Inside Politics

Green property is the way to go

Friday, November 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Ted Otieno, chair, Kenya Green Building Society. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES

What inspired you to join the sustainability sector?

First, being part of the leadership at Kenya Green Building Society, an institution championing for sustainability within the built environment, makes me a champion of sustainability.

Second, and perhaps most important, is the impact our advocacy work has had on people from all walks of life. Construction is a basic need, and it has an impact on everyone.

Data shows it is arguably one of the largest contributors to climate change. In as much as this sounds daunting it also means reversing these contributions has significant positive economic development potential, which, among other things, is sorely needed in our society.

We recently celebrated world green building week, what are your organisation’s achievements in this?

In terms of green buildings, we’ve been able to certify over 500,000 square metres of space, which equates to up to 3,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide avoided yearly, and 352 million litres and 10,000 Mwh of annual water and electricity savings respectively.

We are committed to capacity building and have managed to educate over 100 government officials from the State Department Of Housing, Energy Petroleum and Regulatory Authority, and the National Construction Authority on sustainability. 

We’re in the process of gathering information for our online and mobile app material directory, jengagreen library, which will showcase certified locally available green building materials.

This will not only dispel the myth that building green is costly, but also serve as a weapon for lobbying government to lower taxes on materials.

How far as a country, are we in our efforts in going green in construction?

As a country, less than one per cent of our buildings are green, which is a low figure. Globally fewer than $3 (Sh300) of every $100 (Sh30,000) spent on new construction goes to sustainable buildings. Most countries do not have full building decarbonisation targets within their nationally determined contributions plans. 

For Kenya in particular, areas such as embodied carbon in building materials are under addressed.

What role will the green building industry play in the face of challenges in both global economy and natural resources?

When it comes to issues such as the global economy and natural resources, green building industry takes centre stage.

It is generally documented that cities consume 75 per cent of natural resources and produce 50 per cent of the worlds waste.

Resource and circularity are two key elements of green building design. There is a great possibility to develop far more vibrant, resilient and livable communities and overall global economy, by moving away from the take, make and trash linear model.

How receptive is the building and construction industry to sustainability matters?

The first challenge we face is the perception. Most people think green building is for the elite.

Secondly, there is green washing within the industry, where developers claim to have a green building when in actual fact it is not. 

We need to be cautious as an industry about tools and methodologies we use to discover and design green buildings.

While some aspects of such designs are common knowledge, having globally independent verifiable tools are paramount to avoid green washing because climate change, like the pandemic, is a global concern with far-reaching consequences.

Is there a way to go the green building way and still it be cost effective?

Yes. Green buildings are not only cost effective, but affordable for all. We need to change our perspective.

We must consider a building’s complete life cycle, not just the initial construction phase. We should consider it during the construction, refurbishment, and destruction phases.

When you look at the total cost of a building throughout its whole life cycle, you’ll see going                                                                                                                           green is a no-brainer. One simple approach for potential developers to achieve this is to use the free edge green building design tool produced by the International Finance Corporation, a part of the World Bank.

This tool makes it simple to examine the incremental cost and total return on investment of incorporating green measures into a building.

Green properties are likely to command higher market value, improve cash flow for owners and occupiers, and reduce the risk of borrower default. How can these be achieved?

Green-certified homes appeal to consumers who understand the long-term benefits of investing in a green property, such as lower utility expenses, improved indoor air quality, fewer contaminants, and a higher resale value.

They also believe making the proper decision gives them a sense of accomplishment.

For such properties, cash flows are more predictable given they will have lower utility bills resulting in lower monthly operational costs ergo, lower borrower defaults. This is the main reason green buildings have a higher initial market value.

What legacy would you want to leave behind at the end of your tenure as the chairman?

As chairman, I’d like to leave a legacy of amplifying the voice of youth in the fight against climate change.

The youth, in my opinion, are the nation’s sleeping giants. During my term, I will work closely with our youth chapter to ensure long-term viability of the society and the principles we champion as part of the greater World Green Building Council.

This will be accomplished by passing down institutional knowledge and active capacity building so that the youth are comfortable and actively advocating for policy at both the national and county levels.

More on Inside Politics