A new hospital in Accra, Ghana earned the prestigious LEED for Health Care Silver rating without Western technology and practices. Proving that you don’t need the latest green products or smart technology from overseas to build a green building, or even achieve the prestigious LEED green building rating certification.

Pat Bosch, design director at Perkins + Will’s Miami office and the project’s lead architect, says that a lot of the infrastructure that supports green building in America and Canada isn’t yet available in Ghana. To achieve LEED certification, they had to make a paradigm shift regarding what a green building needs to be. By “doing things right” and being responsive to the environment, says Pat, they were able to make the building more energy efficient without over-cooling or over-lighting, for example.

Accra as a city is modernising at a rapid pace, but it still faces many challenges. Electricity, service delivery and water supply are unreliable. When the project started in 2014, there was a 159 day blackout. Another challenge that the design and construction team had to consider was that building maintenance practices aren’t as deeply rooted in Ghana as they are in the West, for example. This meant that the conditions at the new health care building wouldn’t necessarily support advanced mechanisms and technology.

“It’s difficult to do LEED for Health Care. Usually, it’s achieved when you use technology like smart shading. Here we had to work with brick-and-mortar construction and infrastructure that was unreliable… It would’ve been irresponsible to include a lot of tech they couldn’t maintain or operate successfully,” says Pat.

To achieve LEED certification without imposing Western building practices and techniques, the design team focused on things such as natural ventilation and solar hot water heating. Some of the by-products of the conditions in Ghana also forced the team to reconsider how they traditionally designed buildings.

Elevators weren’t possible in the hospital because of limited power supply. The architects therefore incorporated a fully walkable ramp that connects the four stories of the building and this ramp is prominently featured in the design. All of the water used by the hospital is either harvested on site or trucked in because the building isn’t connected to a municipal water supply and Ghana is experiencing drought.

Is it worth pursuing LEED certification in non-Western settings?
Pat says that it is definitely worth pursuing LEED, a system designed for buildings in Western settings, in non-western settings.

“I think LEED is a great platform to start with and to frame projects, but it should not be the only qualifier. Do what is smart, what is efficient, but please do not do certification through ‘buying’ points [through unnecessary design details].” concludes Pat.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.fastcodesign.com for the information contained in this article.