Green Architecture: Views from a Kenyan Architect

Green Architecture is an emerging field that is one of the most important on building parameters that a Kenyan Architect must be aware of. The field of sustainable development requires practitioners and developers alike to respond to the challenges of construction in an environmentally sensitive manner. It calls for all stakeholders to take keen stewardship of our environment in the manner with which we carry out building in Kenya.

There is much ado the world over about construction of facilities that are green and sustainable. In the world we live in today, there is a great need for the construction industry as a whole to be relevant to the issues that we are facing as regards our environment, so all the emphasis are justified.

Building construction and operation have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Facilities consume resources such as energy, water and raw materials. They also generate waste during occupancy, construction or demolition and often emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Building owners, designers and builders face a unique challenge to meet demands for newly built and reconditioned facilities that are accessible, secure, health conscious, and user friendly while mitigating on negative effects on the surroundings.

Considering current economic challenges, retrofitting an existing facility can be more cost effective than building a new facility. Designing major retrofits for existing buildings to include sustainability initiatives reduces operational costs and environmental impacts, and can increase building flexibility.

Recent solutions to this challenge call for an integrated, synergistic approach that considers all stages of the facility life cycle. This approach to building design is called Green design. The Kenyan Architect needs to be aware of these developments in the construction industry.

Sustainable design supports an increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation. In so doing, this building approach results in an optimal balance of economical, physical surroundings and cultural benefits while meeting the mission and function of the infrastructural services.

The main objectives of sustainable design are stipulated as follows:

· to avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials;

· prevent harming the environment caused by facilities and infrastructure in the course of their life span;

· create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and positively usable.

Good sustainable developments make use of the best commercially-available materials and technologies to minimize consumption of energy resources and maximize use of non-exhaustive and non-toxic materials. In order for the Kenyan Architect to remain relevant in today’s world of design, she must muster the science of how to create designed buildings that are sustainable. This shall ensure that he can offer clients better value for money.

Some of the most significant principles of sustainable design are listed below.

· Design and Planning of the Site

Creating sustainable buildings starts with careful choice of building sites. This also includes taking into consideration the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings.

The location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect its local ecologies, transportation methods, and energy use.

Incorporate Smart growth principles in the project development process, whether it be a single building, or a campus design. Siting for physical security is a critical issue in optimizing site design, including accounting for locations of access roads, parking, vehicle barriers, and perimeter lighting.

Whether designing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, site design must integrate with sustainable design to achieve a successful project.

· Optimize Energy Efficacy

The world has relied on fossil fuels for a long time, and this is now rapidly decreasing. National security is at risk due to its dependence on energy sources beyond its control. Climate change is also causing major concerns globablly. In light of this, there is dire need to enhance energy efficiency, decrease the demand for energy, and make use of natural and renewable energy sources to complement current sources of energy.

· Preservation of Water Resources

In many parts of the country, fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource. A green development should harvest site water. In addition it should reduce waste. In addition it should treat site runoff, use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use {for non-potable uses|such as landscaping, when feasible.

· Apply Environmentally Friendly Building Materials

Construction of sustainable developments is achieved by usingmaterials that mitigate against harmful life-cycle environmental impacts such as global warming, resource diminution, and human harm. Environmentally friendly materials have less adverse effects on human health and surroundings and contribute to improved worker security and health, reduced legal claims, reduced waste management costs, and care of the environment.

· Enhancing Internal Living Environment

The internal environment (frequently called IEQ) of a building has a major effect on human occupant health, sensory comfort levels, and spatial functionality.

Key among all physical parameters, a sustainable building must exhibit the following inbuilt characteristics.

It maximizes on use of natural light during the day.;

It should have good natural ventilation and humidity control; Preferable to achieve optimum internal ambience through natural means to reduce on energy requirements.

Buildings should not be constructed using materials with high toxicity levels

· Enhance Good Building Maintenance and Operations

Accounting for a building’s operation during its lifespan at preliminary design level will assist to achieve good working environments, enhanced production, reduced energy and resource costs, and reduced system downtimes. .

Designers should incorporate operations and maintenance people during design and construction to ensure flawless operations after completion of the project. Consultants can design features that are more durable and easy to maintain; demand less water and energy resources, less toxic chemicals and cleaners to maintain; and are economical over their entire life cycle Additionally, buildings should be fitted to include building management systems which manage sustainability initiatives, including reductions in water and energy and waste management, in the facility and on site.

· Building resilience

A building’s resilience is its capacity to handle extreme conditions such as natural disasters and extreme forces directly impacting it. These challenging circumstances may include extreme temperatures, tsunamis and adverse tides, natural catastrophies.

As buildings are affected by the imminent impacts of global climatic variations, developers, consultants, and contractors can develop facilities to optimize building resilience.

· Adaptability

Building adaptability is the capacity of a building to be able to adopt for a multiplicity of uses over its lifespan. {A good illustration is creating a building with demountable partitions that allow its spaces to be modified freely without much difficulty|For example, constructing a building with movable walls allow for multiple space configurations.

In addition, using sustainable design allows for a building to be modified to changing environments and conditions.

The Kenyan Architect should take into account these parameters during design and implementation of any development for it to become a successful sustainable project.