Thursday, May 13, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - 2015 Goals

2015 Goals

In the final day of the conference, there were several things left to do. Previously, the group spent two days engaged in discussions and brainstorming sessions. By the third day, it was evident that everyone in the room had a lot of ideas about how to move forward. There were three overarching conference goals:
1. Make commitments, develop elements of a strategy, and create a road-map for achieving those goals.
2. Develop an outline for a continental network supporting the sustainable building industry and professionals, and for assistance in establishing green building councils.
3. Provide recommendations to UN-Habitat on how this can be achieved.
Each country represented at the conference was asked what their specific goals were for the year 2015. The following are individual country goals for 2015:

Written green building guidelines for different environmental regions in country.
Establish a GBC. Complete an example building (pilot project).
Tanzania: Integrate green building (re-integrate traditional sustainable building techniques) into codes. Pilot projects for schools, healthcare/clinics, and commnity centers for public awareness. Financial system in place w/industry support.
Malawi: Environmental curriculum in schools (all levels).
Gambia: Sustainable design guidelines.
Grass-roots awareness campaigns at the local level.
Implement a GBC and get government commited to green building.
South Africa:
Integrate social aspects into rating systems.
Involve government and private sector into GBC development.
Ethiopia: Worldwide sharing of knowledge and goals (networking).
Complete a pilot project in each sector.
Burkina Faso:
Promote traditional methods of green building and integrate into codes/regulations. Create GBC and green building guidelines.
Mandate zero-emission codes.
Chad: Develope institutional framework for GBC at a local level and connect to the Africa-wide and global GBC network.
Be self-sustainable in all aspects (energy, food, materials, etc.).
Tax-incentives for green buildings. Awareness campaigns.
Increase in demand for green building among developers and the public.

As these goals were discussed, several general themes emerged. There were four broad action-categories that each goal could be attributed to:
Policy Implementation: Codes/regulations. Political support.
Market Transformation:
Financial Incentives. Industry Buy-in.
Guideline Development:
GBC's. Rating Tools.
Awareness and Education:
Curriculum. Pilot Projects. Awareness Campaigns.

Monday, May 10, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Policy and Finance

How Can National and Local Government Policies and International Programs Encourage and/or Finance the Construction of Green Buildings and Rating Systems?

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative is a program that studies and defines the global metrics of sustainable building policies. It is a policy-oriented program and does not deal directly with the technology involved in sustainable building practices. Rather, it explores the financial impact of green building and the industry reaction to the trends. These industry reactions are explored in terms of financial markets and government policy and input.

Niclas Svenningsen of UNEP states that in actual practice, the the long-term cost benefit of sustainable design is not a reality to the construction and development industry when compared to the high cost of initial investment. For it to become real, there need to be mechanisms in place to move the long-term savings of resource-efficient design to the front-end of the finance model. Enter the Stick, the Carrot, and the Tambourine. The stick that will get developers to implement sustainable design practices are policy measures such as the adoption of codes and regulations as well as penalties for under-performing buildings. The carrot, of course, is the opposite and offers tax incentives, and other rewards for well-performing buildings and development. The tambourine, though, is slightly more intangible, but perhaps less policy-oriented and therefore more relate-able to the public. The tambourine involves actions and initiatives that public promote sustainable building practices such as public relations, marketing efforts and awareness campaigns, and educational programs.

However, according to Svenningsen, the bottom line is that sustainable design cannot be promoted as a separate agenda. The concepts and benefits of green design need to be tied to other policy agendas. For example: Schools and offices with better indoor environments have statistically better performance records. Responsibly designed communities have a statistically lower rate of poverty and crime, and have a better public health record. If the benefits are explored and extolled in terms of larger issues, the ability to be implemented within the context of industry and government as a whole, from the top-down, becomes more likely.

In the opinion of the blogger, this is an issue that LEED in the United States has failed to address. Although there are some ties to government and industry, the system as a whole has positioned itself as an actual force within the market, rather than a network amongst it. This has commodified the green building field, and being a commodity, it inherently becomes an extra to the process of design and building. It is not promoted as a part of responsible design practices, rather, it is promoted as an additional service that can be included in a project if the client is able to fund the inclusion of the practices. Little effort is put into incorporating these practices into codes or regulations, and until it is done, "green buildings" will continue to be seen as a privilege instead of the norm.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Alternatives to Nation-Specific Green Building Councils

UN-Habitat Human Settlements Advisor Robert Kehew.

