Modern and elaborate glass structured designs borrowed from western capitals stand tall in Kenya’s skyline, yet they do not meet green architecture threshold. How green should a building be to be environmental friendly? PETER MUIRURI investigates
Kenya is slowly joining the league of countries employing green or environmentally sustainable architecture in real estate development. The move is largely informed by the dwindling natural resources such as fossil fuels and water, resources that were once thought as inexhaustible.
|Musau kimeu, Environmental Design Expert|
The designs are also expected to reduce global warming since current unsustainable buildings in many parts of the globe contribute to at least 50 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.
However, the full realisation of green technology is being hampered by lack of properly trained personnel in the field.
According to Architect Musau Kimeu, a leading Environmental Design Expert, Kenya has less than 20 such architects, the highest in Africa.
“Lack of proper expertise in environmental design is largely to blame for the slow progress in green architecture. Most ‘experts’ in the field usually incorporate an element or two of green design and then label the project green resulting in misinformation to the general public,” says Kimeu.
Nairobi, he says, has few buildings that are well designed to make use of locally available materials while minimising energy consumption and maximising the use of non-toxic materials.
Experts in the field argue that Kenya had beautiful architectural designs in the 1960s and 1970s with buildings such as Parliament, the old Attorney General’s Chambers, Harambee House, the former Shell/BP House (current Office of the Prime Minister) together with a few buildings within University of Nairobi’s Main Campus falling in this category.
However, the last three decades have seen a rat race as developers within our cities try to outdo each other in the erection of tall buildings that largely rely on elaborate air-conditioning system, thus contributing to carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
“Nairobi’s current skyline has greatly copied the West with a lot of emphasis on glass that makes buildings hot due to the large amount of heat that penetrates through. Such glass buildings are well suited for temperate countries in Europe and North America where heat needs to be retained. The reverse should be true in a tropical country like Kenya where heat needs to be extracted from a building,” argues Kimeu.
The question then is how ‘green’ should a structure be to meet the criteria of an environmental friendly building?