Abdullahi, A. L. and Lee, Angela (2015) Looking Inwards for Sustainability: Nigerian Cities and Building Demolition-waste or wealth? In: The 55th Annual General Assembly and Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Architects., 18th - 21st November 2015, Abuja, Nigeria.

Cities could generally be described as sustainable before the replacement of manual labour with machines known as the industrial revolution of the 18th century in Europe. Nevertheless, the Industrial Revolution has been associated with environmental degradation and other negative impacts. The trend continued for two centuries until it was realised that there is a limit to the capacity of the earth to withstand such impacts. The damage to the earth needs to be halted by choice or forced by natural consequences. The idea of pursuing economic development with minimum negative socio-economic and environmental impacts comes to be known as Sustainability. The built environment becomes at the centre of the sustainability agenda due to the enormous negative impact to the environment. Moreover, it was reported that 90% of all materials resources ever extracted might be used in the built environment. Unfortunately, many of these materials, including 10% unused are discarded as wastes. In the UK example, 90-120 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is generated annually. This makes C&D wastes even more critical to the sustainability agenda; and in search for solution, in the words of Janine Benyus, it may even involve the urban westerners learning from the wisdom of the preindustrial societies that have been living in harmony with the nature. In the preindustrial community of Kano in Nigeria, there is virtually zero C&D waste; rather it is merchandise. The different categories of the stakeholders were interviewed to establish how the system works, the conditions that led to its emergence, and limitations. It was discovered that the end-of-life management of buildings in Kano is a naturally evolved industrial ecology analogous to the natural ecological system, whereby the bye-product of one process becomes the raw material for another with no waste. Furthermore, a conceptual model of the system was developed using the biomorphic adaptation of the shell of an African snail. It was therefore argued that sustainability practices are inherent within the African traditions rather than to be learnt from outside.

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