Zim speeds up green buildings adoption Dr Mike Juru

Africa Moyo-Deputy News Editor

Three Government ministries are working with the private sector to ensure Zimbabwe adopts green buildings with the aim of tackling the effects of climate change.

The three ministries are that of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, National Housing and Social Amenities and that of Local Government and Public Works, with technical assistance being provided by the Green Buildings Council of Zimbabwe (GBCZ), a non-profit organisation led by Dr Mike Juru.

The World Green Building Council defines green buildings as buildings which, in their design, construction or operation, reduce or eliminate negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on the climate and natural environment. 

Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve the quality of life. There is a number of features that can make a building ‘green’, including the efficient use of energy, water and other resources, use of renewable energy such as solar, use of pollution and waste reduction measures, and the enabling of re-use and recycling.

Dr Juru said it was important to expedite the green buildings programme, which Government supports through various ways, principally the assigning three ministers to attend to it. During the recent 2022 Zimbabwe Architectural Conference held in Harare, Dr Juru told delegates that a joint application for support had been made to the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), a United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) technical assistance program created to assist developing countries to achieve the Paris Agreement.

Other stakeholders to be involved in the implementation of the requested assistance are the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Standards Association of Zimbabwe, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, City of Harare, Institute of Engineers and Institute of Architects, amongst others to be identified. 

Said Dr Juru: “It is my pleasure to announce to you all that our application was accepted and the plan is being refined. Upon its approval, we expect it to run for 12 months where workshops and pilot projects will be undertaken.” 

He was presenting on ‘The development of Green Building Standards for Zimbabwe’.

The need for green buildings has become more important now, given the various climate-induced challenges affecting Zimbabwe.

The Global Climate Risk Index for 2021 says Zimbabwe was among the world’s 10 most affected countries by climate change in 2019. 

In the last three years, there has been increased variability in the seasonal distribution of rainfall, an increase in day-time and night-time average temperatures, increased incidences of intense rainfall interspaced by long dry spells, and late onset and early rains. 

Zimbabwe has also seen an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, flash floods and tropical cyclones. 

Dr Juru said the built environment is the backbone of a nation’s economy, connecting people, enhancing lifestyle, safety and health. 

“It is a critical sector as people spend a lot of time inside buildings, that is at home, work and even for leisure. Due to a lack of mandatory building standards, the increase in urban sprawl has seen the development of infrastructure which is not environmentally responsible and sustainable across the nation. 

“Tropical storms and cyclones, as well as floods for instance, have had devastating effects on the built environment, leaving families homeless, bridges broken and no access to basic services due to damage to infrastructure.

“According to the United Nations (UN) Environmental Programme, real estate contributes up to 30 percent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and traditional buildings cumulatively consume around 40 percent of the world’s energy,” he said. 

Zimbabwe’s Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) indicated that electricity and heat generation for the built environment contributed 47 percent of energy sector greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. 

Mitigation measures highlighted for the energy sector include the introduction of energy efficient programmes, adoption of solar Photo Voltaic micro-grids and development of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS). Zimbabwe, just like most parts of Africa, has challenges with fully implementing sustainable building practices, adopting environmentally friendly technologies and putting appropriate measures in place to respond to climate change requirements, mainly due to a lack of institutional capacity and financial resources.  Dr Juru said the concern of environment and sustainable development within the built environment had increased recently in Zimbabwe. 

“Therefore, the country established different institutions that concern sustainable issues that include environmental, social, and economical besides non-governmental organisations.

“There is now, to a greater extent, a desire to develop policies, tools and regulations as an approach ensuring sustainable development within the built environment through waste reduction and efficient provision of infrastructure. 

“Zimbabwe, in its efforts to fight the impacts of climate change developed a National Climate Policy and National Climate Change Response Strategy amongst other key documents. Despite Zimbabwe’s efforts however, green building initiatives for the general population have largely remained voluntary,” he said. Depending on the size and type of structure being built, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) may be required in terms of the law.

This calls for an urgent need to look at domestic systems and modify them through establishing new building systems and practices based on green thinking and applications. 

Consequently, Zimbabwe needs to develop sustainable practices, there is need to improve the environmental and economic performance of new and existing commercial, institutional, and residential buildings. 

Experts say, in order to make green building practices easier to implement, the ultimate goal is to develop technical services and resources for determining the greenness of buildings based on an appropriate green building compliance system.

To address the problem, the Government, through the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, have been in the forefront in developing policy instruments to tackle climate change. The Environment ministry has developed the National Climate Policy and the National Climate Change Response Strategy, while the Energy ministry has developed the National Renewable Energy Policy, Energy Efficiency Policy, Net-Metering Regulations and Solar Water Heating Regulations.

To complement the Government’s efforts, the GBCZ was established to collaborate for a sustainable built environment. 

The GBCZ works with Government, the private sector and specific civic society organisations focusing on advocacy, education and training and the facilitation of building rating and certification. 

Since inception, the GBCZ has developed a Local Context Report for the adoption of Green Star Building Rating and Certification system. Further, it has and continuously participates in speaking fora and workshops with stakeholders that include local government, real estate associations and building and construction associations.

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