Sustainability is a concept that many organizations advocate and as such, there are several sustainability processes or activities that companies try to adopt. For many, sustainability means practices that will keep the business standing for a long time; it means the preservation of the environment; the use of efficient resources, stable economic growth and poverty eradication.
In the construction Industry, sustainability means ensuring that, resources are being used in an efficient way. It involves a consideration of the impacts that raw materials and construction processes can have on the environment.
Research by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that buildings account for more than forty percent of energy consumption over their lifetime and considering the daily influx of people to urban centres and the rise of new structures, this figure is sure to increase. This simply emphasizes the capacity of buildings to have a major impact on the sustainability of our communities and indeed of our planet. There is no better time therefore to make sustainable buildings a cornerstone in securing long-term environmental, economic and social capabilities.
In Nigeria, recent construction and engineering gatherings have focused on sustainable buildings, sometimes referred to as green buildings. This is in recognition of the many benefits that this can bring for businesses and for the environment alike. As far back as 1994, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Construction was established as the industry standard for sustainable construction.
LEED promotes a system of sustainable construction that goes beyond minimum building codes to guarantee that new buildings will not only be functional today, but that they will be functional and sustainable into the future. LEED ensures environmentally friendly building operation (which may include; waste management/recycling, energy/power efficiency) and efficient construction method. It also complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. In Nigeria today, there is only one LEED Certified building. ITB Nigeria Ltd, an indigenous construction and engineering Company, constructed this building known as The Heritage Place.
The Heritage place meets the standards of sustainable building in terms of design and construction, reduction in energy use, water recycling, and re-use, automatic presence detectors and high efficiency lighting, building orientation to maximize natural light and ventilation and high efficiency glazing and external thermal envelope.
As sustainable buildings are rapidly being adopted in developed countries, Nigeria stands to benefit if it adopts same. Indeed, there are great benefits to investing in sustainable technologies for construction. Builders who invest in sustainable technologies can recoup the costs over time in the form of decreased building operation costs because of greater energy efficiency.
Government and regulators have a role to play in providing incentives for companies to adopt sustainable building practices. In some parts of the world, tax incentives or exemption is offered to companies that adopt sustainable practices. In Nevada, for instance, construction materials that are LEED certified as sustainable can be purchased with a tax exemption. In Ohio, tax exemptions are offered on newly constructed buildings that meet minimum LEED guidelines. This allows construction companies to invest in infrastructure that equips them for sustainable construction.
In Nigeria where such government incentives do not exist, companies like ITB Nigeria Ltd, which adopt sustainable construction on their own, deserve to be celebrated and, individuals who hire firms that adhere to sustainability standards should be commended.
In the light of climate change and with the constant swell of urban population, it is important that green construction be adopted to minimize environmental impact and offset any impact that already exists. In the long run, we will attain environmental safety, sustainability, and economic growth.