Lack of regulations on minimum environmental performance of new buildings will frustrate the country’s efforts to meet energy needs. The huge buildings, including shopping malls and towering glass skyscrapers littering our major towns, are a sign that the building sector in the country is yet to align itself to the country’s national ambition on mitigating harmful effects of environmental disruption. The building and construction sector must go green for the country to meets its energy needs and to conserve the environment. Article 43 (1) (c) of the Constitution requires the Government to ensure access to adequate housing with reasonable standards of sanitation for all Kenyans. But despite the building sector recording one of the highest growth rates in recent years, it seems the sector has not been aligned to the overall national development aspirations in many aspects. To actualise this constitutional requirement, relevant laws and policies should be finalised and implemented. They include the Housing Bill (2016), the Built Environment Bill (2015), National Housing Policy (2013), National Building Maintenance Policy and the National Building Regulations (2015). Building code Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word ‘NEWS’ to 22840 It is encouraging to see that the Government has revised and will soon launch the building code that now incorporates the concept of green buildings in building designs, construction, operation and maintenance as a way of ensuring healthy environments and the most efficient and least disruptive use of resources like land, water, energy and materials. However, this is not enough, and the laws are needed. According to the Economic Survey 2015, the building and construction sector posted one of the highest growths. In 2014, the sector registered a growth rate of 13.1 per cent compared to 5.8 per cent in 2013. With such growth, especially in urban areas, energy consumption by the sector will continue to grow in a way that is not sustainable. It’s sad that while the building sector is growing in leaps and bounds, because of the absence of laws, we continue to ignore putting up environmentally-conscious buildings, with even basic requirements like being sensitive to climatic condition We are aping the West in the design of our buildings, which are not necessarily fit for our environment. Many buildings in Nairobi have been abandoned or failed to get tenants simply because of failing to incorporate factors such as the direction of the sun and wind movement. Other than providing a legal framework that encourages construction of green buildings, the Government should take a lead role in encouraging best environmental practices. This includes ensuring that new government buildings embrace “green” building principles, giving tax rebates as an incentive to developers of green buildings or offer cash incentives to green building developers. Incentives It could also help if the banking sector offered incentives in the form of lower interest rates to developers of green buildings. UN-Habitat and professional bodies should also educate people on the advantages of green building. Architects must lead from the front by designing environmentally-friendly buildings while architectural curricula in local universities and colleges should put emphasis on sustainable architecture. Studies have shown that green buildings have various benefits in environmental, financial and social terms. Whereas environmentally friendly buildings are likely to cost slightly more than those that do not have environmentally-friendly features, the extra construction costs are likely to be recovered through reduced energy running costs, low-maintenance costs, among other things. Environmentally-conscious buildings lead to low long-term exposure to environmental problems, low electricity or energy bills, greater productivity as most workers are likely to have lower levels of sickness and also absenteeism from work hence having a market advantage.
Courtesy: The Standard