Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita in the world. It is no secret that our country faces big challenges to fulfill its growing energy and water demand. These challenges have been exacerbated with the increasing numbers of our Syrian brothers and sisters who have taken refuge in Jordan. The country needs over 100,000 new housing units now so it is crucial to ensure the building performance of this housing is improved in order to reduce water and energy consumption. Further, it is important to showcase that green and healthy homes don’t have to be complicated and expensive.
That’s exactly what we’re doing at the Jordan Green Building Council (Jordan GBC). We believe that improving building performance does not always mean that a building has to be high-tech. Sun and wind are free resources; passive techniques and simple design considerations with a marginal additional initial cost can make a huge difference.
We’re also challenging the misconception that green homes require high upfront costs and are out of reach for the financially challenged, and that affordable homes have to be built to poor quality.
This is why we have collaborated with Habitat for Humanity Jordan to initiate Green Affordable Homes – a project to create green and affordable housing in low income areas in Jordan. The initiative is about raising environmental awareness; lowering building operating expenses through green measures; convincing building owners to make the switch to greener properties; and training local builders on the implementation of green building techniques and materials.
But the initiative is also about human rights and human dignity. Living in a green home which provides its inhabitants with healthy indoor environmental quality and a reduction in energy and water consumption to lower living costs is a human right for all – regardless of income or social status. A healthy green environment should be accessible and affordable to everyone.
In 2014, we held the first awareness session under the project for local community based organisations, at which basic green building concepts were shared and discussed, and where the issue of going green was raised as a common social responsibility.
The first pilot for a green affordable home project was implemented in 2015, and achieved through voluntary work from Jordan GBC and Habitat for Humanity. One year later, our impact assessment showed that five other families in the same area had adopted our approach and built their homes based on the green affordable home design and construction techniques that we provided. Recently, a sixth homeowner contacted us to request a visit to his home for inspection and green recommendations. This is truly a grass roots initiative from “within” the community, as it was sought out to be, using Jordan GBC only as enablers.
As for me, my interest in the affordable housing journey begun when I was still an architecture student. One of the first things I learned, is that building social trust and safety with people is crucial, and it comes before building foundations and structures. It is not always easy for the human mind to accept new ideas, and it is definitely not easy to implement those new ideas and concepts even after accepting them. However, with the right communication approach, barriers can be overcome and trust established. This has been the case with the Green Affordable Homes project, and I remember how impressed I was when I saw the way our Jordan GBC expert listened to every single word a local builder was saying, without any interruption, to achieve great results.
So what have we achieved? We are now scaling up the project with support from the Moving Energy Initiative (an international partnership aiming to sustainably reduce environmental pressures through clean energy access in areas of mass human displacement). In 2018, we will build five new green affordable homes and retrofit 40 existing homes. This ongoing project also includes awareness raising sessions for local communities in five different locations in Jordan, in addition to building technical capacities for local builders and ensuring inclusivity by conducting training for builders of different nationalities and backgrounds to create more cohesion between refugees and host communities in Jordan. And this has been one of the biggest successes – creating cohesion in a region of the world where conflict places pressures of unemployment and housing shortages on displaced peoples and the communities which take them in.
We hope to build on our experience through more collaboration and partnerships until we reach our goal of making green affordable homes a widespread reality in Jordan and the wider region.
Aya Rabab’ah is Project Coordinator at Jordan Green Building Council
To find out more about Jordan GBC’s Green Affordable Homes project, click here or watch the video below: