Developers shift to green buildings in design, sales pitch

The Green House, located along Ngong Road is home to commercial offices, restaurants and entertainment spots. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Since last year, there has been an increasing number of green buildings in the country, including warehouses, residential apartments, homes and offices.

Data from Kenya Green Building Society shows there were 48 certified and registered buildings in the year to March 2022 from 25 buildings recorded in the same period to March 2021.

“This is almost double growth. Others have chosen not to be registered,” says Louis Kariuki, monitoring and evaluation officer at Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS).

“We are seeing a couple of people coming to us asking to give them direction on building green. Most people have also been building green it’s only that they don’t know they are.”

As the need to cut carbon emissions emitted by businesses rise, real estate developers are increasingly positioning their buildings as green in the fight for environment-conscious buyer.

Belva Home Limited, for instance, is building a green project, 3408 Belva, a luxury residential property in the Parklands area in Nairobi.

It will have three-bedroom, five-bedroom simplex and five-bedroom duplex apartments and amenities like a spa, salon and gym area, business meetings rooms, expresso bar and lounge and kids' indoor play area.

The building is designed to conserve energy and water through apartments and common areas. It is designed to allow natural lighting with floor-to-ceiling windows to minimize the consumption of energy.

Every room will be independent of the others with balconies for enough lighting. They are also putting up solar PV panels to heat swimming pools and light common areas and hallways. It will also have a cascading waterfall and live plants for greenery.

The developer will also install rainwater harvest structures for watering the plants and cleaning parking and common facilities.

The Kenyan real estate firm under AMCO Group will be its first green project under the company.

“There is a lot of green aspect in the design. The building is targeting everybody concerned about the environment,” said Belva Homes managing director Mohammed Dahir.

“Around the whole world, people are more concerned about how the environment is changing and trees cut affecting the ecological aspect of our living. So we decided, why not? All companies are being pushed to go green. There are green buildings that have been done previously but wanted to be pioneers in the apartment sector.”

Data shows people spent 90 percent of their time in buildings, with the analysis done during the pre-Covid period, indicating that the time could be even higher due to hybrid working measures.

Mr Kariuki says a green building should not harm the environment with key indicators around resource efficiency, including water, energy and materials used, quality of life and transport.

“The indoor quality making of an apartment for example should supply not only the living needs but also psychological needs. Things could be just simple like ventilation, and having materials that cause fewer toxins sands so not cause respiratory diseases.”

“It is important that developers ensure there are common areas and simple things like planting trees outside.”

For transport indicators, developers charge for parking of private cars but incentivise and provide parking for bikes to encourage cycling and use of public service vehicles and reduce carbon emissions.

For construction materials, it is based on embodied energy which involves the energy used in mining raw materials and manufacturing such as limestone used in the manufacture of cement and glass. Apart from better living conditions, buyers are expected to save on utility costs.

A case study done in South Africa by International Housing Solutions (IHS), a low-income housing developer, shows that annual energy and water savings to home buyers is equal to one month’s rent compared to non-green development.

Residential contractors now join commercial space developers who are already earning dividends from the green building push.

Global institutions with offices in the country are now keen on taking up spaces in buildings that mirror international requirements. They include Coca-Cola East and Central Africa Business Unit and Unep offices.

As a result, adoption has been by listed firms and capital markets initiatives such as the Sh5 billion green bond listed by Acorn Holdings on the Nairobi Securities Exchange in 2020 for building student accommodation houses.

However, Mr Kariuki adds that the challenge is awareness of opportunities around building green, adding that it is possible to build green without incremental costs.

For 3408 Belva is estimated to cost Sh1 billion, at least 15 percent higher than would be the cost if it was a non-green building, Mr Dahir says.

“There won’t be a difference in terms of costs to the buyer but to the developer due to the design implication of trying to eliminate dark spaces within the building and fewer apartments within the floor,” Dahir adds.

“We encourage the passive way of building green which ensures leveraging on wind and solar for natural lighting and ventilation translating to lower bills,” Mr Kariuki adds.

“But some of the strategies you employ will have higher costs.”

Other costs are also tied to retrofitting existing buildings, which Mr Kariuki said would give chance to investors in high-density residential neighbourhoods such as in Eastlands, assuming windows are side facing for enough lighting.

Belva anticipates a high uptake of the houses that are currently 35 percent under construction and expected to be complete in 2024.

This is despite speculations by buyers on companies charging a higher price to rent or buy buildings with certified sustainability credentials.

“For buyers, it all depends on what kind of environment they want to be into. I think once a project is complete, both buyers and other developers will appreciate seeing how the concept has come out. It is something that will be welcomed in the long term because you are saving people in terms of running costs.”

A residential and commercial real estate development company, Purple Dot International Ltd, has also unveiled a green building- a mixed-use development that is EDGE Certified with an investment of Sh2.5 billion.

It will have a showroom and retail spaces, restaurant spaces, Grade A and conferencing facility.

Purple Tower’s design takes into consideration energy and water consumption saving with measures including increased natural ventilation with operable windows, reduced window-to-wall ratio, external shading devices and energy-saving lighting.

This also includes occupancy sensors in bathrooms, conference rooms, open offices and solar photovoltaics to cater for 20 percent of total energy use.

Water-saving measures include flow faucets with sensors in all bathrooms and kitchen sinks and dual flush for water closets in all bathrooms and a water-efficient urinal.

The measures are expected to contribute to energy savings estimated to be 27 percent, water savings at 41 percent and 33 percent less embodied energy in building materials used.

The building along Mombasa road will be the first green project under the company’s portfolio of mostly residential and warehouses.

“Purple Tower presents a timely and strategic proposition for both local and regional investors in the Kenyan property market. The innovative building embodies our core business model with respect to socially responsible investing, giving discerning investors an opportunity to diversify their investment portfolio with a property that delivers a higher return on investment over time,” said Jiten Kerai, general manager of Purple Dot International.

The design has achieved EDGE sustainability requirements.

Edge “Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies” Certification by International Finance Corporation (IFC) is awarded to buildings that meet a certain standard for environmental sustainability and are used to prove the business case for building green and unlocking financial investment.

Other buildings with the same certification include Absa Bank Kenya and AAR Hospital.

Absa Bank has invested Sh35 million in retrofitting all its main branches in Westlands and Ngong road, and 85 branches to become water and energy-efficient.

Real estate is estimated to contribute 39 percent of total global emissions. About 11 percent of these emissions are generated by manufacturing materials used in buildings including steel and cement, while the rest is emitted from buildings themselves and by generating the energy that powers buildings.

As result, buyers globally are focused on funds, investors and developers on how they are adopting ESG. “We are incorporating ESG in our projects in response to an increasing demand by the market that we ought to go green,” said Peter Harris, the Co-CEO for Sub-Saharan Africa at JLL.

“What is driving the green building and ESG in real estate is the occupiers. It is the people that are coming to say ‘your building is not the right status from a green perspective. You need to be better.”

JLL has been working with the IFC in valuations of buildings.

“From a valuation point of view is incredibly important that we are embedding an ESG view into our evaluations. So we are looking at risk factors on ESG of clients that are not at the level they should be and accounting for that in our valuations.”

“In terms of occupier services, we have global clients that ask for a level of green certification. And that is what is fuelling this demand for it.”

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