Green buildings, which are geared towards efficiency and sustainability throughout their life cycle, have failed to win the attention of local developers – most of whom argue that buyers are unwilling to pay the true cost of green homes.
“Green building is yet to be profitable (in Kenya) since the cost of putting up an eco-friendly structure is exorbitant,” says Samuel Onyango, a local contractor, who adds that the government has failed to offer incentives for developers who are willing to go green.
The reluctance to go green by Kenyan developers has started to worry the United Nations. As a result the United Nations Environmental Program (Unep) in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) has launched an initiative to promote green construction, which has been named Promoting Energy Efficiency in Building in East Africa.
Through the programme, engineers, architects and other professionals in the industry are being trained on different aspects of green buildings including the ability of structures to tap solar energy, use natural flow of air, use natural light, and harvest rain water.
“We realised that although some players in the construction industry really wished to go green, they were groping in the dark – not sure of what steps to take,” said Vincent Kizito, the head of UN-Habitat’s Urban Energy Unit.
“So far, we have managed to partner with several industry players and educated them on the practices to follow in green building.”
UN-Habitat has signed a pact with the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), which offers technological measures and guidelines that players in the industry will take up to foster greater environmental responsibility.
In a bid to address the issue of high cost of constructing green buildings, United Nations is negotiating with State officials for the government to offer tax subsidies and incentives to importers of materials used in the construction of green buildings.
Furthermore UN-Habitat is currently in talks with several banks over its proposal to have them provide green mortgages and construction loans at lower interest rates than current market rates for investors who wish to put up eco-friendly buildings.
Besides the UN, the Kenya Green Building Society – the country’s chapter of the World Green Building Council, has also been in the forefront in pushing for Kenya’s green building agenda.
The organisation comprises contractors, architects and independent consultants who offer guidelines on the green agenda to member associates in addition to holding regular training workshops and has so far trained over 700 green building consultants.