Ghana Green Building Summit – the Hybrid edition

Ghana Green Building Summit – the Hybrid edition

The saying “never waste a good crisis” well applied to this year’s Ghana Green Building Summit (GGBS). With the theme ‘Rethinking Operations Management for High Performance Buildings’, the summit was held virtually and was able to reach many people around the world.

On day two, Chilufya Lombe, Director at Solid Green, moderated the panel discussion “The Zero Game – Is the Race to Net Zero Buildings a Fad?” Given the fact that half a billion people will make up Africa’s urban population by 2040, the “Race to Zero” has taken a more prominent place on the agenda. The question is:

How will the poorest and soon-to-be most populous region in the world lift its people out of poverty and navigate a net-zero transition simultaneously?

Buildings play a key role in this transition hence the focus on net zero buildings for this discussion.

The panel comprised Smita Chandra Thomas, Founder and Principal of Energy Shrink, USA; Pauline Anaman, External Advisor Africa: EU H2020 Negative Emissions (NEGEM) Project; Alexi Miller, Associate Technical Director, New Building Institute (NBI), USA; and Solome Girma, Program Management Director, DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), USA.

Smita, an expert in energy efficiency in buildings at the cutting-edge of green technology and energy management strategy, brought to the table a wealth of experience on Integrated Design and Net Zero. She pointed out that there is a strong business case for green buildings in emerging economies because:

  • Buildings consume large amounts of energy
  • The demand for new buildings, especially housing, is booming. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, and the African construction market is expected to grow at a rate of 6-7% over the next 5 years.
  • The utility costs for both residential and commercial sectors is very high. In housing, annual energy savings in homes can cost more than a month of rent.

According to the 2016 IFC Report ‘Climate Investment Opportunities in Emerging Markets’, green buildings are a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. In addition, GDP and energy use have been decoupled in almost all advanced economies – with GDP continuing to increase, while energy use is decreasing.

Net zero makes enormous sense for these reasons. Examples around the world show that net zero buildings can be attractive, modern, and built at commercially competitive costs. They can even come in under budget if the project team utilizes integrated design principles from the project outset. Commenting that designing for net zero is both an art and a science, Smita emphasised that an understanding of how a building interacts with the grid can produce even better results.

Looking back on the Ghana Green Building Summit, she observed

It was really heartening to see the high attendance and interest in net zero buildings at the Ghana Green Building Summit. Such events can be really effective in helping interested parties to network with each other, and in demystifying some of the newer concepts.

Alexi then contributed his insights about cutting-edge technologies and strategies, as part of a wide-ranging effort to improve the energy performance of the built environment. The central theme in his presentation were the five foundations of the Zero Carbon building policy – namely Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Grid Integration + Storage + EV, Building Electrification, and Life-Cycle Impacts.

Commenting on the GGBS he says: “We know from experience, drawing from our database of 700+ Zero Energy buildings in North America, that there are many pathways to a green building, starting with energy efficiency. A wide range of proven and emerging solutions are available to make buildings more efficient, cleaner, more affordable, healthier, and safer. African zero carbon building professionals have the opportunity to learn from past successes and challenges, both at home and abroad, to leapfrog past many of the dead ends in order to make buildings part of the solution to the climate crisis. The Ghana Green Building Summit showcased a wide range of solutions and actionable steps that local and far-flung buildings industry players can use to lead by example and do well by doing good.”

The importance of efficiency first was really brought home by Chilufya as the moderator, who summarised the discussion:

We saw first-hand examples of just how energy efficient buildings have to be to achieve net zero. The efficiencies reported were 40 to 60% improvement over one of the most stringent energy codes in the world (Ashram 90.1). We also saw the important role that building codes can play in setting the right environment for energy savings.

The race to Net Zero is definitely not a fad. It is an opportunity to not only solve a serious environmental issue but also to create a building stock that is energy efficient enough to solve energy supply issues that are a burden to development in Africa.

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