The Safari Green Building Index

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By George Arabbu, Guest Contributor, Nairobi, Kenya

In its 2021 Annual Convention the Architectural Association of Kenya, AAK, launched the region’s first sustainable building rating tool. The Safari Green Building Index, SGBI has been 10 years in the making. The event’s theme “The Built Environment and Climate Action: An Impactful Way forward” sought to bring to fore the urgency of action-based solutions going forward.

AAK describes the Index as a national rating system suitable for all kinds of buildings in different climatic zones in Kenya and East Africa. Because buildings deplete natural resources during construction and operation the Association aims to encourage its members to start designing green buildings to minimize demand on non-renewable resources and maximize use, reuse, and recycling of renewable building materials.

Members have also been urged to adopt efficient bio-climatic construction practices and optimization of locally available materials. The SGBI team, made up of the Environmental Design Consultants chapter of AAK, also emphasized the need for low and renewable energy architectural designs that employed good water management systems. The expected results are no less than comfortable hygienic indoor environments.

The SGB Index is an indigenous tool developed to aid in assessing the environmental performance of East African built environment projects whilst providing sustainability leadership in energy loads, ecological footprints and carbon emissions. It is a guiding and performance-oriented system with each criterion is assigned a number of points. New building works, extensions to existing buildings, building works which involve major retrofitting to existing buildings, as well as building conservation/heritage works are all covered in the tool’s application.

As an application and certification tool that prescribes categories, characteristics and rating for green architectural design the Index will award all types and sizes of successful buildings. Projects that observe the specified requirements shall be eligible for certification at the classification of Class A (80 to 100 points), Class B (70 to 79 points), Class C (60 to 69 points), or Class D (50 to 59 points). 

SGBI’s scoring methodology employs localized benchmarks and guidelines to address climate change and environmental degradation through buildings. Best practices in construction, operation and maintenance are emphasised to reduce or eliminate adverse impacts on the natural environment and its occupants. The scoring system is based on the following 7 performance categories: 0% prerequisite requirements, 5% building landscape, 45% passive design strategies, 10% energy efficiency, 30% resource efficiency, 5% noise control and acoustics, and 5% Innovation.

The technical committee of AAK’s Environmental Design Consultants (EDC) Chapter can be reached further information on the following contacts:  6th Floor, Room 605, Blue Violets Plaza, Kindaruma Rd, Off Ngong Rd, Nairobi. Tel: 0721691337, and E-mail: aak@aak.or.ke.

Other green building rating tools already in use in Kenya include the US LEED by individual accredited assessment professionals. South African Green Star Africa, the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s Edge, Arc Skoru Inc. digital tool Arc, and American LEED are all promoted by Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS) since 2015. In 2018 Green Africa Foundation, USAID, UNDP and the Government of Kenya relaunched the Greenmark Standard for Green Buildings, a modified version of the 2011 Green Africa Building Standard.

Kenya has less than 30 projects registered or already certified green, most of which are found in the capital Nairobi. The government has ambitious plans to take the construction industry green. As far back as 2004, the government of Kenya created a policy for sustainable human settlements to promote the use of appropriate building technologies and materials.

UN-Habitat set the ball rolling on rating systems with the 2010 Conference on Promoting Green Building Rating in Africa, held in Nairobi as part of its Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI). The Conference produced the Nairobi Declaration on Green Building for Africa.

Later a number of government strategies, institutions and specific targets were put in place. The aspiration is captured in the country’s Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan 2016-2030 (GESIP) and the National Climate Change Action Plan to guide the country’s transformation to an inclusive green economy.

Having recognized the critical role of the built environment in climate change the Government has identified and empowered the Kenya Building Research Centre to champion and coordinate the administration’s climate change mitigation and adaptation outlined in the Centre’s Strategic Plan (2017/2018 – 2021/2022). Kenya targets 75% of all new and renovated public and private major buildings to be certified green by the year 2030.

The main challenges for the country’s leadership and the professional associations remains the ubiquitous adoption of expert services in building projects and the speed of public utilities infrastructure expansion. Despite an on-going building boom majority of private property developers do not employ qualified consultants in their construction projects, most of them put up on under serviced plots.


About the Author:

George Arabbu is the chairperson of the AAK architects’ chapter. He is an architect, Partner of Sitescape Studio Limited. based in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya.