Green Malls: More Can Be Done
With the proliferation of mall culture in Kenya, and the increasing cost of running one, it is inconceivable that architects and planners rarely consider incorporating resource saving mechanisms into their design at the concept stage. Not only is this cost saving in the long run, but it also projects an image of eco-consciousness which is a growing concern among many customers. The barrier to this has always been the initial investment involved, in both the planning and infrastructure installation. Kenya has proven that these mechanisms may have to be installed, even within a fully operational mall, and at a significantly higher cost. Take for instance the mandatory installation solar water heating for all premises using more the 100L of hot water per day, which came as a surprise and huge economic burden to many.
As shoppers get increasingly aware of their impact on the natural environment, it not only becomes crucial to imbibe conservation principles in the new generation, but imperative that resource and waste management form part of the norm rather than exception.
Countries like Malaysia and Singapore are taking giant leaps in this direction. The Setia City Mall in Malaysia has inbuilt energy saving, rain water harvesting, waste recycling and green space allocation. City Square Market in Singapore has integrated with an urban park with thousands of square feet of green space. Research has shown that people are driven to spend more time in areas which are more in sync with nature and promote sustainable business practices, than within concrete wall malls with no stories to tell or interesting nooks to explore.
Kenyan malls partially incorporate some practices, most being implemented at the operational stage and most only to comply with regulations. Some considerations for promoting greening of malls are outlined below:
Key and financially motivating. Improving energy efficiency or better yet, not having to depend on grid energy can be the key goal.
- Installation of electricity generating solar panels (excess of which can be fed back into the grid for revenue)
- Solar lighting in gardens and exterior areas
- Use of solar water heating to preheat kitchens water usage
- Maximize natural lighting and natural air flow areas
- Use LED lighting in combination with lumen sensors (only comes on when lumens go below a certain threshold at certain times)
- Sensors on all areas that have intermittent usage of energy – escalators; lifts
- Use of biogas – from kitchen waste to replace liquid petroleum gas
Always an after thought until a sewer/effluent discharge license must be applied for:
- Rain water harvesting – treat for use as potable water or as is for toilets, gardening and cleaning.
- Treat and recycle waste water
- Meter key areas of usage for monitoring
- Install water saving taps, dual toilet flushes etc. in toilets
There is money in waste and the adage has a no more appropriate time than now. The focus on single use plastics, reducing or zero waste business practices and promotion of renewables has been highlighted.
- Segregate wastes, store and dispose via a licensed waste handler only. Create awareness among tenants and customers on correct separation of waste.
- Sell garden and kitchen wastes to biogas generators
- Encourage on reusable containers and highlight on dangers of single use plastics in common areas – Provision of water fountains for people to refill water bottles can be done in collaboration with mall restaurants and hotels; together with in-house stores setting up pop ups selling reusable water bottles, coffee cups etc
Green Spaces & Other Considerations:
The importance of this is highly underrated. It provides a tranquility for customers, engages them to stay longer and provides for fresh air.
- Create strategic green spaces around the mall comprising of sitting areas – e.g. around restaurants
- Encourage ozone friendly refrigerants and those with low lobal warming potential.
- Promote education of environment conservation on LCD screens
Going green is not about planting trees, though it helps, the major impact is felt when behavioral changes are reflected in daily life of the consumer. A simple case of (and highly controversial) banning single use plastic bags in Kenya has shown this can be achieved.
It now depends on the mode, forced or voluntary.
Have a green day. Today carry your own coffee flask or water bottle
Associate Environmental Expert