Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the building processes that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient throughout a building’s life cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, rehabilitation, and demolition. This requires close cooperation of the contractors, the architects, the engineers, the client and the end-users at all project stages. The Green Building practice expands and complements the conventional building design concerns of economy, utility, safety, durability, and comfort. It is the application of modern building technology and building process to save cost, improve building services, improve quality and ensure user-friendly buildings.
Green building also refers to saving resources to the maximum extent, including energy saving, land saving, water saving, material saving, among others, during the whole life cycle of the building, protecting the environment and reducing pollution, providing people with healthy, comfortable and efficient use of space, considering people’s way of life and being in harmony with nature. Green building technology focuses on low energy consumption, high building efficiency, economy, environmental protection, integration and optimisation. There are rating organisations on green buildings like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings which was developed by the US Green Building Council.
Other rating systems that authenticate the sustainability of buildings are the British Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for buildings and large-scale housing developments or the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen e.V (DGNB) System which benchmarks the sustainability performance of buildings, indoor environments and districts. Currently, the World Green Building Council (WGBC) is conducting research on the effects of green buildings on the health and productivity of their users and is collaborating with the World Bank to promote Green Buildings in Emerging Markets through EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies). Other ratings are Green Star in Australia, Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) in the Middle East and the Green Building Index (GBI) predominantly used in Malaysia. There are signs that the African construction industry is beginning to adopt greener designs of building as a business strategy.
According to Climate Group (2023), 40 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from buildings and, if left unchecked, they are set to double by 2050. Although new technologies are constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener structures, the common objective of green buildings is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by: efficiently using energy, water, and other resources; protecting occupants’ health and improving employee productivity; reducing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation. Although some green building programmes do not address the issue of retrofitting existing homes, others like the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) 2007 triple-glazed window retrofit do, especially through public schemes for energy efficient refurbishment. Green design practices can easily be applied to retrofit work as well as new construction.
A 2009 report by the U.S. General Services Administration found 12 sustainably-designed buildings that cost less to operate and with excellent energy performance. Overall, occupants were overall more satisfied with the building than those in typical traditional buildings. These are eco-friendly buildings. Buildings represent a large part of energy, water and materials consumption. It is now part of the design for public buildings to have natural lighting and plants around it. The human community alone contributes 33 percent of overall global emissions. If including the impacts of manufacturing of building materials, the global CO2 emissions were almost 40 percent. It is warned that if new technologies in construction, especially clean energies, are not adopted during this time of rapid growth, emissions could double by 2050, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
It is an open secret that glass buildings, especially all-glass skyscrapers, contribute significantly to climate change due to their energy inefficiency. While these structures are aesthetically appealing and allow abundant natural light, they also trap heat, necessitating increased use of air conditioning systems, which contribute to higher carbon emissions. Experts advocate for design modifications and potential restrictions on all-glass edifices to mitigate their detrimental environmental impact. Buildings account for a large amount of land consumption. According to the National Resources Inventory, approximately 107 million acres (430,000 km2) of land in the United States are developed. Bioclimatic design principles are able to reduce energy expenditure and by extension, carbon emissions. Bioclimatic design is a method of building design that takes local climate into account to create comfortable conditions within the structure.
This could be as simple as constructing a different shape for the building envelope or facing the building towards the south to maximise solar exposure for energy or lighting purposes. There are a number of motives for building green, including environmental, economic, and social benefits. However, modern sustainability initiatives call for an integrated and synergistic design to both new construction and in the retrofitting of existing structures. Also known as sustainable design, this approach integrates the building life-cycle with each green practice employed with a design-purpose to create a synergy among the green building practices.
Green building brings together a vast array of practices, techniques, and skills to reduce and ultimately eliminate the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health. It is not just being practised as a vogue. While the practices or technologies employed in green building are constantly evolving and may differ from region to region, fundamental principles persist from which the method is derived: siting and structure design efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, materials efficiency, indoor environmental quality enhancement, operations and maintenance optimization and waste and toxics reduction. The essence of green building is an optimisation of one or more of these principles. Also, with the proper synergistic design, individual green building technologies may work together to produce a greater cumulative effect.
About a decade ago, property development companies in Nigeria used “smart buildings” as their catch phrase. Today, “green building” is the norm. Sujimoto, the luxury home developers in Nigeria and the promoters of ‘The Lucrexia’ in Banana Island, Lagos, is “providing a full home automation system to help clients enjoy the sophisticated realisation of their most refined expectations and pamper their luxurious cravings.” It claimed that “home automation allows you to manage a smart security system, energy-efficient lighting, as well as the temperature and air-conditioning with just a press of a button, amongst several other unrivalled smart home automation systems put in place”. Alaro City is an integrated, mixed-use city planned on over 2,000 hectares in the Lekki Free Zone. It prides itself for having “urban green areas, parks and open spaces.” Luxury homes buying now have strong affinity with green designs, even in Africa!
Baay Projects recently announced the launch of its Green City estate and Greenetro claimed it is West Africa’s leading eco-friendly real estate developer. Due to the great awareness of climate change and global warming caused by man’s activities in his built environment, greener designs of buildings are now seen as business strategies and it makes sense to go green.