Across Africa, many students struggle with the lack of student accommodation. It is estimated that only 10-15% of students who apply to university in Nigeria, for example, have access to suitable campus accommodation.
Student housing isn’t something that often comes to mind when thinking about education, but it is an essential part of the puzzle to supporting the next generation. Housing is not just about having somewhere to sleep – it is linked to the quality of education students receive and the opportunities that arise at the end.
The lack of appropriate student accommodation means in many cases students stay at home. But for many students in Nigeria that creates a serious challenge as they do not have access to stable internet, making studying difficult. Spending hours commuting to and from university also has an impact on performance and can significantly increase drop-out rates. Lack of appropriate housing can also mean those that exist are overcrowded and may lead to health and safety risks.
To address this problem, we need to see a lot more student accommodation being built. But there is a price to pay – the environmental impact of so much construction. The embodied energy and carbon of new buildings, as well as the operational energy of student accommodation, generates greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s where the Greenage Student Housing Programme comes in. They are aiming to provide 100,000 bedspaces in the next ten years for students across the country in an environmentally conscious manner.
The Greenage vision was birthed by a team of like-minded professionals who personally observed the drastic change and deterioration of student welfare over time in Nigeria. Instead of students becoming the pipeline for Nigeria’s human capital development thrust, they were struggling and in large part due to the impact of the degraded environment. The student housing programme was initiated to change the outlook of the educational sector through green housing while integrating a sustainable mindset in students for the future.
The Greenage Development Managers are partnering with universities across Nigeria that are either privately or publicly owned, as well as financial institutions, pension funds and private equity investors, to help create the framework to make this a success.
The programme has been in conceptual incubation since 2011 but gained momentum with the introduction of the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) EDGE methodology to the Nigerian housing market. EDGE gave Greenage the framework necessary to introduce green student accommodation in a practical and scaleable way to Nigeria.
The Greenage Development Managers are also committed to using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) as a guidance framework. Having recently signed the UN Global Compact, the company is addressing several challenges through this student housing program, including improving access to education, challenges plaguing female students such as cultism, rape, disease infestation, environmental degradation, climate change, as well as building skills and human capacity development in Nigeria.
Part of the programme includes working with local vendors, suppliers, consultants, and subcontractors to procure materials and equipment to produce high quality, durable, resource-efficient buildings. This will support the local community and help build skillsets that can have a positive ripple effect across Nigeria.
To tackle environmental degradation and ensure the developments limit the impact on the environment, all the student housing is striving to be EDGE certified. This was a conscious decision by the Greenage team, who is committed to taking a transparent and verifiable green approach.
The EDGE App has given the Greenage team the opportunity to identify which resource-efficiency measures will have the greatest impact on greenhouse gas reductions and develop a design that can be replicated throughout the country. The EDGE certification provides a standardised approach to verify the savings and ensure that all the projects being delivered meet the Greenage vision.
Implementing green student housing at such a large scale is something fairly new in Nigeria, but the design of the project makes it a great candidate for a portfolio project. The Greenage Development Partners worked closely with the Sintali-SGS team to determine the best way to roll out this project across Nigeria. By looking at a standardised design and coming up with a clear process to allow the company to scale its efforts based on demand for student, Greenage will undergo EDGE certification for all of its bedspaces, estimated to be over 70 buildings.
“Sintali and SGS helped us determine the best way to realise our vision of certifying all of the student housing we are planning to develop,” said Abel Owotemu, EDGE Expert and Programme Consultant. “The Greenage Programme is committed to developing resource-efficient buildings and ensuring that each building meets the EDGE standard.”
This scale is key in meeting the global climate change goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. By developing a process to ensure all the developments are green, Greenage Development Partners have taken a position of leadership in Nigeria, and the world, by thinking beyond individual buildings and showing that green buildings at scale are possible.
An important added benefit of getting the housing EDGE-certified is the ability for Greenage to access green financing. Investors seeking to deploy green capital need third-party verified information that the investments are truly green. That is where EDGE comes in. As an entirely quantifiable green building standard, it resonates strongly with the investment community and helps the company show the value of the programme and the green credentials of projects.
Greenage has already leveraged the preliminary certification of its student housing design, as well as its relationships with innovative and private equity funding sources, to roll out a blended mix of secured debt and equity financing to deliver a $150m student housing fund. The Greenage Programme is currently being financed by private equity partner, including local and foreign collection of investment clubs. Greenage is also in discussions with IFC and its investment partners.
“Through the adoption of EDGE, Greenage has been able to unlock new sources of investment for universities that will help address the student housing gap in Nigeria, while controlling the use of natural resources.” IFC’s Director, Climate Business Department, Mr. Vivek Pathak.
The first project has already broken ground at the Veritas University in Abuja, Nigeria and is scheduled to be completed in October 2022. This is just the first of multiple developments that will be rolled out over the coming year, including the Arthur Jarvis University in Calabar and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Enugu, among other targeted locations.
What’s exciting to consider is that this project can be replicated across other countries and regions around the world. With the modular design of the student housing and the globally recognised certification scheme EDGE, such schemes may help address student housing challenges across the world.
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