- Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS) would like to see all housing developments and the neighbourhoods built to green building standards so as to achieve sustainability.
- Locally, the widespread belief that green building is expensive has seen many developers steer clear of it in favour of conventional styles.
- Mr Kevin Oduor, principal architect and CEO of Do Design Consultants (DDC Architects) said that the notion that green building is expensive is a fallacy.
During last year’s Jamhuri Day celebrations, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the “Big Four” pillars of his second and last term in office, among them affordable housing, consequently setting the stage for what is to become the country’s largest mass housing project since independence.
While the debate on affordable housing especially among property insiders has been mainly focused on the price of the houses, it seems lost on many that there are a lot of underlying issues to consider when it comes to housing.
And now experts in the housing sector are urging that the debate be escalated beyond affordability at the point of purchase to look at other aspects that are critical when it comes to housing.
Some of these issues include sustainability, functionality, safety and health issues, environmental factors, social and cultural issues, people's preference, among others. It is easy to assume that the government and its development partners has got all this figured out. But that will just be that: an assumption.
On their part, Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS), the Kenya chapter of the World Green Building Council, told DN2 they would like to see all housing developments and the neighbourhoods built to green building standards so as to achieve sustainability.
“What we would like the government to take seriously is the integration of green building principles into these affordable housing schemes. Why? We are talking about houses that have a life cycle so affordability doesn’t stop at the point of buying a house but instead expands to the occupancy life of a house,” Mr John Kilungi, the vice chairperson and head of advocacy committee at Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS), told DN2.
Adopting green building principles comes with two major benefits. First, green building encourages proper use of resources, bringing about resource efficiency.
On the other hand, such techniques have the capacity to generate resources for a neighbourhood when say, the waste generated there is segregated, recycled and the material sold. Such monies can be used to run the estate enabling occupants to bring down the service charge.
“These are some of the things that our current models of housing does not integrate and those are lost opportunities. This shouldn’t happen with future developments,” says Mr Kilungi.
Speaking on behalf of Interior Designers Association of Kenya (IDAK), Mr George Karani, an interior designer who doubles up as the IDAK president, said for interior designers, the biggest concern would be the general planning of the houses. He added that amenities and the floor space are also major issues.
“The developers are likely to reduce space so as to cut cost. However, in the long run if the spaces are too tiny, there is a risk that people will shun these houses as they become less practical,” says Mr Karani.
Some of the aspects IDAK holds close to heart and would want incorporated into the affordable housing include functionality. Mr Karani says is critical to examine whether a house can perform the functions required of a residential house.
The other two are the occupant’s safety and health requirements. He adds that in the long run, a house should improve the quality of life for the occupant.
“What is the function of a residential house?” he poses. “Do we have all the amenities needed to support it? And if yes, have they considered the safety and health aspects of the occupants?”
According to him, interior design is wide and is not limited to just making a space look beautiful. He says the problem with the way things are done in the country is that interior designers are contracted after the architect has made the drawings instead of the opposite.
“It is wrong to expect buyers to just fit into the space you allocate them, without paying attention to all the installations before allocating space,” says Mr Karani, adding that the biggest misconception on who should come first at the design stage of a space allocation continues to exit. Many still don’t know who, between the architect and interior designer should come first.
He regrets that interior designers were not consulted directly by the government during the design phases of the affordable housing project.
Mr Karani told DN2 that KGBS reached out to the organisation for advice but IDAK members who had been looped in pulled out after it became clear that they were being consulted as decorators and not interior designers. Karani clarifies that these are two different fields.
When asked whether KGBS has had a chance to look at the models being proposed for affordable housing, Mr Kalungi says, “I know there are two models, one of which KGBS took part in developing and is actually modelled to green building standards. The thing is we do not know which one will be adopted. We believe though, that we will be consulted before a final decision is finally arrived at.”
Green building is not a popular housing concept in the country and in most cases what people consider to be green buildings — towering structures with lots of glass — are not green buildings at all.