I recently completed the design for a ‘typical’ Nigerian 3 bedroom home for a man. It was to be on a single plot of land at Simawa, Ogun State, Nigeria. As part of his design brief, he wanted a large kitchen. I looked at his belle and he didn’t seem to be one of them that’d need a large kitchen. 12” by 6”, 12” by 6”, I need it really big, Bassey you get?! I trust you, I trust you’ he’d say.  I realized he actually meant 40” by 20”.(That space is so big that I can design a single bedroom home in it).

Obviously, I wasn’t comfortable with his demands so I had to keep questioning his intentions for needing such large amount of space and he kept saying he liked it – I trust you, I trust you. But from what it seems, this would be his second home and have it to be this big was to be completely unnecessary for a place that won’t be habituated at all times.

Of course, I reduced the kitchen space and he wouldn’t even find out.

I reduced it because, aside from the fact it was completely unnecessary, I had come to understand that buildings account for about 39% of CO2 emissions.

I think Architects, designers, or basically anyone that creates stuff, has a responsibility to only make stuff that fulfils the spatial requirement of its purpose – not more. We should find a way to make our clients (especially the wealthy ones) realize that some of the spaces, things they think they need – even if they can afford it – is not necessary. That it is not helpful to the environment.

Architects in the tropics should encourage designs that require the use of less energy: Large openings, incorporation of courtyards, single banked spaces – that kinda sturvs help reduce the need for artificial ventilation and lighting.

Another wahala with big houses is that they come with expensive materials that may need to be imported. I’ve worked on several architectural projects on the Island. The fact that these residences are valued at about N500m and above is not what bothers me. It’s that almost every material used in the project have to be transported from the ports deep in Lagos Mainland into the Island. Imagine the amount of CO2 emission for each trip of tiles, furniture, roofing, windows, doors, lighting, HVAC units, etc.

The bigger problem is that most times, these factors are not put into consideration while calculating the total amount of CO2 emissions that are associated with the lifecycle of the building – from construction, through use to ‘death’ of the building.

So, in order to do yourself good (in order to save money and the planet), biko, build a small house or else you might be found to be contributing to reducing the lifespan and quality of life of your children’s children through the large building footprint of your home.

Yeah, it’s that deep.

Ezekiel Bassey
Bassey Ezekiel is an Architect with a load of passion for Urban Design and the Environment !