Chinwe Ohajuruka

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Laureate 2015 for Sub-Saharan Africa

Chinwe Ohajuruka

Comprehensive Design Services, NIGERIA
Engineers and builds affordable green houses that are energy & resource-efficient.
Chinwe Ohajuruka, 52, lives in the United States and is of Nigerian heritage. Her 3 degrees in architecture and 3 accreditations in green building led to the creation of Comprehensive Design Services, a company that provides “comprehensive solutions to complex problems”, as Chinwe explains.
Housing issue
With a growing population of around 175 million inhabitants, Nigeria faces a housing, energy and water crisis. Most of the population lives in poor conditions and does not have access to electricity or sanitation. “We have a housing deficit of 17 million units and only 40% of the population has access to power”, says Chinwe. Houses usually lack basic equipment such as lavatories or running water. “Only 30% of the population has flushable toilets and about 60% of the population has access to sanitation.”

I have been in tears quite a lot this past few months, as a result of spending a lot of time in the slums, largely as a result of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. It has been such a struggle to remain professional!  Thanks again. I would not have traded this experience for anything in the world!
Small but mighty
Comprehensive Design Services designs, engineers and constructs affordable and sustainable housing. In 2012, three buildings containing Passive House Prototypes were implemented in Port Harcourt. The houses are solar powered, self-cooling and “source water from right beneath the feet of the occupants”. “These prototypes are attractive modular housing that are re-scalable, replicable and affordable. Our houses are small but mighty”, says Chinwe. Moreover, prototypes were built 2 feet above the ground level to prevent them from flooding. Comprehensive Design Services not only builds houses but also allows customers to buy plans. “We actually produce designs that people can take and build themselves because 96% of the houses that are built in Nigeria are self-built.”
Entrepreneur
In 2011, Chinwe took a leave from her job in the United States to voluntarily assist with the establishment of the Green Council of Nigeria. This position required significant research on social, environmental and financial aspects of the Nigerian economy. It was then that she became aware of the housing deficit in the country as well as the extent of the power, water and sanitation crisis. “The opportunity came when the African Diaspora Marketplace organised a business plan competition for the members of the African diaspora in the United States to come back to their home countries and do impactful developments. When I saw the competition, the idea crystallised into affordable green housing in Nigeria.”
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200,000
“Nigeria produces 4,000 megawatts of electricity whilst we need at least 200,000.”
80%
“In 2011, the Minister of Housing said that 80% of Nigerians lived in deplorable and substandard conditions. At that time, our population was 162 million people.”
“There are parts of this country where women cannot own land or property. We intend to go and build there and we intend to ensure that at least 50% of our buildings are owned by women.”