Green Building for African Countries: Opportunities, Approaches and Challenges

Green Building for African Countries: Opportunities, Approaches and Challenges

Usman Aminu Umar,  M. F. Khamidi
Civil Engineering Department, Universiti Teknologi Petronas , Tronoh Perak Malaysia

Keywords: Green Building; Sustainable development; Climate change; developing countries; Africa

Introduction: The deterioration of our natural environment and reliance on fossil fuels is unquestionable. In our
mission to boost as a modern society, since the industrial revolution, we have obtained an incredible toll for both
replaceable and irreplaceable resources via strip mining, deforestation and have generated a tremendous increase in the
level of greenhouse gases presently existing in our atmosphere. However, we as a modern world, identified these
predicament years back, and due to a devoted few have built substantial steps in fixing these global issues. Within the
developed framework, thoughts of sustainable development usually refer to the need to adjust present economic models
so as to sustain better balances between economic development and social demands, while protecting local ecologies
and lowering the negative effect of growth on the global environment.[1] The built environment of our regions plays a
primary role in forming the way we dwell and work, Our buildings figure out how much energy we utilize to keep
thermal comfort while our infrastructures determine how much energy we require for transportation. Approximately
40% of carbon emissions globally is created from the occupation of buildings with at least a portion of transportation’s
20% share as a result of the approach our towns are planned.[1] Our built environment additionally influences our
effect on the local environment and our combined wellbeing. Therefore, as the cities of the third world rising, they
continue to make selections about the path their growth takes.[2] In the African community, the role of the built
environment is now more pronounced since the region continually experience rapid population raises and urbanization.
Higher urban densities with the increase of consumerism have not simply resulted in a rise in environmental
deterioration locally, but they have also resulted in region’s traditionally low energy use – and consequently carbon
emissions- are set to increase and play a greater role within global change. [3]

Nevertheless adopting sustainable development in the Africa confronts numerous challenges which avoid it from
becoming part of the region’s growth framework and its building industry practices.[4] Every single natural on the
earth is in decline, however, there is no shared perception of what can and should be accomplished today to change this
decline. A new level needs to be place for sustainability in the build environment to guide the immediate adoption of
incorporated, cutting-edge approaches and practices. In the developing world, sustainable development represents a
rather different meaning. With all the agendas of third world countries concentrated on dealing with fundamental
development issues for instance economic development, water shortage, foods security, and wellbeing, other
environmental and social elements are regarded as secondary at best and for the most part a luxury that a developing
country cannot affords. In the absence of functioning economic models in the developing world, sustainable
development here is not about modifications to sustain balances. Rather, to expect applying this economical tabula rasa
to construct the principles of a new economic model where sustainability as well as the environment are integral. One
of those economical foundations is the built environment.

The United Nations are one of the dedicated few that first revealed the delicate connection between immediate
improvement of science and technology and it is capacity to affect the environment. The UN confirmed that a suitable
use of that power brings about the chance to boost the total wellbeing for all the world citizens, while its uncontrolled
use can severely harm the natural environment.’ This became the starting of the green action; we were currently
conscious of the outcomes of our actions and were today prepared to tackle them. The UN in 1987 released the
Brundtland Report which played a critical role within the start of the green movement. The report was unquestionably
the most significant and effective strategies to sustainable development, suggesting long term environmental
approaches for attaining sustainable development. What followed was series of plans, guidelines, reports and
resolutions that undoubtedly smooth the way we currently conceive construct and operate our buildings. Although
sustainability addresses several practices and ideologies, architecture and building are regarded to be the best vital since
they alone promote around 48% of all garden greenhouse gases generated. [5]This challenge has led to the birth and
growth of what it candidly known as the green building movement. The green building movement has developed
remarkably during the last two decades with such achievement in establishing new benchmarks of building, design and
operations. These benchmarks are the product of green building ratings systems that evolved from the movement that
consist of such systems as: LEED. These systems are now becoming the applications of measure by which projects are
created. Consequently; it has initiated the paradigm change in architecture. Though this change has now proven
dramatically growth worldwide. Green buildings are amazing, but the period for heralding each one as a symbol of mopping changes over. To have our greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage under control, it’s moment to make
green building standard. [6]

