Affordability vs sustainability; the dilemma of green growth

Green growth experts have said the new Bank Populaire building is likely to be among the few certified green buildings in Kigali once the greening audit is completed. Emmanuel Kwizera.

Paulin Ruzibiza, a Civil Engineer and Managing Director at the Kigali Private and Consulting Company which carries out feasibility studies and project designs among other things — has been involved in major project designs for some roads around the city of Kigali.

One particular project he worked on was the demarcation of Sonatube-Bugesera Airport highway in 2012. And as per the city masterplan, roads are required to have a certain width to allow pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes.

“The government of Rwanda planned to allocate road reserve and prevent people from occupying those buffers so that in future when they want to develop and incorporate other components they will have designated area,” Ruzibiza said.

Sonatube-Bugesera road took 48 meter wide including buffer zone. Later on, Ruzibiza said, people started building private and commercial houses in the buffer zone.

Surprisingly, he says, the new Kicukiro market, the district offices are some of the structures that were later built in the area which was reserved as a road buffer after the feasibility study had been conducted.

“Right now, the government has been forced to expropriate people and it will cost $3 billion, including the expropriation of buildings which were built in the buffer zone after the feasibility study had been conducted. That is one of the issues we have to address if sustainable growth is to take course,” Ruzibiza told Sunday Times.

“Policies and plans are already in place but enforcement is still a challenge. That’s where the government must put more efforts,” he added.

Normally the minimum dimension of the city road should not be less than seven metres wide though some roads around the city of Kigali measures nine meters.

But in some areas, Ruzibiza says, you won’t get such dimensions free of charge which will require expropriation costs to create space for green mobility (pedestrians and bicycles).

“If the expropriation budget is not available, the developers will be forced to narrow the road to accommodate such important green components. At the end of the day, two cars will find it difficult to fit in that particular road and it will result into accidents. This compromises the sustainability of such particular roads,” he added.

Ruzibiza has also been involved in several private projects where he has presented a design project to property developer only to be asked to slash the cost to accommodate the client’s budget.

“So many cases the developers have asked civil engineers to cut down the cost of the design; forcing you the engineer to leave out some components of the project in order to respond to the client’s budget.

“Such components might seem small but they are very key and sensitive as far as sustainability is concerned. Some property owners are forced to incur such costs in future and even pay more than they should have done in the initial stages of the project. This is a long-standing dilemma which needs to be addressed by the policy implementers,” Ruzibiza explained.

During the just concluded inaugural Africa Green Growth Forum, held in Kigali, several environmental experts and activists urged property developers and contactors to be cautious and earnest towards green development is to take priority.  

“Some contractors are forced to lower their bidding fee to win construction tenders as a result they develop substandard and environmental facilities,” Farizan d’ Avezac de Moran, a Singaporean Green growth consultant based in Kigali said.

Daniel OkeyOgbonnaya, the Global Green Growth Institute of Rwanda Country Representative told Sunday Times that putting people at the center of infrastructure development makes green growth cheaper as compared to reactive response to resultant effects of poor planning.

The City of Kigali master plan requires roads to have a certain width to allow pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes that encourage green transport around the city. Emmanuel Kwizera.

“We tend to go for reactive responses rather than proactive efforts to green growth,” Ogbonnaya says, adding, “Infrastructure affects us in a positive and negative way and we are here to turn the tides of putting people at the center of its preparation.”

While speaking during the Infrastructure Sustainability round table, Edward Kyazze, Manager of Urbanization and Human Settlements Division at the Ministry of Infrastructure, said, East Africa is still the least urbanized, yet, it is among the fastest urbanizing sub-regions with 4.17 per cent percent urban growth yearly.

He emphasized that Rwanda is at the forefront of this list in the region, with an annual urban growth rate of 4.5 per cent.

“Considering the above challenges, Rwanda sees the opportunities by putting a greater emphasis on building a green and climate resilient society.

In a subsequent interview, Kyazze said: “The government is ready to invest that extra initial cost in sustainable and green infrastructure because we know that if we don’t do that the resultant cost will be even bigger”.

How Rwandans can ensure green growth

The Vision 2050 for Rwanda is to be a developed, climate-resilient, low-carbon economy by the year 2050.

However, Rwanda’s draft Third National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ) September 2018 report indicates that under business as usual scenario the greenhouse gas emissions from buildings will rise from 912.5GG CO2 equivalent in 2012 to 6145.4 GG CO2 equivalent by 2050. That’s a seven fold increase.

The report attributes the increase to rapid urbanization leading to construction of new buildings, increasing incomes leading to change in lifestyles among others, according to the draft paper Sunday Times accessed.

According to the draft report, most of these emissions would arise from energy consumption for cooking, water heating, air-conditioning, lighting and operating electrical appliances.

Under the proposed mitigation scenario, using green building principles the emissions can be reduced from 6145.4 GG CO2 equivalents to 3463.04 GG CO2 equivalents by 2050.

“The government should be deliberate on developing and implementing Rwanda Green Building Minimum Compliance guidelines for new large-scale public buildings,” DheerajArrabothum, Green Growth Planning and Implementation Expert at GGGI Rwanda told Sunday Times.

The guidelines, according to Dheeraj, include green building indicators tailored for Rwanda, such as appropriate building orientation (to reduce heat ingress and maximize day lighting), natural ventilation, lighting efficiency, energy efficient lifts and escalators, use of solar hot water systems, use of energy efficient air-conditioning system and refrigerants with low global warming potential (in case air-conditioning is unavoidable to provide comfortable working conditions).

He also added that simple practices like, rainwater harvesting and efficient plumbing fixtures to reduce water consumption, sustainable concrete usage to avoid excessive usage of concrete, use of ecofriendly paints in the interior to provide a healthy environment to the occupants, could benefit building owners and property developers through low operating costs of the building, provide conducive spaces for the occupants and protect environment.

“It is a myth that applying green building principles always leads to an increase in capital cost,” Dheeraj added.

For example, he expounded, proper protection of the western facade of the building will reduce the heat ingress into building thereby reducing demand for artificial cooling systems; promotion of Natural Ventilation and daylighting in buildings will reduce energy consumption during daylight hours.

“Being a sun-rich country Rwanda should maximise natural lighting during daylight hours; Use of energy efficient lighting systems such as LEDs will reduce energy consumption and will payback for the incremental cost; use of solar hot water systems will also reduce energy bills,” Dheeraj said.

He further stated that, capturing rainwater and reusing it for secondary applications such as landscape irrigation, flushing toilets will reduce the demand for fresh water consumption thereby saving precious resource and also saving on the water utility bills and that use of water efficient plumbing fixtures in buildings will reduce water consumption which would in turn save money.