Alternatives to Nation-Specific Green Building Councils

Although it is clear that the implementation of a Green Building Council is not a solution for instituting sustainable building practices in Sub-Saharan Africa, rather, it is a potential way to create a framework for developing the methods and metrics needed to advance the field of sustainability in Africa. However, a Green Building Council is a complex mechanism that relies on input and involvement from many different players within the building sector - architects, contractors, developers - as well as support from industry and government. So, while many countries in Africa lack formal economies advanced enough to support complex industry as well as battling political systems rife with corruption, the question arises, how small can a nation's building sector be and still support a full Green Building Council?

If there is a correlation between a nation's Gross Domestic Product and the size of a building sector, then the smallest existing GDP's with a full-service Green Building Council are New Zealand and South Africa. The United Nations estimates that the building sector accounts for 5-15% of a country's GDP. According to the World Bank, in 2009 South Africa is second in GDP among African nations behind Egypt, and almost twice that of the next two rankings (Nigeria and Algeria). After this, the number drops precipitously.

If a country cannot support a full-service Green Building Council, are there alternatives? According to Robert Kehew of UN-Habitat and Bruce Kerswill of the World GBC, there are.

Kehew lists Government-sponsored rating systems and Sub-Regional GBC's as options. Government rating systems are able to focus primarily on energy efficiency and can easily integrate simple rating metrics into existing regulations, however, many governments already deal with corruption and other issues that may minimize the importance of sustainable design within the larger political and social context. Sub-Regional GBC's are systems that may straddle several nations that share trading relationships, common codes and regulations, and/or cultural ties. This allows several countries to share cost, responsibility, and benefits. This model, however, also relies on the cooperation and power-sharing between potentially strained political systems and relationships.

Bruce Kerswill of the World GBC recommends a phased approach to growth where larger, more developed nations act as a hub for smaller nations and assist in the development of rating systems and networking. This model requires that the developing country may need to adapt or customize the existing rating tools to suit their individual country-specific needs. This works well where countries share geographic similarities or borders, but may require additional time and effort where similarities or geographic proximity do not exist.

Beyond this, are there more options? The immediate reaction from the writer of this blog is that GBC's may not be appropriate for countries at this stage of development. Where GBC's are systems that help to quantify, coordinate, and track the performance of green buildings (a very simplified definition), they are essentially bookkeeping measures. Where a nation lacks the infrastructure to support this system, it is possible that implementation of educational programs and community awareness campaigns about sustainable concepts and methods may be a better use of resources. Once these ideas and technologies are in place, and the advantages of sustainable design are understood and experienced, it would be a natural progression to then begin to quantify those results.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - What is Appropriate for Africa?

Speaker Akin Akindoyeni

What is Appropriate for Africa? Country-Specific Challenges Facing the Green Building Industry in Africa.
During this session four panelists - each representing a different country in Africa - were posed a set of questions and asked to answer in terms of their own country-specific experience and ideas. Discussion was then opened to audience members after panelist response. This was easily the most interesting session of the day, as it highlighted many commonalities between the different countries and participants, but also raised many cultural issues that were unique among them. This was a long session, so highlights in note form below.

Akin Akindoyeni, Chairman - Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, Nigeria
Dr. Kamugisha Byabato, Engineer and Lecturer - Tanzania Energy Research Institute, Tanzania

Tony Lee Luen Len, Mauritius GBC, Mauritius

Elijah Agevi, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya


Need to educate the general population on the consequences forseable in the future if the current building trends are maintained. Genral population does not understand that current actions will have negative consequences.

Priorities. 70% of Africa is poor, and most need access to other basic life-needs (shelter, job, education, access to water, food, and proper sanitation) before sustainable building technologies and strategies can be considered.

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Fear of unknown (lack of understanding of green concepts and the desire not to build out of comfort zone). General population has little participation in development and the decision-making process.