Building and Climate Change

Reports from top researchers across the world underline the necessity of immediate measures on climate change. The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that without more urgent action to restrict greenhouse gas
emissions, climatic change could result in permanent and possibly devastating repercussions. Annually, the energy used
by buildings leads to a lot of CO2 released into the environment, latest study show that enhanced building practices are
one of the fastest and best approaches to decrease considerably greenhouse gas emissions, often with net economic
gain.[7] An increasing number of corporations, institutions, and government organizations are calling for aggressive
energy performance enhancements within the building segment. In a nutshell, green building signifies some of the
ripest “low-hanging fruit” for attaining substantial reductions in climate change emissions

Feature of Green Building

Contemporary building practices usually show little regard for energy efficiency or the larger economic, environmental
or social effects of the built environment. Green building tries to break with these practices. Early attempts to make
change to the building industry in the 1960s through the 1980s usually concentrated on single problems like energy
efficiency and conservation of natural resources. Green building today incorporates many building design, construction,
and operation and maintenance practices to present healthier living and working environments and reduce
environmental effects. Fundamental to the achievements of green building has been the effective use of integrated
design principles-a whole-building-systems method, that can bring together the key stakeholders and design specialists
as the main team to operate collaboratively from the beginning planning phases To the buildings occupation.[8] Recent
green building practices are not restricted to one sort of building or market niche, geographic location or business
model. Significantly, green building can be regarded as element of extensive urban development programs aimed
toward growth of sustainable communities with focus on integrating green building with sustainable urban
infrastructure for transportation, electric and gas utilities, potable water, waste disposal and recycling, storm water and
wastewater management and sewage.[9]

The Negative Environmental Impacts of Current Building Practices

Environmental impacts of buildings happen during most life steps of a building- site selection, design, location,
reconstruction, and demolition. Building decisions created during these life steps also impact business benefit,
employee wellbeing and production, and social or “quality of life” problems.[10] Primary environmental effects that
originate from the construction and operation of buildings consist of greenhouse gases and other atmosphere emissions
associated with energy use, water use and discharge, storm water runoff, effects related to building materials, solid
waste from different levels of the building’s life, and indoor air quality. Secondary effects are usually related to
building product lifecycles, infrastructure development, and transportation systems. [6]Above individual buildings,
poor designs of building development normally result in over-crowding and ineffective use of land, causing higher
energy utilization and travel period, loss of productivity, polluted runoff to surface water and wastewater treatment
systems, loss of agricultural lands, fragmented habitats, and economic pressure to local communities. Urban water run-
off can be another essential building-related effect. Buildings and transportation infrastructure that offer them,
substitute natural surfaces with impermeable materials, typically creating runoff that wipes pollutants and sediments
into surface water. Urban runoff is the fourth-leading cause of impairment of rivers, third-leading for lakes, and second
for estuaries

Moving The Green Building Agenda Forward

In the South Africa and Egypt, lots of attempts are presently started to increase the market usage of green building.
Economics are assisting to push these changes. Research has revealed that the cost premium to give sustainable
properties to the market has dropped drastically recently, and that expert teams are providing them at costs very
competitive with conventional buildings. There is, nevertheless, a cost to corporations to achieve the skills expected to
do this. Also, research shows that the important life-cycle financial advantages of green design greater than make up for
the excess original value related to green building.[11] Regrettably, most of the time, because of policy, ownership, and
business structures, the advantages of green building does not accumulate to those doing the investment. governments
at all stages are working to handle these and other hurdles to influence the uptake of green building via the incorporated
use of building codes; zoning regulations; tax-based bonuses; and preferential treatment for green developers (for
instance fast-track permitting). Furthermore, green building techniques are also being stimulated by demand offset
programs (in which a developer minimizes energy and water demand as the condition of permitting); preferred
acquiring; tax transferring; and government-supported study, growth, and academic programs.

