Kenya - Best practices in the country

UNEP Building, Gigiri:

When the United Nations outgrew the office accommodation at its 140-acre Gigiri compound in Nairobi, it was clear that any new building had to meet several challenges head-on. It needed to be energy and water efficient, to reduce and recycle, and to maximize sustainability without compromising the quality of the working environment.

The new building takes environmental sustainability to a new level. Four buildings, linked by airy walkways, flooded with natural light, and with green areas individually landscaped and themed, can accommodate 1,200 staff. Solar panels cover the roof space, automated low energy lighting illuminates workspaces, and energy efficient computers sit on desks. Rainwater is collected from the roofs to feed the fountains and ponds at the four entrances, and sewage is treated in a state-of-the-art aeration system and recycled to irrigate the beautifully landscaped compound. Water saving lavatories, a central atrium and lightwells in every office zone, together with an inventive design that maximizes cooling natural airflow through the building, all contribute further to sustainability. And far from compromising the working environment, the new building and its environmentally responsible features are acknowledged to be a huge enhancement of the surroundings and comfort in which its new occupants work.

“We’re aiming for the building to be energy neutral over the course of the year, not for it to be completely energy independent,” explains de Jong whose role was to lead efforts to maximize the sustainability of the new office facilities. “There will be some days when the panels will produce more than we need and others where there may not be enough sun, but over the year we are confident of producing as much as we consume.”


Strathmore University, School of Business Studies, Nairobi

With over 5,000 students and 500 staff, Strathmore University is a significant contributor to the Kenyan economy and with this comes the responsibility to ensure that its operations, students and staff have a minimum adverse environmental impact. The Policy outlines key commitments, over and above legal compliance, to incorporate sustainability in all their business operations and demonstrate that environmental sustainability is one of the University’s key priorities.

The green business school building is the first green business school in the Africa. It was part of Strathmore University’s Phase III of physical development that broke ground in October 2008. The SBS building has a capacity of 800 executives.

The building has three floors and a basement with MBA style classrooms and flexi classrooms which can adapt depending on the teaching style and need to optimize the relationship between course participants and professors.  It also has discussion rooms and breakout areas for course participants.

At the soul of the building is its dramatic atrium. The atrium is multidimensional as it can be used as an auditorium, graduation court or cinema hall. It has 12 tiered, breakout areas, each of which can seat 10 people on break-out mode and up to 20 on auditorium mode and circulation spine. It features two giant waterfalls and a tensile structured glass roof curtain wall system.

The building also features an auditorium, chapel, dining area with a lounge and a spill-out balcony, a library completely fitted with indoor air quality designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards with optimum relative air changes controlled using evaporative cooling air units situated at the top of the building.

Rain water is utilized as it is collected from the roof of the building and channeled to an underground tank. LED lighting connected directly to Photovoltaic Solar Louvers also act as sun shading devices on the East and West facades. The indoor air quality utilizes evaporative cooling units that use the rainwater harvested to control temperatures in all the classrooms with temperatures and humidity set at ideal learning conditions.


Standard Chartered Building Headquarters, Nairobi

The Standard Chartered of Kenya Headquarters building is one of the newest buildings in Kenya. It claims to be the first environmentally friendly building in Kenya. It is designed to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED is an internationally recognised green building certification system that ensures that buildings are designed, constructed and operated with high environmental standards. It has 14 floors. The Standard Chartered Bank Headquarters building is rated as environmentally sustainable under the policy of the Standard Chartered Plc Global Office Workplace Standards, which are a clearly defined set of standards for all the group’s new buildings worldwide. In March 2012, the Bank won a Green recognition from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

In terms of energy and water efficiency, the building developer of the Standard Building used solar panels, motion sensors and double glazing fixed on the building to minimizing energy consumption which is one of the characteristics of green buildings. The use of solar panels being main the source of energy, means it reduces the use of power energy and consequently the electricity bills.

The rain water is harvested and used in the building. Water is recycled and used in the rest rooms. As far as indoor environment is concerned there is natural lighting and ventilation for the building. The natural lighting and natural extraction of foul air is important for the wellbeing of employees and customers.

The Standard Chartered building also has a central atrium that allows a lot of light into the building and also assists in the general circulation of fresh air.


Catholic University Learning Resource Center (LRC), Nairobi

How then does an informed architect walk the tight rope, balancing vogue on one hand and responsible energy efficient design on the other? Here lies the challenge! As Architects and Environmental Design Consultants, we set out to demystify this challenge through the design of The Learning Resource Centre: low in energy consumption and environmentally friendly, which has set new standard for tropical climate responsive architecture.

The project which consists of a 3000 seater ultra-modern library, 1200 seater state-of-the-art E-Conferencing facility and a 350 seater Cafeteria is a world class sustainable and environmentally designed project. The multi-faceted facility also houses an ICT Centre, Multimedia Centre, Electronic Publishing Centre, Language Laboratory, Electronic Museum and Archive, Bookshop and Curriculum Development Centre.

