What it really means to build a green residential home

A house in Karen, Nairobi. Any methods of architecture in such locations must take into account the greater good of all in the community. [photo: file/standard]

Housing a family is more than just providing a roof over their heads. A home is interconnected with the planning of an area, including infrastructure, ecological design and other basic services.

A housing design therefore must take all the above into consideration. In developing nations such as Kenya, a home must also fit in with the existing cultural-social dynamics.

Any methods of architecture in such locations must take into account the greater good of all in the community, especially when it comes to the exploitation of locally available resources.

According to Going Green: A Handbook of Sustainable Housing Practices prepared by UN-Habitat, the whole process of building a home should be “thought of from a sustainability point of view, that is, planning, implementation, operation and maintenance, demolition, disposal and recycling of materials”.

It adds that a home should go beyond the obvious sustainable practices and incorporate an area’s economic activity and possible effects on the dwellers.

For example, having a green home but a great distance away means that any savings made in home utility bills will be eroded by transport costs. In turn, long periods of motorised transport end up polluting the environment through the emission of carbon into the atmosphere.


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“The proximity of housing to employment determines people’s livelihood strategies and thus planning should be used to connect economic opportunities, and locations for different types of employment with housing,” says the handbook.

All the above factors would come to naught if the neigbourhood is insecure. Thus, UN-Habitat states that for sustainability to take root, an urban home ought to be situated in well-lit, walkable streets.

All in all, consider local culture, livelihoods, physical conditions, political atmosphere and cultural heritage while deciding where to position your home.

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