Enhancing Nigeria’s Built Sector with Green Building Solutions, Renewable Energy

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Architectural green piece building

With Nigeria’s expanding economy and population, put at 200 million, MANA BALAGBOGBO, an Environment Journalist and advocate in this write-up, urge government to priorities the culture of green building solutions into the built industry.

Considering her rapidly expanding population, natural resources and market, Nigeria no doubt stands tall in the committee of nations globally. No wonder, in African continent, she is termed the giant of Africa. The rating and name did not evolve overnight. It came as a result of the immense role Nigeria has played in the committee of nations and the enormous influence she wields as one of Africa’s most populous nation.

However, the country’s policy makers and stakeholders in the built industry seem to have paid insufficient attention to some issues that are beneficial to her development and her influence outside the country, chief of which is the attention paid to green buildings.

Though, Federal and State authorities have made significant improvements, especially through their various development master plans, which have led to urban renewal, remodelling and restructuring in Abuja, Lagos, Owerri and Port Harcourt. It is not an obtuse to say that a lot needs to be done in this area.

With Nigeria’s 2019 ambitious total budget of N8.83 trillion, the country has since elbowed South Africa, Egypt and others as having the largest economy in the continent.

Also coupled with an expanding knowledge economy and diversification from crude oil as its main foreign exchange, it has therefore become imperative that for its citizens to get the full benefit of expanding economy and growth there is need to incorporate and priorities the culture of green buildings into its built and construction industry.

This article will along this line explain how green roofs, green walls and renewable energy will help to enhance green building solutions in Nigeria.

First, what are Green buildings? Green buildings are buildings that have no or little emission of greenhouse gasses and have efficient energy use. Green buildings can also be seen as buildings built in such a way that it has positive minimum impact on the environment. Unlike most parts of the world, green buildings in Nigeria are still yet to gain the much need attention considering its many benefits.

Green buildings preserve precious natural resources, improve the quality of life and works well as means of achieving a range of social objectives, for example, addressing climate change, creating sustainable and thriving communities and steady growth in the productive capacity of the economy.

Across the globe, European studies suggest that buildings are responsible for around 45% of global Carbon dioxide emissions over the entire Life Cycle (UNEP, 2007). More so, this percentage has increased every year by 1% since 2010 (UN Government, 2010). It is also a known fact that carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gasses (GHG) such as methane and nitrous oxide contribute to global warming. Climate change can also be seen in changes to precipitation (rainfall) and future climate change will cause seal levels to rise, increase acidity of our seas, bring about differences in precipitation from one region to the other and lastly cause expansion of deserts in sub-tropical areas of the world. Asides from the effects of climate change, overpopulation and urbanisation continues to reduce green space.

Over the last few years, Nigeria has experienced its share of the debilitating effects of climate change as seen in floods and rising temperatures. If Nigeria encourages green buildings, the impact of global warming/climate change globally will reduce.

Literature provides several benefits ranging from environmental, economic and social benefits of building green roofs, green walls and utilizing renewable energy.

An article in the Living Architecture Monitors, suggests that with astounding air pollution levels and other environmental problems that are present, we must take the path of green walls and green roofs.

Put simply, green roof is simple vegetation acting as the roof of a building; where the vegetation is planted on top of a waterproof thin sheet of material. The environmental benefits of Green roofs are enormous, like acting as a sponge absorbing rainfall which can help reduce runoffs, providing natural cooling properties and lowering the effects of sound reflection. In addition, green roofs help reduce rain water; keeping them out of sewers, encourages bio diversity; like attracting birds, bees and other life form. Social benefits of green roofs includes health and wellbeing of people who work in green offices or green homes; research suggests that better indoor air quality and can lead to improvements in performance for up to 8 per cent (Park and Yoon, 2011). Apart from the environmental benefits of green roofs, the economic benefits of green roofs can be appreciated in the form of subsistence agriculture; as foods and vegetables can be grown on green roofs, serving as a mini garden in a home thus reducing cost of purchasing food items from the market.

The difference between green roofs and green walls is the location of vegetation/plants on the building. For green roof, vegetation/plants are on the roof, while for green walls, vegetation/plants are on the walls. The vegetation/plants used on the walls are preferably climbing plants. Separate from the climbing plants, walls are now being constructed that can support vegetation. Its advantages are same as the green roofs. One of its astounding social benefits is its aesthetic quality; green walls beautify the surroundings of a community. Else, an interesting economic benefit of green roofs and walls on a building, whether aged or modern or refurbished commands a 7% increase in the amount of money valued over buildings that are not green. Moreover, walls that are strategically placed can substantially improve indoor air quality as well as circulation; likewise, it helps in reducing Ultra – Violet radiation which can damage the building.

Renewable energy is another form of going green as regards how energy is consumed in buildings. In Nigeria, power is generated from Hydroelectricity that most of the time is not readily available and as a result, buildings resort to the use of burning fossil fuels using generators that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Renewable energy sources commonly used for buildings include the popular solar energy. Though solar is popular in Nigeria, its use in homes is not spread across all homes due to its affordability. However, Solar and Hydroelectric sources of energy are reliable and have low maintenance costs. They also do not emit greenhouse gasses (GHG).

Other renewable energy sources like geothermal and wind energy can be explored in Nigeria. Geothermal heat is from the interior of the earth and has the energy to heat and cool homes. Wind energy involves a power plant that uses wind turbines to generate electricity; areas in the country with enough wind waves can adopt this energy source to produce electricity.

Lastly, Bio-energy from organic matter such as plants, residue from agricultural, forestry and organic components can be used to generate fuels that can replace fossil fuels that are not renewable in nature. The use of renewable energy in Nigeria will help to offer a number of economic or financial benefits. Renewable energy will help potentiate cost savings on utility bills for tenants or households. Outside Nigeria, Canada’s green building industry generated $23.45 billion in GDP and represented 300,000 jobs in 2014. In the United States of America, green buildings accounted for more than 3.3 million jobs in 2018. Imagine how much Nigeria can make if the green building industry is encouraged.

Consequently, with recent scares of increased flooding, overheating and drought in Nigeria and other parts of the world, what better way to reduce the enervating effects of climate change and other environmental issues given all the benefits of green roof, green wall and renewable energy? Nations around the world building have risen to the occasion of erecting green buildings. The time is now; private individuals and government most especially the ministry of environment need to sensitise and encourage Nigerians to erect green buildings.

In 2014, an attempt was made in Lagos to erect the first green building in Nigeria. A lot more can be done, we can’t afford to miss out on its tremendous benefits. America for example has been able to encourage green buildings in New York by giving one-year property tax credit to green building owners who green 50% of their roof area. The government in Nigeria can copy this initiative to get people building green buildings. Beneficial to the economy of Nigeria is the construction and maintenance of green roofs, green walls and renewable energy which provides business opportunities for roofing contractors, plant producers, landscape designers and contractors, and other green industry members.

How soon will the federal, state and stakeholders embrace the green roofs, green walls and renewable energy culture; is yet uncertain but the time is now to show that the nation has come to fore with these green building solutions.