Tackling climate change in infrastructure development

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climate-change

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

The impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe are being felt across the economy, including the infrastructural sector.

It is a critical sector as people spend a lot of time inside buildings — 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 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.

According to the United Nations (UN) environmental programme, real estate contributes up to 30% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions and traditional buildings cumulatively consume around 40% of the world’s energy.

According to Zimbabwe’s low emission development strategy electricity and heat generation for the built environment contributed 47% of energy sector greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

Mitigation measures highlighted for the energy sector include the introduction of energy efficient programmes and development of minimum energy performance standards.

Zimbabwe — like much of Africa — is constrained by an inability to fully implement sustainable building practices, adopt environmentally-friendly technologies and put appropriate measures in place to respond to climate change requirements.

This is largely attributed to a lack of institutional capacity and financial resources.

Concern around environment and sustainable development within the built environment has increased, and the country has established different institutions to deal with sustainable issues.

There is now, to a great 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.

In its efforts to fight the impact of climate change Zimbabwe developed a national climate policy and national climate change response strategy, among other responses.

However, green building initiatives for the general population have largely remained voluntary.

Depending on the size and type of structure being built, however, environmental impact assessments may be required in terms of the Environmental Management Act.

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

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.

The ultimate goal is to develop technical services and resources for determining the greenness of buildings based on an appropriate green building compliance system.

In order to complement government efforts, the Green Building Council of Zimbabwe (GBCZw) was established as a non-profit organisation to advocate for a sustainable built environment.

GBCZw, together with the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, National Housing and Social Amenities and Local Government and Public Works ministries have made a joint application for support to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, a UN agency.

Our application was accepted and the plan is being refined.

The GBCZw 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.

The green building standards will also promote positive economic, environmental, health and social benefits through incorporating energy efficient systems, efficient water systems and integrated waste management within the design and construction sectors.

  • Mike E Juru is the chairperson of Green Building Council of Zimbabwe. His paper was presented during the 2022 Zimbabwe Architectural Conference.