Balancing profit with purpose: CalBank’s Green building certification journey


When you meet Abraham Aguriba, his calm demeanour belies his fierce passion for sustainability. It is an attribute that shines through any interaction with him, even more so when it has to do with construction of a 12-storey ultra-modern complex that happens to be the head office of CalBank Plc., his employers. The iconic tower, all of 26,800 sqm of space, boasts a 5–level car park, a fully-fitted state-of-the-art gymnasium, a 180-metre-long running track, a kitted canteen, a 400-seater amphitheatre, Pent Houses, Solar Farm, and a sky bar.

As a member of the project team that supervised the construction from inception to completion, Aguriba speaks with great contentment on the building’s performance as predicted savings have largely matched actuals, three years after receiving EDGE certification in 2019. EDGE (‘Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies’) is a free software, a green building standard, and an international green building certification system developed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). EDGE, which receives significant funding from UK Government and Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) helps to identify the most practical ways to build green in a fast, easy and affordable way while considering the local baseline, which includes building codes, climatic data, and typical utility costs. Such pull factors made the bank’s decision to certify their head office building with EDGE an easy one. “The bank believed EDGE certification offered the opportunity to scientifically authenticate the greenness of our building with an accredited international certification agency,” Aguriba reaffirmed.

People, planet, profit

In 2014, when construction began at 23 Independence Ave, Ridge, which is CalBank’s current address in Accra, Ghana, the thinking that went into the design, beyond aesthetics or a statement maker as the greenest building in Ghana, was rooted in the belief that while profit is the end goal of business, there will be no such profits if people and the planet are continuously impacted negatively from business activity. The only way business will continue thriving is if it provides value to the community.

Aguriba recalls similar motivation inspired the bank to go green with the construction of their head office building. “As an institution, we were deliberate in our choice of green design because we knew the positive impact it would have on the environment and on our business. The added value of having the design certified by EDGE is that our customers now appreciate that the bank lives its talk as well. With the enormous benefits associated with green building in terms of ROI and the impact on the environment, there is a great potential for green buildings virgin market in Ghana.

Efficiency measures

The design of the head office facility incorporated both energy and water efficiency measures. Energy efficiency measures included higher thermal performance glass, energy-saving lightbulbs (LED) for internal spaces, motion-controlled lights for corridors and staircases as well as solar photovoltaics. Interventions for water included efficient measures, like dual flush for the water closet system (0.3ltr/per second), low-flow faucets in bathrooms (less than 6lt/minute), water-efficient urinals, motion-sensored taps, and a grey water treatment and recycling system.

Philip Owiredu, MD

The bank’s Managing Director, Mr. Philip Owiredu, proudly recalls these gains. “At CalBank, we say we live and finance green. Our head office is EDGE certified, and we can confidently say is the greenest building in Ghana. We have integrated green into our everyday operations, and this has impacted positively on performance. As a result of our green strategy, we have significantly cut down on our electricity and water costs, introduced ergonomics to enhance efficiency and the well-being of our staff.”

Return on investment

When you speak to staff and customers, they gladly testify to the benefits of the green interventions, which can be felt in improved comfort and productivity, health, safety as well as an improved indoor air quality — a result of the potted air-purifying plants dotted at the lobby and offices. The bank is excited about this feedback as it provides great fillip to its sustainability effort and credibility. The correlation between environmental and business sustainability is clear, and for many business executives who struggle to quantify the benefits, the Head of Shared Services at the bank, Yaw Barnafo, provides unique insight. “CalBank understands the future of business because it understands green buildings as a function of business. Effective facility management is synonymous to the prudent use of resources, and I can boldly say a Finance Manager’s best friend is the efficient and effective facility manager. A facility which is properly and efficiently managed leads to two things; a motivated, healthy and agile workforce and an effective and scientific use of company resources,” Barnafo further reiterated.

Abraham Aguriba, Project Manager

Aguriba provides data to support Barnafo’s assertions. “At CalBank, we have been able to save an average of 562.4 megawatts per hour of power consumed. These savings translate to an average of 40 percent cost reduction as a result of application of energy efficient measures, which were part of the design for which EDGE has validated,” Aguriba reiterated. He also mentioned that the average water consumption is about 768 cubic metres/year instead of 921.6 cubic metres due to water efficient measures applied.

“In these times of climate change adaptation and mitigation coupled with the fact that developing countries – especially here in sub-Saharan Africa – bear the brunt of climate change, it is important that corporate institutions with the muscle to help create and deepen awareness take advantage of the certification programmes to mainstream environmental considerations in their building projects.” Aguriba further expressed that with the success of the head office ‘pilot’, the bank may seek to replicate the certification process for new facilities and branches. A very satisfying thought that leaves a smile on Aguriba’s face, knowing he potentially has another project to manage in his green building journey.

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