Green Building Technology; Solution to global real estate & energy challenges

By Kingsley Nana Anokye BUADU

An Environmental Journalist and Communication Specialist

As the world is currently in a crunch meeting deliberating on Climate Change and its dire effects on humankind, one major issue our leaders need not lose sight of during this all important Summit is the need for the promotion of “Green Buildings” and research into more technologies for its facilitation. According to the World Resource Institute Climate Analysis Indicator Tool (WRICAIT) Ghana’s GreenHouse Gas GHG profile is dominated by emissions from the land-use change forestry (LUCF) sector. Ghana’s total emissions is said to be 53%. Out of the figure, energy is the second-largest emitter and contributes 25% of the total. Electricity and heat contribute 19%, whilst agriculture accounts for 15% of which burning Savannah is responsible for close to 45%.

Focusing on the contribution of electricity and heat can be done to reduce the staggering 19% emission if discussions on green building is properly had and technology to aid that well researched into.

Recently, Ghana joined the world in a conversation to find a solution to the global energy demand and consumption which keeps increasing.
In Ghana, increase in energy demand has outstripped increase in energy production and supply in the last decade leading to the unstable and unreliable power affecting industrialization and development agenda of the nation.

A major contributor to this challenge is identified as energy-inefficient buildings put up by real estate developers and individuals. Aside from other factors, the conversation clearly pointed out to a rather unsustainable, environmentally unfriendly, complex and expensive way of building christened as fanciful and modern day structures. These ways or styles of buildings, unfortunately, promote ill-health, poverty, discomfort and above all change in the climate. A global solution found to have the potential to correct the anomaly is Green Building Technology.

In Ghana, a three-day green building research conference was initiated by the school of Built Environment and Natural Resources Of The Cape Coast Technical University. It explored the technology, its comfortability, affordability, availability of materials and its significance. This was a step in the right direction and conversation that many institutions need to have to change the mentality of people regarding types of building they put up. The Ministry Of Housing is recently seen to be encouraging that and it is commendable. It just doesn’t have to end there, but there should be conscious efforts to have policies to champion that especially starting with public building construction.

Green building is a building that in its design or construction reduces or eliminates negative impacts and can create positive impacts on the climate and natural environment. Green building preserves precious natural resources and improve the quality of life.

There are a number of green features which can make a building “green “. These include efficient use of energy, water and other resources, the use of renewable energy such as solar energy, pollution, waste reduction measures as well as the enabling of re-use and recycling. Good indoor environmental air quality, use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable. It also considers the environment in design and construction. Any building can be green, whether a home, an office, school, a hospital, a community centre or any other structure with the above-mentioned features.

The benefit of a green building can be categorized into three groups: Environmental, Economic and Social. Most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDGs anticipate that by 2030 the impact of climate change will be reduced and quality of life improved. Goal 11 for instance envisages building sustainable cities and communities. Interestingly, achieving these targets in the next 9 years will require serious commitment and efforts to change the culture and style of buildings. According to Dodge Data and Analytics, 2016, Building owners report that green buildings whether new or renovated command a 7% increase in asset value over traditional buildings. The Benefits of green buildings again go beyond economics and the environment. It has been shown to bring positive social impacts to society. Many of these benefits are around the health and well-being of people who work in green offices or live in green homes.

According to UNEP, 2016 -The building sector has the potential to make energy savings of 50 per cent or more by 2050 in support of limiting global temperatures rises which is (above pre-industrial levels)

According to the energy Commission, more than 70 % of Ghana’s energy supply is from thermal-based power to plants whose fuel contributes greatly to global warming and climate change.

Speaking at the Green building energy research conference, the President of Ghana Green Building Council Architect Foster Osae Akonor, noted that adopting green building technology would not only help resolve energy challenges but would also reduce poverty and improve quality of life.

A Surveyor, Dr. Emmanuel Bamfo Adjei, who is also a Senior lecturer at the Cape Coast Technical University, Dr. Bamfo Adjei, explained that to zero energy buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced. He stressed that the impact of Green building to the sociology-economic environmental needs of a country is enormous.

To achieve net zero energy buildings, the following have to be considered: lighting, walls and roof, glazing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, renewables, soft cost, building usage and behavior of occupants.
In most African countries today, including mine, glasshouses full of metal gates and windows in our tropical weather are described as modern and fanciful. This means, more lighting even during daytime, fans and air conditioners and other energy-consuming technologies to make the place comfortable for habitation. Buildings that have thick and tall walls are a common sight now, perhaps for security reasons. Blocks or bricks and cement used are just enough to put up another structure for habitation. Beautiful and well-trimmed hedges which served as walls around buildings are hardly seen today.

Concretising entire compounds is now a common feature in African homes. No little space is often left for even the growing of grass and flowers which do not only provide beauty but also natural healing. If these are not even considered, what can be said of the backyard garden which is now being advocated again. The conversation has already begun but the needed change in trend and style of new buildings would be gradual.

The government’s, Technological Institutions, building engineers, Surveyors, real estate developers and other stakeholders including the media have a responsibility to research this new technology, know its suitability, sustainability and significance to society and consciously introduce it to society. Green buildings are not only environmentally sustainable but lifesavers.

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