• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Eco-friendly building: How feasible in Nigeria?

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Ordinarily, the idea of green building would have been strange in our largely traditional and relatively conservative environment, but with the climate change phenomenon and high energy cost, nothing could be more desirable now.

A green building is a structure that has been constructed to incorporate aesthetics, technologies, and materials that are environmentally friendly, responsible and resource-efficient with less dependent on fossil fuels to minimise its negative environmental impact throughout its life-cycle: from citing to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and even demolition.

This definition simply undermines the importance of green buildings to every community and the nation at large even as the climate continues to change with several impacts on the environment necessitating the need for sustainability in every sphere of our lives, buildings inclusive.

Green buildings which boasts of minimal environmental impacts because of its significant energy-efficiency, durability and comfortability to tenants and occupiers can come as Green residential buildings, Green commercial, public and institutional buildings; Green retail facilities, Green church buildings and Green healthcare facilities.

Despite the immense opportunities presented by Green buildings to the environment and economy of several nations world over, Nigeria’s slow adaptation to strategically position itself as a ‘green’ economy by addressing its current economic and environmental challenges from a sustainability point of view has continuously questioned its ability to thrive in Green buildings.

Giving the foregoing, industry experts have remained optimistic of the need for homeowners, real estate developers and the government to move in tandem with the rest of the world in promoting sustainable living experiences as buildings have been tipped as one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change.

Over the years, most countries of the world have developed technologies in Green buildings to provide a sustainable living experience and environmentally friendly homes for its home buyers with cognisance recognition of its peculiar environmental challenges.

In Nigeria, Green buildings are not essentially new as most traditional building methods were very sustainable in their design and functionality. However, the inability of the country to develop these traditional system over time through innovative technologies, has become one of her greatest undoing.

Current position

Its quite worrisome that despite its prevalence in other parts of the world, Nigeria’s government, private real estate developers and homeowners still struggle with the need to go Green with their buildings as the country currently has no known Green building except for the upcoming 14-floor Heritage place set to enhance the Ikoyi real estate skyline.

The development, led by Actis along side Primrose Development Company (PDC) and Laurus Development Partners, boasts of 15,600 square metres of lettable office space over eight floors with large floor plates available from 450 square metres to 2,000 square metres with great flexibility and efficiency to contemporary occupiers.

“This ultra modern, eco-friendly building is Nigeria’s most advanced development, employing the latest building principles and state-of-the-art finishes; Heritage Place is set to become one of Lagos’s most recognisable and accessible buildings,” Ngozi Edozien, former Actis CEO, said at the pre-launch presentation of the project to industry stakeholders in Lagos.

Carlo Matta, Laurus CEO, agreed, pointing out that apart from its positive impact on tenants’ bottom line, the building also has the advantage in the of reducing operating cost by guaranteeing 20 percent less energy cost.

“As Nigeria’s first green building, the cost implications are huge but we believe that the long term benefits are there and that will make Heritage Place distinguish itself in the market place; we also believe that on completion, the complex will be a reference point in office space in Nigeria,” Jide Balogun, Primrose CEO, said.

In an earlier publication by BusinessDay, Ifeanyi Odigwe, a partner at Vert Global Concept, had disclosed that though few homeowners have shown interest on building Green homes they are still indifferent as most of the projects are still on conception stage.

“Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of apathy towards green building is Nigeria due to varying reasons, one of them being the unspoken correlation between Green building and poverty,” he added.

This have continued to be one of the limitations of Green building in the country as more people believe that sustainable building are only befitting for the poor and down trodden probably because of the materials used in constructing these building types.

Pros

Green buildings are essentially gaining momentum in most developed economies as property buyers are gradually recognising the several importance of green building to their lives and to the economy in the long run considering its significant operational savings which edges that of a conventional building.

The several advantages of a sustainable building starts from the construction process where construction waste is significantly reduced as a result of the possibility to renew “green” construction materials such as bamboo and straw, dimension stone and recycled metal/stone, sheep wool, compressed earth block, concrete etc as against conventional buildings which consumes more water and generate more construction waste and construction activity pollution.

Ordinarily, a property is an investment but a Green building is quite much more because of its long-term investment and savings. Studies have also shown that green buildings boast of a higher sale or rent value compared to conventional buildings with prospective buyers knowing their utility and maintenance costs will be lower in Green buildings when compared to non-green buildings. Also, occupancy levels are consistently higher and vacancy rates lower, in most sustainable office buildings around the world.

A well constructed Green building can be easily tuned into a net zero building. A net zero building or zero energy home is an active house which can earn you money rather than you spending on it. These buildings have almost zero consumption. Moreover they can create more energy than they need, they can also supply energy (electricity) back into the electrical grid.

Cons

As rare as it might sound, Green buildings also have some disadvantages, one of them being the poor indoor air quality that is often visible in most Green buildings because of the tight covering and sealing which sometimes leads to indoor pollution. Health experts say this can be detrimental to the health of the inhabitants of such buildings. The indoor air quality may further suffer if the builder uses a recycled building material which contains some harmful chemicals that emit toxins in the indoor air.

Other disadvantages of green homes is the inability of an occupier to increase or decrease exact temperatures; natural ventilation in a particular part of a homes even when desired.

Challenges

Like every other alien trend, Green buildings face some challenges in Nigeria ranging from unacceptability, wrong impression to unavailability of standard materials.

In Nigeria, there is a general thought that the green building phenomenon is foreign but in reality it is just higher level of what was practised by our fore fathers practised with the building of earthy materials, rain water harvesting, horticulture etc. Green building is simply an advanced level of sustainable living.

Collaborating this is the misleading impression that Green building are designed for the rural communities. This the government and multinationals have further compounded by restricting most Green projects to the rural areas, hence creating a misleading impression by people who can constantly fuel their cabin generator at most urban centres that then they don’t need Green buildings and other renewable sources.

Another stumbling block to the rise of Green buildings in Nigeria is the lack of adequate materials to drive this trend. Hence, the logistics in importing some of the needed material such as solar panels, wind turbines, and advanced building management systems have culminated in slowing an expected increase in green building as some of the material which requires ordering could scale up cost.

Going forward

Despite the hurdles, the consensus for sustainable living in the face of a changing climate is evidently unquestionable and imperative for Nigeria’s built environment, thus the need for a clear definition of enforceable policies that will tally with indigenous culture’s in promoting green buildings in our cities and rural areas.

Secondly, there is a need for proper awareness, training and re-orientation of building professionals to intimate them with latest technologies and techniques in designing Green buildings, as we can’t shy away from the fact that there are not too many Green building architects around us.

Thirdly, the general public which includes homeowners, must be shown the economic, environmental and social impacts of building sustainable homes to stimulate them enshrine the principles of sustainability into their buildings.

Equally, some schools of thought believe government should also play a vital role in spearheading the campaign of sustainable building by directly or indirectly funding projects or even building some of its parastatals for example the ministry of environment offices or other related agencies to be green buildings.

ODINAKA MBONU