Via Daily Nation : Adopt green building technology
Mid this year, the United Nations released a disturbing report on the levels of Kenya’s pollution. Titled Actions on Air Quality, this report painted a gloomy picture. Over 14,300 Kenyans, it noted, die annually from health conditions that are directly attributed to air pollution.
One of the biggest contributors to this is vehicles’ exhaust fumes. Most of the imported second-hand vehicles come with no catalytic converters and with Kenya’s average vehicle registration now standing at 14,005 annually, there are likely to be more and more dangerous emissions.
This side of East Africa is growing rapidly, with natural vegetation quickly being replaced by brick, mortar, and glass as property development and infrastructural expansion continue. Huge tracts of land with foliage, especially around Kenya’s urban areas, have been disappearing at a startling rate, being hived off for construction of mega buildings.
Sadly, only about 2 per cent of Kenya’s land remains forested. This is a case of “from green vegetation to a desert of real estate”.
These environmental challenges call for Kenya to come up with a clear and specific strategy to stop it going the route of New Delhi or China. One way would be for the government to come up with attractive incentives to encourage the citizens to adopt environment-friendly actions. The government should also enact appropriate environmental laws and enforce them.
Environmental consciousness is not a matter that should be left only to the government. The concept of public private partnerships has gained momentum, allowing the private sector to become a key player in national development.
One area where this partnership can be explored is the green building technology. This involves architectural structures that use environmentally responsible and resource-efficient processes.
It involves such things as deliberate efforts to have as much foliage incorporated in structures and their environments as possible. It also involves such unique facilities as generous and well-designed bicycle parking racks.
Both commercial and residential developers should be encouraged to adopt the green building technology concept. This would give such properties a competitive edge as more businesses and Kenyans become environmentally conscious. If more commercial developers gave priority to parking racks for bicycles and electric as well as hybrid cars, this would help reduce the appetite for secondhand cars.
County governments could come up with incentives that set lower rates for buildings that adopt an agreeable threshold of green building technologies. Local governments could set a square-foot threshold for designated parking lots for non-fuel guzzling vehicles and bicycles, and charge lower rates based on this. They can also offer incentives for construction that meets agreeable levels of water, energy, and material efficiency.
It is commendable that the Kenyan government has set an age limit on car imports as this goes a long way in safe-guarding our environment, but a lot more needs to be done. The adoption of boda boda across the country shows Kenyans’ readiness to take up bicycle transport to work if they were offered the necessary support.
Road infrastructure development needs to boldly and deliberately design bike ways. This would increase the number of people cycling and force developers to come up with a solution for the many bicycles that would end up at their properties’ front yards.
There are some countries that Kenya can look up to if it wants to entrench the tradition of cycling. The Netherlands has the highest number of bicycles per capita and 27 per cent of all trips are made using bikes. The Dutch population is 16,652,800 and there are 16,500,000 bicycles. That is 99.1 per cent cyclists. The average distance cycled per person per day is 2.5km.
As a result, the Netherlands’ pollution index was 29.08 in 2016. Compare this to Kenya’s 70.51 per cent.