Sustainable Development Concept

In order to find a baseline for sustainable building practices in the developing world, a definition of what constitutes a
developing country must be established. The UN uses several different criteria to establish the definition for a least
developed country: a criterion for low income, a human capital status criterion, and an economic vulnerability
criterion.[2]As discussed previously, ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ have become buzzwords throughout the
developed world, but in many developing world locations, people merely focus on subsisting. The movement to save
energy, money, and resources is a major part of the lives of a majority of the world’s population. In the developing
world, saving these things is not done merely to leave the world a better place for future generations, but out of
necessity. Those who live in the developing world, in particular in 20 impoverished areas, must attempt to save
resources and money in order to provide for their families and to survive. [2]In recent years, ‘green’ and
‘environmentally friendly’ have become slogans throughout the developed world. There has been a movement toward
being better Stewards of the resources existing on earth. A few aspects of the drive toward living greener include: more
environmentally friendly cars and buildings, wiser consumption of resources, and recycling of waste, among many
others. Many developing countries are adopting styles and scales of development that are now recognised as
inappropriate and unsustainable. Only a few are making serious attempts to combine tradition with modernity [12]

Challenges to Sustainable Development

At the urban level, sustainable development encounters the absence of an urban growth framework in many of the
region’s towns as well as general lack of an encouraging regulating environment that may promote a market switch
towards sustainable development. This also confronts the shortage of effective regional precedents in energy and water
conservation and waste management. This problem is more regarding given growing energy consumption in buildings,
increasing water shortage, and the rise in waste generation that comes with increasing consumption.
For the individual building scale, sustainable development encounters different – but similarly tough – challenges. Key
among which is the region’s hot and dry climate. Though it may be understood that this immediate growth of many of
the region’s towns was only possible with the help of the great energy resources found beneath its sands, it is maybe a
less known fact that these cities need great energy supplies to ensure they are liveable because of the manner they were
planned and constructed. Since building styles which have formed the cities of the Africa in recent years were mainly
brought in, they were not environmentally responsive to the region’s weather conditions and depended on energy-
intensive air conditioning to stay cool sufficient for human occupation. But due to the severe nature of the climate, for
alternative building forms that are less dependent fossil fuel to emerge and substitute the present ones, severe design
measures need to be considered to lessen the energy associated with cooling in new buildings while sustaining comfort
levels inside them.

Another challenge that confronts sustainable development at the building scale is the region’s construction industry.
The overall insufficient enforceable energy efficiency specifications for buildings with the absence of financial
incentives and the main lack of adequate sustainable design awareness among building experts have all created an
industry that is unwilling to adopt sustainable construction.[13[ If the industry is to adopt the revolutionary designs and
alternative building forms detailed above, it must undergo a serious transformation on all of these fronts.
The Challenge motivates green building teams to step forward and innovate new approaches – to show the ecological
stability in the built environment is possible using existing technological innovation. To be “Living” the building(s)
must attain all of the Challenge’s environmentally crucial imperatives (no exceptions). It needs to create all of its own
energy onsite using renewable sources; capture and handle all of its own water; be constructed of non-toxic, sustainably
sourced materials; only use previously developed sites (ending sprawl); and be beautiful and inspiring to its
occupants.[10] Environmental claims reflect reality – not hype. Hence, to be “Living” a building should both inspire
and inform those who interact with it, transforming clients and guests into agents of change. This single unifying
measures catalyses detailed transformation within the built environment, while offering end-users and policy makers a
definite direction toward legitimate sustainability. The Challenge is now set to create a more substantial leap into
nations all over the world.

Opportunities and Natural Potential

With all the challenges above in mind, the African urban environments also have natural potentials for sustainable
1. The region’s growing urbanization and high population densities the natural potential for the building of the
highly-economical neighbourhood-scale energy systems;
2. The region’s history of traditional building models can also provide appropriate suggestions for designs that
are more energy efficient;
3. The region’s abundant solar and wind resources also offer a prospective for renewable energy systems to remain proficiently utilised and incorporated into the built environment.

4. Besides inherent potentials, current involvement in sustainable development by governments, non-
governmental organizations, and professional bodies across the region presents more opportunities that can be
capitalized on. As it correlates to the built environment, this interest has to date used the sort of attempts to
create sustainable development institutions and rules.

