By Ajibola Ameerah
Every first Monday in October is World habitat day (UN International day) . To commemorate, we had an interview with Mrs Chinwe Ohajuruka, CEO of Comprehensive Design Services to talk about the affordable green houses she has been able to provide for the people of Rivers State.
Mrs Chinwe Abulokwe Ohajuruka is a “green” Architect, Project Manager and Sustainability Consultant with over 26 years’ work experience in a variety of international settings. She has been involved with several design projects for collegiate, commercial, residential, institutional and industrial clients. Having designed and managed building projects in Nigeria, the United States and five other countries, she has a diverse background that complements the diverse and international settings she has found herself in. She is the CEO of Comprehensive Design Services, a firm that is committed to practical sustainable design solutions for Nigeria. The organization started in 2012
Ajibola Ameerah: Congratulations on the 2015 Cartier award for Sub Saharan Africa. How do you feel about the award?
I am very happy, I feel elated and most importantly, I feel Cartier has selected my project because they feel that dignity for Nigerians is important. They have promoted dignity of owning your home of having your own kitchen, bathroom and toilet inside your home where women and girls can be safer with clean water and power.
A: To survive, humans need food, shelter and clothing. Why did you decide to go into building homes and not something else?
Just as you said, food shelter and clothing are fundamental human rights. I am an architect so i have focused on buildings and especially, I have focused on affordable housing because I believe that access to decent affordable housing is a fundamental human right
A.A: It is not common to see builders take renewable energy or going green into consideration as part of their goals when creating structures especially on a large scale in developing countries like Nigeria. What made you think differently?
Because I am a green architect. Green means that I believe in sustainable design, I believe that anything we do should be profitable, should be for the people
A: The population and unemployment rate in the country keeps increasing in geometrical rates, how much of an impact have you made and how many families have benefited from your Passive House Prototypes (PHP) knowing fully well that an unemployed man has limited resources to rent a house; let alone buy one?
Eight families have been transplanted from the slums; the waterside slum in Port-harcourt into our passive house prototypes and we are getting ready to build thirty-two more units next year and sixty-four more units in 2017. We are also working with another state government to build 400 units in the state
A.A: Are you limiting your organization to be a Nigerian affair or going global with it? How do you see this organization in the next 10 years?
I am talking to representatives in 7 other African countries. I am not limiting it to only Nigeria, I am thinking of working around Sub-Saharan Africa
A.A: As any business or social enterprise, limitations and challenges would arise, what are those challenges and how have you been able to overcome them?
Many of the challenges we face have to be solved on a national level. For example, it is difficult to get cheap land in a good area and it is difficult for the people; the off takers of my buildings to get affordable mortgages and so we are working on this. We are working with mortgage and micro finance institutions and we are also talking to the government about making land in good areas available for affordable low cost development
A.A: There are so many people living in slums and poor housing facilities in the country. What do you think the government can do to improve housing conditions of the people?
Many many people have written about what the government needs to do. If you google affordable housing and Nigeria housing deficits, at least 1000 people have written, on the internet, in newspapers, on talk shows, they have advised the government on what needs to be done. So my advice is that the government listens to the people. People have talked about changing the land use tenure system, people have talked about bringing down the price of building materials, people have talked about there being power and water, people have talked about there being affordable mortgages. So many people have said so many things about what needs to be done to fix the housing deficit in the country and the government needs to listen.
A.A: Tell us your vision in 5 words
To be a leading provider of affordable green housing.