The concept of green design is not unknown to Africans. Traditional building techniques are inherently sustainable (solar shading, building orientation, water collection). Africans have a desire to be modern, but in the international sense - not in through a contemporary African perspective. The move to modern has pushed away the traditional techniques in lieu of the international style which is not appropriate in Africa (environmentally, culturally, or politically). These new post-colonial technologies systems, and governments are not reconciled with the traditional.


Representative from Cameroon: Too much concern for profit in the short-term.
Representative from Sudan:
(Comments specific to post-conflict nations). Lack of infrastructure and facilities. Post-conflict nations just want to re-build. Desire for most immediate solution. Cheap. Fast. Familiar. Many post-conflict countries are funded by outside sources, so they may be subject to the agendas of the funding organizations/countries.

Representative from Ghana:
No advocacy from the intellectual class. Politicians and government are the elite that push development. Action needed at the local level. No action from the top-down.


Akindoyeni: Change needs to happen at the elite level. If a country has a building code, it needs to be updated AND enforced. Education needs to occur at all levels. Change needs to be forced (later redacted during discussion to use the word enforced). People who do not understand, will not change.
Change the mind and way of thought about sustainability (cost vs. net benefit) at all levels. Aggressive awareness campaign aimed at all stakeholders. Tax incentives. Mainstream standards and codes need to be adopted and enforced. Solutions must be sensible and cost-sensitive.

Len: Update building codes as per region. No more one-size-fits-all set of regulations.
Look to traditions. "Slums were not created by God. At independence, only the leaders changed - the rules did not. Africa is still playing by rules created for them, not by them." Use public buildings as public examples. All new buildings should be built by these [updated] standards. No exceptions.


Representative from Egypt: Do not force the poor. They are the ones who need access to sustainable design the most, but forcing them will not work. Lead by example.
Agevi Response: The biggest issue with codes and regulations is enforcement.
(Response to earlier comment by Sudan - no infrastructure, etc.) "The advantage of underdevelopment". If there is no inherent infrastructure or institutions then there are no physical barriers to new development strategies - only mental and cultural.

Mainstream awareness. Audits on existing buildings and industry stakeholders. Change in language (i.e. sustainable as part of normal design, not an extra). Regional thinking. Need champions.

GBC set up fully in Mauritius. Pilot projects.

Building profession to cooperate in sustainable design practices. Use rating systems as a campaign tool. Example buildings and best-practice examples.

Engage and involve financial institutions in building practices. Make financial institutions into stake holders.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Introductory Session

The conference assembly hall with attending members.

The UN-Habitat Conference on Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa opened this morning at the UN Compound in Grigiri, Kenya. Representatives from twenty African nations, seven countries from Europe, Asia, and North America, and delegates from the United Nations were in attendance as Inga Bjork-Klevby, Deputy Executive General of UN-Habitat welcomed the assembly and introduced the goals of conference:
"In the United States, the building industry is responsible for approximately 40% of the green-house gas emissions for the country. At present, there are no figures for African cities. How do you measure the effectiveness of green building strategies where little or no record is kept? The purpose of this conference is for participants to understand the available options in terms of sustainability so they can make informed decisions. It is not the responsibility of the people, but of you, the building industry - architects, engineers, builders, developers, and legislators - to generate and organize ideas to meet the challenges of the future of urbanization."
Tirop Kosgey, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing in Kenya echoed the sentiments of Bjork-Klevby:
"We need to harness the full potential of technology to address the effects of climate change and to build sustainably, to build smart infrastructure, and create robust building codes. We need to move beyond advocacy, and put into place, legal and legislative standards."
The opening remarks by both Bjork-Kevby and Kosgey were clear: accountability would be placed squarely on the shoulders of the building industry, and the only way to truly promote sustainable design in Africa is through collaboration, education, and the incorporation and enforcement of legislative guidelines.

The United Nations Building in Grigiri, Kenya.

Monday, May 3, 2010

LIVE BLOG FROM NAIROBI - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa

Architecture for Guerillas will be blogging live from Nairobi, Kenya on the UN-Habitat Conference on Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa. The objective of this conference is to familiarize industry professionals in Africa with an experience-based perspective on sustainable buildings, best practice examples of green buildings and technology, and the implementation of rating systems to objectively measure and track sustainable building technology and trends. The conference also seeks to introduce and encourage a global network of professionals dedicated to developing these tools.

Stay tuned for updates and commentary.