Government urged to consider sustainability in addressing housing deficit

Affordable Housing Project

Government and private sector stakeholders have been advised to adopt sustainability measures in their quest to bridge the housing deficit.

Paul Ocran, a consultant and auditor to SGS Ghana, said more Ghanaian design professionals should be aware of EDGE, a free software application that enables them to model the environmental impacts of their building projects in more than 150 countries, including Ghana.

An innovation of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, EDGE is supported by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

EDGE can be used on smart phones, tablets or computers, providing access to design professionals to help clients certify their projects at the design stage as well as after completion. The software has significant advantages over the conventional way of designing.

“When we look at the housing deficit of more than two million units, questions come to mind,” Mr Ocran said. “How can government and the private sector work together to ensure the gap is overcome in a sustainable way? Should housing needs be met, what will the effect be on our natural resources? We must think ahead to how we are going to save energy and water.”

Ghana’s housing deficit is said to have hit two million units, according to the Minister for Works and Housing, Samuel Atta Akyea.

This implies the need to build 190,000 to 200,000 units of houses each year for the next 10 years to bridge the gap, at an estimated cost of $3.4 billion (USD).

The government announced an ambitious plan to establish a GH¢1 billion mortgage and housing finance to leverage private capital while providing affordable housing for Ghanaians.

Though the plan was announced in the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy presented by Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Finance Minister, to parliament, government is yet to implement it. Given the anticipated rapid increase of the housing sector, building sustainably and minimising the pressure on resources is a key concern.

“EDGE is a practical solution for governments, real estate developers and private individuals because it helps to quantify the value of energy and water savings a building can have when environmentally-friendly choices are selected,” said Mr Ocran.

“Proactive developers can stand out in the market if their projects are EDGE certified. EDGE gives the project a green brand and verifies the savings in terms of reduced impacts. Developers can use EDGE as a way to demonstrate the value and quality of a property.”

With an EDGE-certified property, each homeowner receives a certificate as proof that they have purchased or are renting an apartment that is resource efficient.

Industry professionals such as Ocran describe the EDGE software as an innovation that puts a powerful resource into the hands of designers to access real-time feedback about how to create green buildings.

According to Mr Ocran, assessing the sustainability of your building in the past required bringing on board environmental consultants, energy consultants, and water consultants. EDGE provides an integrated service to help model all aspects of the project.

Additionally, the extra cost that it takes to build green is revealed together with the payback period through reduced operational costs.

“With EDGE, you can quickly and accurately access the data on the sustainability of your building. Previously you needed multiple professionals and software applications to achieve the same result. That’s the innovation EDGE brings to the market.”

Several high-profile buildings have achieved EDGE certification. These include Atlantic Tower, located at the Airport City enclave, two offices located at the Tema Port Expansion Area and the new Terminal 3 located in the Tema Port.

Also, the 363-key Pullman Hotel, which is going to be the largest in the country when completed in 2021, is currently aiming to achieve EDGE certification.

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