The Moroccan government, for instance, has now declared the establishment of a national charter for sustainable
development and the environment, while the governments of the South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya have commenced
introducing energy efficiency benchmarks for buildings. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and professional
organizations in Egypt south Africa, Tunisia, as well as Nigeria have set up green building councils in their respective
countries with the aim of promoting sustainable design and developing – or importing – green building rating
systems.[1] These positive trends and the prospects they present reveal that the wave is turning towards more
sustainable development in the Africa. However they should be capitalized on if they are to overcome the challenges
explained above. The nature of the problems confronted by the region demands a commitment to sustainable
development, a readiness to alter the status, and cooperation between governments, NGOs, professional bodies, and the
general public. The region has a lot to understand from the successful experiences of other developing nations that
adopted sustainable development, but it will eventually need to chart its own approach if it is to develop a sustainable
future for its people. [1]


Present market forces and government programs alone, however, will not push the mandatory changes in the building
industry. Key barriers to a market transformation in Africa contain:
1. the predominant practice by governments and institutions of separating capital and operating budgets rather
than applying life-cycle budgeting;
2. the split incentive issue, where the one who pays for the green features typically does not understand its gains;
3. a tendency to depend on business-as-usual strategies because of the thought of cost, risk, and doubt of green
4. further obstacles include the paucity of urban planning and building polices that tackle sustainability
5. Insufficient coordination and persistence in government guidelines impacting building.
6. lack of a widely-used certification system for green building practices,
7. limited consciousness and knowledge of green building;
8. Lack of data on energy and water use in buildings.
9. limited implementation of current standards,


(1) There is a general absence of government subsidies to reward for sustainable practices. Government subsidies are
appreciated in more substantial nations like the United States, Canada and Europe and immediately motivate
sustainable practices at the home owner and consumer levels. Studies have shown that developers and home owners
would be ready to invest in a more sustainable technique to their respective projects if the governments were to present
more rewards [14]for instance tax alleviation on building sustainable projects, cash rebates on energy appliances and
vehicles and introduce the concept of net metering.

(2) Interact to build up an enduring and achievable vision for green building in Africa. This mission will assist drive
targets as well as for green building and could result in the development of a standard set of principles and planning
tools for green building, with each nation having region/ context-appropriate guidelines and applications to cope with
variations in building codes, regulatory environments, climate, and economic and social circumstances. To work toward
this particular mission, these strategies help and suggested for the development of national, multi-stakeholder task
forces in each of countries, coordinated by the environment or other suitable of every nation and related globally
through a supportive system. These task forces would encourage aggressive and consolidated techniques for boosting
the accomplishment of this vision at the African level, with united and integrated involvement of representatives of all
Elements of the building industry and civil society.

(3) Established clearly defined goals with the aim of attaining the most immediate possible adoption of green building
in Africa, like setting aggressive, practical targets for energy efficient buildings. Modeling should be performed and
targets looking for other environmental variables like water use, wastewater generation, land conversion, use of
environmentally effective materials, embodied energy and waste loads, and to monitor performance for continual

(4) Create a number of approaches for boosting, accelerating and incorporating continuing or new attempts in support
of green building. These approaches needs to include efforts to enhance private segment financing and appropriate
valuation techniques, and to maximize knowledge through good research and development, capacity building, outreach,
and the use of labels and disclosures on green building performance. These attempts are particularly significant for sub-
Sahara region, looking at its immediate need for affordable housing and the need for widely known green building
rating systems and a nationally-coordinated platform that can assist and improve
Current policies and programs that benefit green building.

(4)African governments at all levels need to develop their progress currently and, as quickly as they can, embrace
comprehensive and committed guidelines requesting all government procurement in the building segment to attain
substantial levels of green building performance, with a solid persistence to frequent enhancement over time[15]. These
initiatives also need to drive for continual improvement in policies, regulations, and codes and create and enforce
powerful mechanisms to monitor implementation. For instance , tax and various financial incentives, like graduated
utility rates that motivate conservation, non-tax incentives like expedited permitting, priority plan assessment, and
density bonuses, to name a few. With time, government need to highlight the suitable use of mandates, to incentives,
with the view toward the progress of green building performance targets. It is important that all guidelines and
programs associated with green building be incorporated with extensive urban growth programs aimed toward the
Development of sustainable communities.

