Built environment standards are a very useful way of defining quality and performance requirements in a specific and practical way. They can be included in built environment professional briefs by clients, such as government and developers in order to achieve specific climate change and sustainable development objectives. They can also be included in specifications by Architects and other members of the design team to ensure that specific outcomes and processes are achieved by building contractors.
However, these standards are not readily available in many African countries and where they exist, they are often out-of-date. Alternatively, overseas standards may be referenced, these, however, are often of little practical value as they do not relate to local issues. The lack of clear technical guidance is a concern given the urgent requirement to address climate change and sustainable development priorities.
A recent study by Gauge developed a list of prioritised list of standards for achieving sustainable built environments in African countries. The list was developed through a review of international commitments, national policy and plans, national priorities and existing building regulations and standards. The project developed a long list of standards which could be used to promote improved levels of sustainability in cities, neighbourhoods and buildings in developing countries.Criteria related to national priorities such as Energy, Water, Biodiversity, Employment, Health and Education were then used to develop a shorter prioritised list of standards. The study indicated that the following standards should be developed as a priority:
- Urban design and density standard: This should define sustainable urban standards for the local context and define issues such as minimum densities, land use zoning and public transport requirements.
- Sustainable neighbourhoods standard: This should define standards for sustainable neighbourhoods including minimum provision for local services and facilities in relation to aspects such as education, health, employment and small business.
- Sustainable urban agriculture standard: This should provide a standard for integrating agriculture in urban areas. It should define different types of urban agriculture and show how this can be supported.
- Energy efficient design standard: This should define minimum performance and prescriptive standards to achieve energy-efficient buildings.
- Local content standard: This defines how the local content of building materials and products used in construction is specified and measured as a means of supporting local economic developed.
- Sustainable timber sourcing standard: This provides a definition of sustainable timber and provides guidance on how this should be specified and verified.
- Energy efficient cooking equipment standard: This defines energy-efficient equipment for domestic situations.
- Sustainable facilities management standard: This defines procedures and processes and performance criteria for sustainable facilities management.
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