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Babatunde Raji Fashola

‘Urban Design in the Age of Climate Change’ By Babatunde Raji Fashola

Babatunde Raji Fashola
Babatunde Raji Fashola

There are many reasons why I accepted to speak at this Forum notwithstanding the competing pressures on my time.

The first reason is that Mr. Toyin Ayinde, who served with me as Honorable Commissioner for Town Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State Executive Council between 2007 and 2011, in his capacity as a board member of this forum, has spared no effort in ensuring my attendance.

In doing so, he does me a great favor by providing a rare public platform to speak first about climate change, and its impact on all of us.

Secondly, at this moment of a global energy crisis with very severe local impact, it provides me an opportunity to share with you and by extension other members of the public, what the Federal Government is doing with regards to achieving energy efficiency and also highlighting opportunities for economic benefits for those who are entrepreneurlly minded.

Thirdly, it provides an opportunity to highlight what our Ministry is doing with regard to public housing and the role that you can play as a Forum.

Fourthly, and most importantly, it provides me the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of the leadership role that this Forum has taken and to encourage you to continue to propagate the need to for us to rethink our urban design choices, and adapt them to global standards.


Whatever the naysayers may have said in the past, the abundance of evidence has clearly demonstrated that not only is the threat of climate change real, its impact is already being felt and human beings are perhaps the most vulnerable.

From diminishing fresh water sources to desertification and loss of arable land to high water levels and flooding, survival induced conflict in the search for land, food, and water, higher cost-of-living arising from volatile rises and crashes in the cost of oil and hydrocarbons as sources of energy for fuel, heating, lighting and production of goods and services, the human civilization faces a turbulent survival.

The examples at home are many; the erosion of Nigeria’s coastal waterfronts, loss of property and lives as a results of flooding, loss of grazing land as a result of desert encroachment, diminution of Lake Chad, silting of many rivers, requiring humongous capital outlay to re-dredge and maintain them to serve their sustenance purpose of transport and agriculture, clashes between herdsman and communities, power outages, high cost of fuel, electricity and drinking water, etc.

The list is long.

The global remedies for the survival of the human civilization are:
a) mitigation and
b) adaptation.

In essence, the damage has been done.

We can only know seek to correct or remedy what is amenable to correction and remedy, such as the dredging that I mentioned, reclamation and shoreline protection as is going on in Eko Atlantic, re-generation of grazing reserves by re-planting grass as the Honorable Minister of Agriculture has publicly proposed, dredging of the River Niger and other water bodies, cleaning up the Niger Delta as the Minister of Environment has proclaimed.

All of these are mitigation strategies.

But on their own they do not solve the problem. We, as the cause of the problem, in the way that we have lived and the choices we have made, must CHANGE.

This is a change that is dictated by the necessity to survive and this is the heart of adaptation on the compelling relevance of this Forum.

The way we use land, the way we use electricity, the way we use petrol, the way we use water, the way we use transport facilities and the way we do many other things that we took for granted now demand a rethink and adaptation.

This is because our planet has changed; and for it to serve us, we must adapt.

The planet is our shield, our roof, our home and our floor. It will remain, but we will go. What we get out of it, while we are here, depends on what we are ready to give back to it.

My proposed method of intervention, will be to bring up a few examples, ask questions, and leave us to reflect and make the choice whether or not to adapt.

So I will start with LAND.

This is the foundation for most if not all of human development. Businesses, factories, roads for transport, rail lines for transport, airports for transport and of course for housing.

Many years ago, how many of us ever thought of property tax in Nigeria, and the fact that we may have to pay yearly or periodically beyond ground rent, for the acreage we occupy in terms of square meter.

In the advent of diminishing oil resources, and the resort of states to taxes, would I not think twice about the size of land I buy the size of house I built, and whether or not I need all that space because it will now affect how much of my income the state will take?

In the past, how many of us paid attention to the choice of external finish of our homes as to whether it will require regular painting or not, in designing our houses?

At this time, when water, electricity, transport and property taxes are now competing for our incomes, will rational minds not pay attention to building and finishing with external materials that require little or no maintenance in order to reduce cost?

In many parts of Nigeria today it is commonplace to see houses built without windows and therefore no access to sunlight.

Although these occurrences are common with some of our very vulnerable people, many of whom live in unplanned settlements called slums, the time to rethink installing a window in such houses is now; and the time to ensure that no such houses (even if unplanned) are built without windows is now.

Let me illustrate.

Without sunlight, even though the tariff of such people remains unchanged at N4/KWh, the reality is that all day and all night there must be an electric bulb on in such a home to enable even the most basic function of movement to take place.

