LEADERSHIP Opportunities returns this week with Green Motif’s (a real estate consultant and development company) co-founder and architect Femi Obasa, who speaks of the opportunity to provide mass housing for the poor and middle-class citizens with sustainable architecture.
In spite of the increasing cost of food and products, building materials included, one would think the real estate development would suffer. Contrarily, wealthy Nigerians are investing heavily in real estate, yet there are no investments in mass housing, and rent prices are off-the-roof.
Resolute in his statement that there is no such thing as cheap rather affordable housing, Obasa, an architect with a decade’s experience of local and international practice, said as with 3D design in architecture, sustainable architecture will take root with time as Nigerians experience the negative impact of climate change on their environment, as with the recent flooding in Lagos, which extended beyond the island to the mainland.
With less land available in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos and other states of the country for buildings, Obasa said increasingly creative designs that are vertical and skyward are being demanded of architects and developers as opposed to horizontal (extensive land use) designs.
What is Sustainable Architecture?
The notion that housing is cheap is very untrue. There is no cheap housing anywhere. The term rather used is affordable housing. Cheap housing is not realistic. Materials are expensive. To embark on mass housing development, the least you could do is that the more subscribers one has (those ready to buy), means the more materials you buy in bulk, which translates to higher discounts, and thus profits to do that. To build individually (build and develop yourself as a developer), as is done in Abuja, is as good as building for oneself. Hence, the carcass developer type where developers, build to an extent, the owner of the house attends to the finishing, tiling, electrification, painting etc. depending on the agreement.
UN Environment Global Status Report 2017 states that buildings and construction account for more than 35 per cent of global final energy use and nearly 40 per cent of energy-related co2 emissions.
Sustainable architecture is the only way we can have affordable housing, but this is not common in Nigeria, as Nigerians are not comfortable with recycled materials, or sustainable designs in a house like bigger windows and well-ventilated bathrooms. The norm here is small windows in bathrooms, whereas that’s the part of the house that needs air the most to easily dry up to avoid soaking up water. Sustainable design/green architecture and material in Nigeria are still far-fetched.
In sustainable architecture, built materials are recycled, and so can support cheap housing. Green architecture design, powers itself, powers the house, draws more sunlight, the house is tilted in a manner that wind powers some parts of the house. Sustainable architecture it may not as far-fetched as in the past but the country isn’t ready for it yet. Mass housing is possible but it won’t be cheap, it will only be affordable until the country buys into sustainable architecture.
Sustainable architecture or green architecture is architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of building through efficient and moderate use of materials, energy, development space and the ecosystem at large. It recognizes the existing natural resources and environmental conditions in the construction site and how to incorporate these into the build.
What are the inherent opportunities in sustainable architecture?
While a sustainable structure might save you more money in the long-term, there is still a common belief that sustainable materials and methods are way more expensive than traditional resources. While monetary cost is one of the major obstacles to sustainable architecture, it is not necessarily true. Incorporating sustainability early on in the design process of the building is key to making it affordable.
This is my take – sustainable architecture will stick with time. A couple years ago, it happened that architects who are unable to do 3D designs were considered problematic in the industry. That’s because people preferred seeing their house designs in 3D which they understand better than the technical drawings of architects. That’s when 3D became common, because every architect fought to acquire the skill and remain relevant. The same goes for any architect who doesn’t consider sustainable architecture by either way of design or building materials. Lagos is beginning to put that into consideration.
Developers are beginning to dredge, sand-fill, rebuild to push the ocean back to its natural boundary. Some weeks ago, Lagos was flooded. And that’s just the beginning. Usually when flooding occurs in Lagos, it is restricted to certain parts of Lagos close to the waters. This time it got to every part of Lagos Island, even Ikoyi, because climate change is taking effect, the weather is getting hotter, such that when it rains it is heavier than before. Same will happen in Abuja, especially in the area of dryness. Most developers are clearing land and building closer to the roads.
Concrete absorbs heat during the day, to release it at night. There is glare during the day, the moment the sun hits the concrete. There is glare on windows, windscreen, on pedestrian route, we have to devise solutions to address the glare as it contributes to the heat, global warming. Landscaping should take up almost have of the built environment.
It is not just about planting one or three flowers and trees. In Dubai, landscape take up 60 to 65 per cent of the design, otherwise it will not be approved. We should learn to design with the vegetation in mind to avoid climate issues. There is also the aesthetic aspect of landscaping to the environment, and its cooling factor. People visit millennium park not for anything but the relaxing and aesthetic qualities of the park.
How can Nigerians take advantage of opportunities in sustainable architecture?
Nigerians can take advantage of opportunities in sustainable architecture, professionally, as architects by gaining certification in sustainable architecture. There are so many sustainable building practices one can gain expertise on sustainable interior design, landscape design, permaculture design, biophilia design etc.
One can also gain work as certified sustainability consultant in the built environment, working with a design team that understands the complexities, demands and challenges of constructing a sustainable building will be able to better offer proven solutions that can deliver both the required environmental benefits and cost-efficiency.