Green Buildings to complement Sustainable Urbanization of Rwanda

According to UN Environment, buildings accounted for 30% of global final energy consumption and 28% of global CO2 emissions in 2015. According to UN-Habitat in Africa, energy used in buildings is an estimated 56% of the total national electricity consumption. Over 70% of this energy is consumed in cities. In some cases, more than 50% of the national energy is used in the capital city alone. It is also interesting to note that 75% of the building stock in developing countries in Africa and Asia will be built between 2010 and 2060.

Putting this in the context of Rwanda, the Third National Communication Report on Climate Change estimates that the CO2 emissions from buildings will increase by 574% by 2050 from 2012 baseline levels in the business as usual scenario. This exponential growth can be attributed to population growth, economic development and rapid urbanization. Rapid economic development and urbanization provides us with an opportunity to steer the growth on a green path by pursuing environmentally compatible development, poverty reduction, job creation and social inclusion. This paradigm shift in the model development is defined as ‘green growth’ as reflected in Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy, 2011 and National Roadmap for Green Secondary City Development, 2015. Missing this opportunity locks in the problem for future generations, as most buildings will be standing for generations to come. But delivering on the green growth commitment will provide benefits for citizens to enjoy long into the future.

Realizing the importance of this opportunity, the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) – the National agency under Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) to develop, implement and regulate policies related to housing and urbanization sectors in collaboration with the Building Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore – a National agency championing the development of an excellent built environment for Singapore, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) – an intergovernmental organization and a key development partner in Rwanda dedicated to developing and diffusing green growth as a new development paradigm, the Rwanda Green Building Organization (RwGBO) – a National NGO established to raise awareness and build capacities on green buildings and a member of World Green Building Council, and other stakeholders developed the Green Building Minimum Compliance System – a point based system of green building compliance to help building owners and developers choose green building indicators based on the applicability to the building type, building location, its usage and the benefits associated. The green building indicators are designed in such a way that they are intended to have the least associated incremental cost to achieve green building minimum compliance but with maximum benefits to owners, occupants and the environment. The green building minimum compliance system complements existing Government of Rwanda commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

“Green building promotes energy and water efficiency, reduces the need for air-conditioning by taking full advantage of Rwanda’s cool, upland climate combined with appropriate building orientation, maximize day lighting and natural ventilation, using water-saving fixtures in washrooms, maximizes use of sustainable and locally manufactured buildings materials, provides superior Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) to building occupants, protects environment and promotes biodiversity” says Mr. Harouna Nshimiyimana, Division Manager for Building Regulations, Inspection and Audits (BRIA), RHA.  To start with, Green Building Minimum Compliance would be applicable for new, large-scale commercial buildings, public buildings, assembly buildings, health facilities and educational buildings.

He further adds ‘National and International actors namely Skat Rwanda, EarthEnable, Africa Design Centre, Eco-Shelter and Green Pact have also been collaborating with RHA to come up with sustainable and affordable green building materials and RHA calls upon like-minded organizations to come onboard and complement the work being done’.

World Green Building Week (24-30 September 2018) – an annual event that motivates and empowers all to deliver greener buildings, Mr. Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya, GGGI Rwanda Acting Country Representative expounded that “GGGI Rwanda would like to strengthen partnership with RHA on this important aspect of green buildings as they relate to the implementation of the programs of actions of the Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy as well as the guidelines and actions recommended in the National Roadmap for Green Secondary Cities Development.”

Going forward, RHA with support from GGGI and other partners will be conducting awareness campaigns, training programs for architects, engineers, building inspectors, developers, contractors and other stakeholders to ensure that the Green Building Minimum Compliance System is successfully disseminated and implemented.

Globally, green buildings are helping to reduce building operating costs through energy and water savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment, enhancing occupant comfort and productivity. Cities, across the world are increasingly adopting strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector and by treading this path, Rwanda is doing its part to fight climate change.