The project boasts amongst the country’s most environmentally friendly buildings. Amongst the features employed in the buildings include:

  1. Natural prevention of heat gain and provision of cooling. This is achieved through:

    i) The buildings’ orientation is such that their long facades face North-South.

    ii) Effective sun shading of all glazed areas. This is realised through the use of deep roof overhangs, extensive sun shading system on all the windows using concrete fins and aluminium louvred screens.

    iii) Use of high thermal mass on the walls. The walls are built of 200mm thick Nairobi’s Njiru hard blue stone.

    iv) Use of natural ventilation to provide cooling. This is elaborately done throughout the project using louvred window openings on the walls and thermal chimneys at the roof level.       

    v) Minimum window openings on the East and West facing facades.

    vi) Windows are located on the North and South facing facades and are all fully shaded.

    It is recommended that all buildings located within the tropics, Kenya included should have minimal window openings. Fully glazed buildings are not recommended for tropical climates. However if glass cladded buildings are built within the tropics, then all the glass must be fully sun-shaded against direct sun shine throughout the day.

    vii) Placing of the buildings’ services on the East and Western facing facades e.g. stores, lobbies, toilets, ducts etc.

  2. Effective natural lighting which includes a high roofed central atrium in the library with a water feature at the ground level. The buildings are narrow in plan. This helps to achieve maximum natural lighting penetration into the buildings and also good cross – ventilation.
  3. The project uses locally available materials, with low embodied energy, minimal maintenance and easy to re-cycle.
  4. Rainwater harvesting.
  5. The library has an effective natural cross-ventilation system with full height window louvered system. This is combined with high roofed central atrium which has an elaborate ventilation system at the atrium’s roof for ventilation. It also boasts of thermal chimneys for expelling out hot air at the roof top
  6. Use of oxidation ponds for its sewerage system
  7. The conference hall boasts of the only rock bed cooling system in the country. This works by air being passed over a rock bed located below the raked seating area. Air is pre-cooled by the rocks ‘coolth’ before being introduced into the conference hall under the seats. As the air rises, it heats up and is expelled through four major thermal chimneys made of sheet metal, two located at the back of the hall and the other two in front of the stage.
  8. The Project is landscaped with well-chosen native trees and shrubs.


The new Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Headquarters, Nairobi

The new headquarters of the Kenya Commercial Bank will be completed for occupation by 2015. It house state of the art banking hall, personal banking facilities, administrative offices and conference facilities for meetings, conventions and workshops. The building will offer 800sqm of office space per level, and about 400 cars parking on five parking levels.

The triangular shaped plan is intended to give all facades of the building prominence. This would pose a challenge since the building would be exposed to glaring rays of sun. Due to this and to avoid mechanical ventilation, the facades are fully sun shaded with horizontal and vertical Aluminum fins. An atrium and triple storey landscaped sky courts will allow for natural ventilation.

To enhance day lighting, there is extensive use of light reflecting metallic silver finish on the solar fins, use of high light transmittance glass and louvered horizontal shading.

The horizontal fins also act as a maintenance platform.

Exposed concrete waffles floor systems provide for adequate thermal mass, absorbing internally generated heat during the day and getting cooled during the night. Three sky courts were created to limit the spread of fire and smoke. They also allow air movement into the building and through the atrium.

Rainwater collection and treatment and water recycling will ensure low running costs.


Coca Cola Building, Nairobi

The Coca-Cola Plaza was completed in August 2008. It serves as the regional head office for the giant firm, supervising activities in 27 countries in Africa. The building is said to be one of the greenest in the region. Looking at the different parameters the following observations were made of the Standard Chartered building in Kenya and the Coca Cola Plaza.

The Coca-Cola building is in upper Hill area of Nairobi. It has close proximity to commuter transport system. This means that employees and visitors can use public transport, reducing the number of cars used and eventually reducing pollution.

The solar panels, in the Coca-Cola Plaza have been installed to provide solar energy for heating water for use in bathrooms and kitchens. On the roof top is a lawn whose purpose was to reduce ‘heat gain’ into the office. This control of heat minimizes the use of mechanical cooling system, and fits in with the idea of green building. According to one of the managers, the company has been saving 30% on its power bill since it relocated to the Coca Cola Plaza.

The same reduction in bills is seen for water, as a result of rain water harvesting. Rainwater harvesting techniques with a capacity to hold 50,000 litres of water have been included. The water is used in the health club and in the lawns around the office. To control the consumption of water, the bathroom taps are fitted with hydro sensors that dispense water automatically when there is one wants to use the water.

The design of the Coca-Cola building is such that natural lighting is adequate throughout the day. It has wide, clear windows with a north/south orientation to allow natural lighting to filter in while keeping direct heat away from the building and eliminating the need for mechanical air conditioning system. The lighting systems near windows are fitted with photo sensors which enable them to switch off automatically once they detect enough external lighting during the day. The window panes are made to minimize heat gain and diffuse light inside the offices. There are photo sensors in the drive way that turn on when the sunsets.