Green buildings are at times defined as buildings that are “not as bad” or “notably better” than the average with regard to impact on the environment. More technically, a green building is one whose construction and lifetime of operation assure the healthiest possible environment while representing the most efficient and least disruptive use of land, water, energy and resources. Green design calls for buildings to lessen their energy needs.
California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) points out key elements in green buildings and construction:
- Have substitute energy sources that are not abusive to the environment.
- The site should be well suited to take advantage of mass transit.
- Consider alternative energy sources, minimizing the electric loads and installing high-efficiency lighting systems.
- Select sustainable construction materials that promote resource conservation and efficiency.
- Water efficiency can be attained by dual plumbing to use recycled water non-potable uses.
These are closely related to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It can be used to identify buildings as high performing on environmental and energy dimensions. Some of the key features of LEED include: pollution prevention during construction, community connectivity, alternative transportation for building occupants, habitat restoration and open space protection, water use reduction, energy performance tracking, refrigerant management, promotion of sustainable building materials, and improved indoor environmental quality.
Kenya is slowly joining the league of countries employing green or environmentally sustainable architecture in real estate development. The move is largely informed by the dwindling natural resources such as fossil fuels and water, resources that were once thought as inexhaustible.
Strathmore Business School was awarded the Best Green Building Development in Africa by the African Real Estate and Housing Finance (AREHF) Academy Awards. The building is completely fitted with indoor air quality designed to meet LEED standards with optimum relative air changes controlled using evaporative cooling air units. Rain water is utilized as it is collected and channeled to an underground tank. LED lighting is connected directly to Photovoltaic Solar Louvers.
Pope Paul VI Learning Resource Centre at The Catholic University of East Africa has almost all the features of a green building including an intricate cooling system with no single mechanical air conditioning system in the complex.
Sandalwood Waterfront, a conglomeration of artistically designed villas, has rainwater collected from the roofs stored in three small lakes within the centre of the property. The water is then used to keep the grass in the expansive gardens green all year round.
The UNEP Nairobi building features six thousand square meters of solar panels making it the first solar powered UN office in the world. Prompting the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to hail the new building as “a living model of our sustainable future.”
In conjunction with public, private, academia and civic sectors, Green Africa Foundation recently created the Green Africa Building Standards, Certification and Rating Systems aimed at mitigating the impact of buildings on occupants and the natural environment. Through their rating system a “Green Mark” award certificate can be given to all types and sizes of buildings which respect green best practices.
These designs are also expected to reduce global warming since current unsustainable buildings in many parts of the globe contribute to at least fifty percent of the world’s carbon emissions.
However, the full realization of green technology is being hampered by lack of properly trained personnel in the field.
What future lies ahead for green buildings in Africa? What legislative action should be taken towards having green buildings prioritized in Africa?
Credits: Images by Angela Kariuki. Data linked to sources.