Kenya’s housing plan adopts green housing standards

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Apartment buildings with shared amenities. PD/Courtesy

While adapting green building technologies in the construction industry is geared towards sustainability as well as efficiency, such initiatives have failed to win the support of local developers. 

This is mainly blamed on the cost of construction as well as the lack of a uniform green building standard that should be applied by builders. 

If left unchecked, experts fear that greening housing construcions may be counterproductve resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions as a result of inefficient designs and poor building standards.

In line with one of  President Uhuru Kenyatta’s  deliverable pillars on affordable housing under the Big Four Agenda and the need to tackle climate change in the country, the State Department of Housing endorsed the the World Bank’s private sector arm, International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) as the minimum standard for the design of affordable, climate-friendly homes. 

EDGE is an online platform, a green building standard and a certification system for more than 170 countries. 

The software is freely available online with extensive downloadable resources which will assist in the shift towards a low-carbon built environment.

Speaking earlier in the week in a virtual joint press conference hosted by Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS), State Department of Housing and Urban Development permanent secretary Charles Hinga lauded the initiative and affirmed the government’s commitment to creating sustainable affordable housing to be the minimum standard for Kenya.

“The Government of Kenya is committed to tackling climate change as it arises out of the need to secure our future and that of our children.

The past decade has seen action towards realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with green buildings helping to directly meet 80 per cent of the goals,” said PS Charles Hinga. 

KGBS, which successfully advocated for the adoption of the EDGE green housing into the Big Four Agenda will help to connect Kenya’s affordable housing developers to certifiers so they can take advantage of the additional marketing opportunities of EDGE certification. 

“We have played a major role in championing this mandate that unites the Government and private sectors for the well-being and benefit of low-income homeowners and the environment,” said KGBS chairperson Elizabeth Wangechi

Already, 325 homes in Kenya have voluntarily opted for IFC EDGE certification and collectively enjoy savings of 8,659 Megawatts per year of energy, 253,459 metres cubed per year of drinking water, 222,874 Gigajoules of embodied energy in materials.

This means that these homes have managed to save 3,491 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in terms of green house gas emissions.

According to United Nations Habitat (UN-Habitat), Kenya is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa that has put forward a realistic programme on affordable housing.

The housing deficit of the region is estimated at around 120 million adequate and affordable housings, which is a greater challenge for achieving SDG 11 on Sustainable cities and communities that aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030.

What lacks is making these homes eco-friendly and so far, The State Department of Housing has managed to sign memoranda of understanding with county governments for affordable housing projects.

In these MOUs, developers building on land provided for free by the government for the purposes of affordable housing projects must also design and construct their buildings, according to the EDGE standard.

The UN-Habitat too has taken a step towards addressing the huge housing deficit estimated at two million homes.

It plans to construct 500,000 affordable housing as one of the Big  Four Agendas, which will comply with the minimum green building standards so that they are not only adequate and affordable, but also contribute to improve the environment.

“Building green is to go back to basics. It is to build a house as a shelter with the environment in mind. Since Kenya is in the tropical zone, we must design houses that are adapted to the local climates and use as much as possible locally available materials,” noted Vincent Kitio, Lead Urban Energy Solutions, UN Habitat

Kitio said building green is beneficial for the occupants as it saves money for lighting and cooling, reduces the carbon footprint, creates new green jobs and it is good for the local economy.

“The new building should be designed using passive building strategies. In fact, green buildings are designed to make use of natural ventilation; day lighting for all the rooms, solar protections to avoid overheating and the need for artificial cooling system and efficiency in the use of resources such as water and other materials,” he said. 

In 2017, Kenya Green Building Society together with the UN Habitat collaborated in incentivised finance for green buildings, which meet 80 per cent of the sustainable development goals directly and the rest indirectly.

On January 13, this year, Kenya’s first green bond began trading in the Nairobi Securities Exchange. British real estate developer Acorn Holdings and private equity fund Helios issued their first green bond in Kenya and managed to raise Sh4.3 billion of the targeted Sh5 billion.

They target to construct 3,800 student hostel units in Nairobi at a cost of Sh7.4 billion. At the moment, 1,000 units have already been constructed on Jogoo Road, Parklands as well as Ruaraka under the Qwetu brand.

“To raise capital for green projects, we have the Ibuka emerge program incubator and accelerator for companies to raise capital at the stock market,” said David Irungu Head of Business Development NSE.

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