A Case For Green Buildings
Green buildings have increasingly been at the top of the sustainable development agenda for a while. Still, not much research (relatively) has been done till date about its direct relationship with climate change and other developmental issues. But this is quickly changing for several reasons.
No 1: Growing Population and Urbanization
Global population is no doubt growing at an alarming rate. Right now, we total about 7 billion people…by 2030, we will be about 8.5 billion, and by 2050 we will be almost 10 billion! Considering the rate at which we consume resources (like energy and water) and produce waste right now, it's no wonder that people are starting to question how we will live in 2050.
No. 2: Linkages to mental health
We are finding that buildings directly impact on our cognitive abilities and mental health, and this correlation is increasingly being relevant to organizations that focus on the health and safety of their workforce. How do we know this? Harvard recently carried out a study which attempted to understand the impacts of green buildings on a workforce. They found that employees in green-certified buildings had about 26% higher cognitive functions compared to their colleagues non-certified buildings. Although its hard to be definitive about this cause / effect relationship, it is assuring that Harvard has performed this study twice, with similar results being found.
No 3: Energy Efficiency
No other facility consumes energy as much as buildings do! All together, they use about 40% of global energy. This percentage is expected to grow as populations grow, as the middleclass expands, and as more people migrate from rural to urban areas. Given this, it's no wonder that green buildings are now seen as a key factor in reducing energy use, as well as mitigating climate change by utilizing clean energy sources. This is especially important as our use of traditional fossil energy sources is essentially what has gotten us in this climatic condition we find ourselves.
What's happening in Nigeria?
What is happening in Nigeria is not much different from what is happening globally in terms of population, middleclass population and the negative effects buildings have on our climate. Nigerians have a healthy growth rate of 2.6%, meaning there will be about 233 million of us by 2025. Going by the trend, more than half of these people will be living in cities, using a lot more energy than the minority in rural areas.
What's more, Nigeria's response to the effect of buildings on climate change has been low. Of the 102,364 LEED certified buildings (as at 15th October 2016), only eight are in Nigeria…that’s an insignificant 0.008%. Still, you can argue that we have to start from somewhere. Two of the most notable green buildings are Heritage House and NestOil building (both shown below), and I can't wait for many more to join their ranks.
Essentially, buildings are now being recognized as an essential factor in mitigating climate change and utilizing resources (particularly energy) in a sustainable manner. Now that Nigeria has signed the Paris Agreement and is working towards its ratification, what we need next is for regulations to closely follow in terms of re-defining and enforcing building codes and standards that will facilitate the rise of green-certified buildings.