The sustainable building model in Rwanda is coming of age especially with the new move by the government to introduce green building certification and guidelines by 2018.
Sunday Times has established that the green building certificate will serve as an implementation instrument of the green construction regulations component of the recently adopted Building Code.
According to Yves Sangwa, the executive secretary of Rwanda Green Building Organisation (RwGBO), once green building certificates start getting issued to property developers, it will make Rwanda one (if not the first) country in Africa to have minimum compliance requirements for ‘green building’.
“Urbanisation in Rwanda is growing at faster rate hence making very important for Rwanda to put in place all measures possible for sustainable development of which green building key pillar,” Sangwa said.
He revealed that RwGBO is a member of the World Green Building Council, whose main mandate includes advocacy, education and certification of green building, adding that the body is lucky to have full government support regarding green urbanisation.
Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to using of processes that are environmentally friendly and resource-efficient throughout the building’s lifecycle. In other words, the green building design involves finding the balance between homebuilding and a sustainable environment.
Sunday Times has had an access to a document dated February, 2016, shared between The Ministry of Natural resource (MINIRENA), Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) and the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) indicating how the government is swiftly setting up all possible mechanisms to ensure sustainable building in Rwanda.
The document recommends that, “RHA in collaboration with MINIRENA develops a framework and competency for green building certification as an implementation instrument of the green construction regulations component of the Building Cod.”
The document goes on to explain that, “Green building certification based on rating systems for energy efficiency and environmental performance of buildings has become a global best practice for mitigating and adapting to effects of climate change. Rating systems developed and operated by duly accredited independent organisations or by state institutions assess and provide ratings for certification of green buildings.”
In Rwanda, green building practices are being spearheaded by Global Green Growth Institute- Rwanda (GGGI) and RwGBO, alongside the other above-mentioned line public bodies.
Innocent Kabenga, the country director of GGGI confirmed that the instrument for the green construction regulations is being developed by green building experts from the Singapore Building and Construction Authority and RHA, and it should be ready for implementation come 2018.
“Green building certification is extremely important. You cannot have green cities without green building. This reduces on energy and water used on building, hence becoming more resource-efficient and reducing carbon emissions,” Kabenga said.
This collaboration between Rwanda and Singapore might also lead to the exportation of expertise and technologies that promote green buildings and sustainable urban development under inter-governmental frameworks
According to Sangwa, the move to have this green building instrument in place is also being pushed for by Rwandan architectural, engineering and property development professionals.
Recently, local architects had decried “weak” policies regarding green building in Rwanda, saying that this has hindered their efforts to make urban areas around the country resource-efficient.
In a recent interview with Sunday Times, Joe Oginga, an architect at Studio Landmark based in Kigali, said strong policies and hands-on practices would lead to the implementation of the green building agenda.
“Sometime architects want to build sustainably, but our clients have something else in their mind (and definitely our clients are “always right”). But after all, some clients are not the end users of what we design or build. We always want to make building comfortable for the users, but clients want something different. Strong policies will heal the loopholes in green building in Rwanda,” Oginga said. If the new development is anything to go by, architects must be upbeat towards the introduction of the green building instrument, especially with the country’s urbanisation challenges related to poor infrastructure, lack of access to electricity and limited generation capacity.
These pose serious challenges to the country’s urban population, which is growing at a rate of 4.5 per cent – more than double the worldwide average.
Rwanda’s Vision 2020 targets the urbanisation rate to increase from 17 per cent of the population in 2012 to 35 per cent by 2020. By then, the urban population will increase from the current 1.7 million to 4.4 million, which is an increase of about 2.7 million people living in urban areas. This, therefore, requires adequate infrastructure, attracting jobs but most importantly housing to accommodate this influx.
A 2012 Housing Market Study in the City of Kigali showed that 340,000 new housing units are needed by 2022.
Environmental experts says such a high rate of urbanisation can only be environmentally hazardous if new measures are not put in place to make the development “environmental friendly”.
“Green building guidelines under development will make a big change in the construction industry towards sustainability in building,” Sangwa added.
According to the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2013/18 (EDPRS II), in the area of green urbanisation, the government aims to enhance the quality of life for Rwandans through sustained growth of 11.5 per cent, and to drive urban green growth and development in other Rwandan cities.