(5) Lastly, the suggestions demand African leaders to encourage African and international co-operation in green
building in such areas as trade in materials, performing combined or coordinated study programs, and also to enhance
the sharing of information, data, and best practices.



Similarities and differences within Africa produce an opportunity for governmental and nongovernmental institutions
and industry in the region to work to enhance the building sector. This effort can assist improve the economies of
Africa by spurring new markets and business opportunities for manufacturers, utilities, and other companies. Example
Europe has solid green building programs and segments of Asian countries and Latin America are starting to adopt
green building.[16] Green building will assist ensure African competitiveness in the international market for products,
technologies, and practices vital to Africa’s future. These include sophisticated building materials, water-reclamation
systems, best quality appliances, advanced insulation systems, energy-efficient lighting, and much more. The
construction sector is fundamental to the way we structure our future, and to the sustainability of this future. The
shipping of acceptable and cost-effective infrastructure supports the aggressive performance of virtually each element
of a country’s industrial, technological and commercial base, as well as the wellbeing of households and people. The
industry effects on virtually every part of the understanding of human
Settlements and the development of infrastructure that supports progression. The fabric of sustainability will be weaved
also from the abundant cultural and environmental diversity that provides distinctive potential for the developing
nations to demonstrate leadership on an alternative approach to the common future.


[1]Green Building in North America opportunities and challenges; Secretariat Report to council under article 13 of the
North American agreement on Environmental cooperation
[2] Jesse S. Developing World Sustainable Building Practices: A Look at Buildings in Impoverished Locales
Master’s Report University of Colorado at Boulder Civil, Environmental, Architectural Engineering Department
[3] Michael W. The Green Building Strategy the Case of Lend Lease Australia, Lend Lease Manager
[4] Raymond J, N. Larsson (1998) Green Building Challenge. Proceedings of CIB 2nd International Conference on
Buildings & the Environment, Paris, France, June 9-12th 1997, Vol. 1, pp19-29
[5] Stephen O. , Michael A. , Erica E., Sustainable Building Rating Systems Addressing Building Maintenance and
Janitorial Products, Policies and Methods Leonardo Academy Inc. White Paper June 5, 2006
[6] David G., Greg K., Building Design & Construction USGBC LEED rating System
[7] T. Bruce Lauber, Eric J. Taylor, Daniel J. Decker and Barbara A. Challenges of Professional Development:
Balancing the Demands of Employers and Professions in Federal Natural Resource Agencies, Organization
Environment 2010 23: 446
[8] Bithas, K. and M. Chistofakis (2006) Environmentally Sustainable Cities. Critical Review and Operational
Conditions. Sustainable Development. Vol 14
[9] Bossel, Halmut (1999). Indicators of Sustainable Development: Theory, Methods, and Applications. International
Institute for Sustainable Development. Canada
[10] Dasgupta S. and E. Tam (2005) Indicators and frameworks for assessing sustainable infrastructure. Canadian
Journal of Civil Engineering 32: 30-44
11] Jonathan L., Jill W., Echeverry, A., Agenda 21 Sustainable Construction in the Developing World Habitat for
[12] Engel-Yan J., C. Kennedy, S. Saiz, and K. Pressnail (2005) toward sustainable neighbourhoods: the need to
consider infrastructure interactions. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 32: 45-57
[13] Ehrenfeld, J. (2008) Sustainability Needs to be Attained, Not Managed. Sustainability: Science, Practice, and
Policy. V.4 (2)
[14] Ehrenfeld, J. (2008) Sustainability Needs to be Attained, Not Manged. Sustainability: Science, Practice, and
Policy. V.4 (2)
[15] Fleischer T. (2002) Infrastructure networks in Central Europe and EU enlargement. Polish- Hungarian Workshop
of Academies of Sciences
[16] Hart S. (1997) Beyond Greening Strategies for a Sustainable World. Harvard Business Review, January –
February 1997

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