If we compare this with an R2 consumer, whose Tariff ranges between N21.30 and N21.80/KWh, but who has windows and does not need a lightbulb till about 7 PM, it means that he uses no energy for indoor illumination for at least 12 hours from 7 AM to 7 PM as against the poor low tariff consumer who, because of a design flaw, needs to keep his lightbulb on.

One does not need to guess who will pay more for energy.

So it should not surprise us that the whole world is building with more glass, to reduce energy demand in offices. Our urban designs must adapt and adopt.

Our houses must have not only bigger windows, their design most focus on the source of sunlight and the direction of wind to ensure that we can cool our homes using wind and rely less on fans and air conditioning during the day, but in addition we can function without switching on electric bulbs during the day; except when the weather is bad.

In our choice of fittings, we most recommend in the design, modern taps that are hydraulic and dispense only the needed amount of water, toilet systems which are now in the market that have dual flushing buttons, to dispense water for flushing only our urine in small quantity, or our bowel work in large quantity.

This is because demand for water, is always a demand for power, to produce and pump water, and by extension, demand for gas, petrol or diesel, and by extension an expenditure in costs.

Furthermore, I will quickly mention the need for designs to embrace energy saving technology like sensors that automatically switch off power when not in use, low energy consuming lightbulbs, all of these must now be standard practice in architecture and urban design classrooms and seminars.

Manufacturers of our electronic appliances like televisions and computers are now producing these with standby and power saving modes as standard supply.

Let me quickly illustrate the use of land which we must change in order to better manage and cope with incidents of flooding which appear to have come to stay even in the most developed countries.

The difference between them and us is the urban planning and land-use, which explains the difference in severity between us when disasters occur.

In the last few years there were two major disasters, one in Haiti and the other in Japan. The damage by flooding was more severe in Haiti than Japan. Many experts have attributed this largely to the poor urban planning in Haiti.

In developing nations where planning is sub-optimal, it is difficult to find straight roads, which are a common feature in more developed nations.

One of the reasons is that in developing nations, the land for personal use is first apportioned before the land for public use, like roads, is apportioned. The result is that roads are built around existing buildings, and are therefore not straight.

We must change this and prioritize the public interest over private interests.

One good reason to to do so is that when unexpected flooding occurs, floor water discharge is not efficient, it goes round curves, leaps out at great pressure and speed and causes severe damage to homes and other economic assets.

In the nations where planning is more effective, the road is first set out, before personal land is apportioned.

The result is a grid-like layout, with straight roads and straight drains that discharge water more efficiently. We must adopt this practice in our urban planning and design.

Ladies and gentlemen, the heart and soul of adaptation therefore is planning and conservation. Waste not, want not; because what is wasted, whether water, whether fuel, whether land, will never be enough.

The list of what to do to improve our conservation and energy efficiency is not exhausted. For those who desire to learn more please go to the Internet and search for “http//energy4me.org”

Before I conclude, I will now speak about how our urban design can impact our national housing policy.

There is a common agreement that we need to increase the supply of housing for our growing population.

What we have not agreed is the type of house that will be acceptable to at least a majority of those who cannot build for themselves.

We have had a few housing initiatives but they have not been sustained partly because the design has always changed and the specifications have varied.

It has therefore been difficult to build them en- masse because production cannot be automated or industrialized for anything that is not uniform.

Automobiles are more complex to manufacture than houses but mass production has been possible because of standardization; length, chassis design, wheel size, battery size etc.

So different manufacturers make all the accessories, seatbelts, bulbs, alternators, wheel sizes, jacks etc. because they have been standardized by design.

This is why companies like Bosch, who make bulbs, electricals, switches for vehicle do not manufacture cars. The same applies to the Dunlops, Pirellis, Michelins, who make tyres but do not make cars.

The Toyotas, Hyundai, Mercedes, Volvos all make cars because they have standardized designs, but they do not make fan belts or tyres.

This I believe is the approach we must have to Housing if we are to deliver en-masse and on a sustainable basis.

I am pleased to inform you that work has started on this in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in collaboration with some private sector volunteers to develop a National Housing Design acceptable to different cultural settings of Nigeria on a general basis.

In this way, we can standardize many parts, encourage people to invest in moulds and accelerate mass production.

With the standardization of doors, fittings, iron rods, cable and other accessories, we hope to create a strong incentive for small and medium enterprises to invest and manufacture the component parts.

This is the way we think design can influence the diversification of our economy and accelerate the delivery of Housing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am done. Thank you for listening.

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister for Power, Works and Housing.

19th May 2016

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