by Nikhil Kaitwade

In this exclusive ESI Africa article with Future Market Insights, we consider the potential of green buildings to shape the smart city agenda in Africa.

In recent years, the goals aligned toward greener Africa have taken a significant place on the continent. This fact prompted the creation of Green Africa Building Standards, Certification and Rating Systems aimed at alleviating the impact of buildings on occupants and the natural environment. Such programmes associated directly or indirectly with greening Africa impact communities at various levels in order to empower them for a better sustainable future.

The goal of limiting greenhouse emissions can be achieved by constructing new green buildings that have less energy expenditure and retrofitting existing buildings in Africa. The World Green Building Council defines a green building as one that “in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impact and can create a positive impact on our climate and natural environment, preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.”

The concept of sustainable building visions combined with new design, operation and production strategies are leading to a paradigm shift towards renewable greenhouse materials and environmentally safe building materials. ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting firm, Future Market Insights, projects the global green building materials market to thrive at a robust CAGR of 11.8%, reaching $823 billion by 2032 from $265 billion in 2021.

In this article, we will talk about how green buildings in Africa are giving a concrete shape to the continent’s smart city agendum. We shall also talk about how a lot of buildings are energy inefficient and contribute heavily to carbon emissions and what the African government is doing to prevent the harmful impact of the same.

Green buildings boosting green architecture in Africa
As global awareness increases, the need for cleaner and greener alternatives has also grown in cities around the world, especially in Africa. Construction of buildings on the continent is making a transitional shift as people commit to adopting renewable sources of energy.

As per statistics, in many African cities, residential buildings are the second largest energy consumer after transport. This also means that energy efficiency in the building sector can open an amazing opportunity to reduce emissions in a city just by implementing simple and minimal changes.

To make green buildings affordable and simple, a team of experts and stakeholders under the Green Africa Foundation developed the GreenMark Rating System. The Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development (MoTIHUD) of Kenya as well as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry participated in this process. The rating system is a standard used in rating and certifying green buildings in Kenya and the Africa region. It further helps in assessing the greenness of the existing or proposed buildings.

When it comes to green buildings, architects in Africa have started focusing on how to make architecture greener. They are working on designing feasible or sustainable architecture by finding new ways to cut costs, take lessons from traditional building methods, conserve energy, promote reuse and so on.

Let’s consider the case of Vissershok Container School in Cape Town, South Africa. This school is reportedly constructed out of recycled shipping containers. It serves as a classroom in the morning and a library in the afternoon. With a limited budget, the final product maximises space. The large roof shelters the container from sunlight and the gap allows for ventilation and reduces heat gain. The windows located across each side achieve cross ventilation. The stepped seating offers space for the children to eat lunch and acts as an amphitheatre for school assemblies. Last but not the least, a green wall has been planted to act as a vegetable garden in later stages and shelter the play area from southeast wind.

African green stimulus programme giving a concrete shape to the continent
The African Green Stimulus Programme is an innovative African-led initiative developed to support the continent’s recovery response in a sustainable manner to the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Programme provides a framework to consolidate and cooperate with the existing and new Green Economy and Climate Change initiatives in Africa. Apart from being dynamic, the programme is responsive to support African countries’ attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063 aspirations along with transforming and catalysing Africa’s sustainable development towards a low-carbon developmental trajectory by 2030.

As a part of the African Green Stimulus Programme, all urban buildings will need to be certified as energy smart and all urban mass transport will operate on renewable and low to zero emissions fuels by 2063. Moreover, reports also suggest that the share of renewable energy in total energy production will have exceeded the 50% threshold by then.

Across Africa, countries are taking important steps toward transforming buildings and cities on a large scale and for a longer term. For instance, In Rwanda, the country’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (2013-2018) is pursuing a green approach to economic transformation. In addition to this, the Rwanda Green Building Minimum Compliance is mandatory for buildings occupied by more than 100 people. In Ghana, the National Housing Policy now incorporates an Eco-Communities National Framework and is seeing green building becoming a household word. In Tanzania, private-led initiatives are resulting in the building of green affordable housing (at no additional cost), lowering utility costs and improving quality of life.

Looking ahead
In the years to come, green buildings are projected to leverage data and digital technology, quickly changing the face of the African continent. As the continent experiences rapid urbanisation, smart cities and green buildings are being viewed as a way to manage and govern expanding cities. This is increasing the rate of opportunities for the players. The green building trends are mapped around every city that will contribute positively in the years to come, attracting top investment pockets that display the scope for various segments.

Furthermore, marketing campaigns are increasingly inclining towards publishing blogs, vlogs, Instagram posts and natural building magazines. These vlogs and blogs promote the extremely promising benefits of green buildings in the region. The green building projects will create safe spaces, protect the lives of people and secure the future of buildings and the environment. In the future, with increased cooperation, green buildings will keep redefining themselves and open new frontiers of growth.