Green designs should apply to slum-dwellings

While Kenya has led the way in real estate investment in the region, developers are yet to fully embrace green architecture in new buildings.

Over the years, there has not been a shortage of high sounding statements, extolling the virtues of green designs. Global bodies such as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat have been in the forefront in urging developers to consider incorporating as much of the green aspects as possible during the design phase of projects.

Kibera slum upgrading programme

Despite the many policy statements from both the public and private sector, green technology has remained largely an issue of fund availability rather than the accruing, long-term benefits that come with sustainable architecture.

However, this may change, thanks to the just-conclude Paris climate change conference where heightened awareness of green initiatives and innovative development features were given prominence. Developing nations have been harping on the fact that wealthy nations have been responsible for much of the carbon emissions in the world today. It is also a fact that housing accounts for close to 50 per cent of these emissions.

Developing nations have always played victim as they argued that they had little contribution to the global environmental mess.

But there is a flip side to this argument. “Developing countries are urbanising at a rate two to three times faster than developed countries and the bulk of future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas of developing countries,” states Going Green: A Handbook of Sustainable Housing Practices, published by UN-Habitat in 2012.

Simply put, we are catching up fast. The fast rate of urbanisation resulting in mushrooming of slums all over Africa means that sustainable construction concepts are still a mirage.

In Kenya, slum upgrading projects seem to have slowed down. And even where much progress was made such as Kibera, the new houses still do not meet the requirements of sustainable design.

The onus, again, is on our professionals in the field as well as government agencies to come up with a uniform policy that will address the incorporation of green design in all projects.

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