Alex Rose-Innes

Chinwe Ohajuruka is an award-winning Nigerian green architect and a renowned advocate for sustainability in the green building environment. Climate change resilience is at the heart of all her projects for which she had been globally awarded.

Chinwe’s Comprehensive Design Services (CDS) build affordable and efficient green homes. These buildings, no matter their size, are solar powered, self-cooling and water sufficient. Not only is Ohajuruka the driving force behind this successful business, but CDS also teaches and trains entrepreneurs to design and build sustainably.

The excellence of CDS is now well-known in sub-Saharan Africa with its huge housing deficit. The company also contracts to architectural enterprises in the Caribbean and plays a huge role in addressing Climate Resilience for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

This talented woman left the United States and returned to her native country for a year as a team member to establish the Green Council of Nigeria. She was quoted in international media saying that it was during this research to produce the country report that she realised just how precarious the housing, energy and water challenges were in Nigeria. “I knew that with my professional experience and green-building accreditations, I could make a difference,” she told Absa Lionesses.

With two engineering colleagues, she entered the United States Aid (USAID) and the Western Union’s African Diaspora Marketplace competition. The three-member team showcased their affordable green housing prototype, designed to address the environmental and social impacts of climate change and the rest is history.

CDS won a USD 50 000 grant which had to be matched dollar for dollar and the enterprising trio roped in family, friends and business contacts and constructed the first ever Eco-Village in Port Harcourt in south-east Nigeria. The Eco-Village comprises of eight (8) completely off-the-grid one-bedroom apartments designed for those at the lower end of the socio-economic pyramid. People who had hitherto lived in the slums, for which Nigeria had become known for, moved into these apartments and for the first time lived with dignity and comfort.

No one else was offering this type of eco-friendly living at the time and CDS became an overnight success, drawing interest from around the globe. All the homes built by CDS are energy-efficient and self-cooling. Simple and easily construction ideas such as light-coloured roofs, louvered windows and cross ventilation were used. The homes were designed around courtyards to improve ventilation and build community among residents. Solar panels provide power and water comes from a borehole. Compressed stabilised earth blocks (Hydraform) were used in one of the buildings to keep the walls cool, turning out to be as beautiful as it was useful.

The winning team comprises of three full-time members and a team of consultants and advisors. Chinwe Ohajuruka is the founder, architect and sustainability leader. Omie Ben-Kalio is co-founder, general manager and lead engineer. Obiageli Enumah-Nwokocha is project manager, in charge of the site and building operations, who, as a graduate of building technology, became adept at managing men, materials and money to ensure a  relative smooth building process in the face of daily challenges.

CDS is currently in the process of raising funding and forming partnerships to build up and complete the value chain for the successful implementation of a large scale affordable green housing development in Nigeria. Prototype estates in the country are on the cards while the business is also working with and consulting to organisations in Nigeria and Ghana.