In the wake of climate change-induced disasters across the world, the significance of sustainability cannot be overstated. As a fundamental driving force behind global development, sustainability is anchored on the preservation of our planet and the well-being of its inhabitants. In light of this, Zimbabwe must strive to catch up in the pursuit of sustainability, starting with the built environment, which exerts a multifaceted and far-reaching influence on various industries. Consequently, there is a pressing need to “green” the built environment.
“Greening the Built Environment” is an innovative and interdisciplinary initiative to promote sustainable practices within urban development and the construction sector. A green built environment will mitigate against energy shortages, water inefficiencies, and waste management deficiencies within our urban developments. Stakeholders must be entrusted with the task of creating environmentally friendly and sustainable cities by making decisions about land use, building design, resource management, and community engagement. These decisions allow stakeholders in the built environment to gain insight into the impact of their choices on the environment, society, and the economy.
In Zimbabwe, the successful implementation of greening the built environment hinges upon adopting a green building rating system. The development of this system is one of the critical priorities of the Green Building Council of Zimbabwe (GBCZ). To give it more impact, the rating system could be customized to suit the local context, serving as a framework for assessing the environmental impact of buildings and guiding sustainable design and construction practices.
A green building rating system evaluates various aspects of a building’s performance, including energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, and innovation. Green rating points are awarded based on the fulfillment of specific criteria within each category, and buildings are subsequently awarded a rating based on their overall performance.
While the Green Star Rating system holds significant influence on the global stage, the process of greening the built environment necessitates a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates expertise from various fields. This approach applies to both the governing authorities and the professionals involved in the greening process, including architects, engineers, town planners, quantity surveyors, environmentalists, and contractors.
Architects and engineers play a pivotal role in greening the built environment as they bear the responsibility of integrating sustainable design principles and practices into their projects. Their expertise and knowledge enable the incorporation of sustainable design principles during the planning and conceptualization stages of buildings and infrastructure projects. Factors such as energy efficiency, passive design strategies, natural lighting, proper insulation, and ventilation are taken into account in giving a green rating to a building.
Presently, Zimbabwe’s infrastructure predominantly reflects traditional construction methods and designs that do not align with the global trend towards sustainability. Consequently, architects and engineers in Zimbabwe must explore and embrace sustainable design practices and technologies, actively seeking out innovations and research in the field. By doing so, they can push the boundaries of the built environment in Zimbabwe and promote novel solutions for greening the built environment. The housing backlog and a growing population are perfect catalysts for Africa to improve on the green rating of its buildings, considering that almost 70% of buildings that will be in Africa by 2050 are not yet built.
Town planners also play a critical role in greening the built environment as they shape the physical and spatial development of cities, towns, and communities. Through sustainable land use planning, the development of green infrastructure, climate change adaptation and mitigation, transportation planning, stakeholder engagement, policy development, and continuous learning, town planners contribute to the creation of environmentally friendly, liveable, and resilient cities. Through incorporating sustainable practices into urban planning, town planners can mold the built environment in a manner that enhances the quality of life, reduces environmental impact, and fosters a more sustainable future for communities.
Given the changes in population size and trends, town planners in Zimbabwe must adopt a more sustainable approach, as they establish the initial framework upon which other professionals can build. By incorporating sustainable practices into their work, town planners can create liveable, resilient, and environmentally friendly urban environments. In the process of greening the built environment, they can prioritise compact and mixed-use development patterns that encourage walkability, reduce reliance on private vehicles, and minimize urban sprawl.
The greening of the built environment places a significant responsibility on town planners to remain engaged and well-informed about emerging trends and best practices in sustainable urban development. Active participation in innovative explorations and collaboration with experts in related fields, such as architects, engineers, landscape architects, and sustainability consultants, ensures the integration of sustainable practices.
Furthermore, the role of policymakers and regulatory authorities should not be overlooked in the endeavour to green the built environment. They possess the power to shape the built environment by establishing regulations, providing incentives, promoting awareness, and engaging with stakeholders. Through their actions, regulators can create a conducive environment for professionals in the built environment to adopt sustainable design practices, leading to a greener and more sustainable built environment in Zimbabwe.