of these buildings within the country are:
Despite being environmentally sustainable, there are numerous benefits to green buildings, not only for the users, but also for the developers as well. Here are some benefits of green buildings.
Many developers shy away from building green largely due to the high initial costs. Despite these costs, sustainable buildings do promise a great deal in rewards. These high initial costs can be mitigated through the implementation of local low embodied energy materials, passive cooling systems, natural and diffused lighting and wind driven chimneys to achieve a fulfilling space quality. This will greatly lower utility costs and promote the responsible use of the building.
From CUEA’s Pope Paul VI’s Learning Resource Centre to the newly started Crystal Rivers Mall in Machakos County, every developer seems to be striving to have their buildings certified as the most sustainable development in town. With an organisation, such as Kenya Green Building Council, buildings in Kenya can now receive ratings that evaluate their environmental performance. Therefore, in the near future, living, working or learning in a green building will be just as fancy as driving an environmentally friendly car.
It is projected that by 2050, 75% of the population will live in urban areas. The concept of designing for the future today is more important now than ever especially since it means that the country will be largely a concrete jungle. It is thus necessary for building and construction professionals to appreciate the need to incorporate the natural landscape into the built environment. This will, in turn, improve sustainability and responsibility within the construction industry.
The enhanced indoor environmental quality by sustainable buildings largely influences the occupants’ health, comfort and ultimately their productivity. Green buildings incorporate natural phenomena into the design that in turn maximises the use of daylight, has appropriate ventilation and moisture control and optimizes the acoustic performance. This indoor working environment increases the marketability of green buildings for the end users, be they investor buyers, owner occupiers or even students.
Developing sustainable buildings now comes with a reward to developers. There are several rating systems which discern and evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design. These systems are credit-based, allowing projects to earn points for environmentally friendly actions taken during construction and use of a building. Green Certification focuses on the following categories:
Support for green buildings has increased rapidly each year over the last five years. Thus, this is a call to action for all property professionals to shape and develop a sustainable future.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time to plant a tree is today .”