Category Archives: Uganda Martyrs University

Public Buildings as Beacons of Energy Efficiency: A Key Strategy for Local Governments to Champion Energy Efficiency

Herbert Candia and Alex Ndibwami of Uganda Martyrs University report on a site visit they went to Nairobi with project partners from Kasese municipality.

The goal of the visit was, by visiting two recently completed and published energy efficient buildings, to convince the Mayor, Town Clerk and Site Engineer that it is possible to deliver an energy efficient building today. The buildings included Strathmore Business School at Strathmore University and the UNEP/UNHabitat office facility at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi.

Nairobi’s high solar yield all year round makes solar power the best renewable energy source. Collation: UNEP/UNHABITAT Archive

When speaking about energy efficiency in sub-saharan Africa you would expect that the years that followed for example the construction of the Eastgate building in Harare, Zimbabwe by Mick Pearce would have registered a considerable number of examples local to the region. More often than not as a result, the references we make are a mix of more western attempts the price for which we pay in misplaced parallels.

In Uganda, reference to local attempts is only safely to buildings that were designed and built during the colonial era especially those that have not been ill advisably retrofitted with air conditioning. However, we can proudly acknowledge the fact that one building – the Jinja municipality headquarters stands soundly in its balanced rectilinear form and elegantly in its well-orchestrated fenestration as both light and air grace it efficiently. Of course there are some opportunities yet to be taken advantage of, for example: water harvesting, local waste management and making the most of the outdoors for its environmental and social-cultural potential.

The simple design enables the building to act as a chimney, where warm air is drawn up from ground level and through the office areas, and then escapes beneath the sides of the vaulted roof, maintaining comfortable temperatures in the offices and air circulation throughout the building. Source: UNEP/UNHABITAT Archive

Here we are with two project partners, Jinja and Kasese municipalities: Jinja, that has a 56 year old energy efficient building and Kasese, that is only building theirs today. The task ahead for us is to transform Kasese’s two storey predictably energy inefficient building into an energy efficient one. The bigger challenge presented though is that this building is under construction.  There is no evidence in the drawings that energy efficiency was considered, rather a form that was dictated by key functions the building will accommodate.

Strathmore Business School in Nairobi: The simple design is housed in an elegantly transparent and pragmatically perforated volume with generous overhangs to prevent heat gain while creating semi outdoor spaces that add life to the building. Source: Mwaura Njogu

Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that there are hardly any recently completed multi storey buildings that demonstrate any energy efficiency let alone any consistent attempt to document where efforts have been made. Indeed, we need more “local” examples of energy efficient buildings whose attempts resonate with our context in order to nurture an attitude of design and construction for energy efficiency. Public buildings can play a leading role and it ought to be a key strategy for municipalities to champion. This can start in exhibiting their headquarters as a local example and later in how the planning approval process is undertaken. This would be a key step in transitioning to a more energy efficient built environment.

Jinja Municipal Headquarters: The simple design of the Jinja municipality headquarters stands soundly in its balanced rectilinear form and elegantly in its well-orchestrated fenestration as both light and air grace it efficiently. Image: A.Ndibwami

Coincidentally, a process is underway in which a building code that will feature energy efficiency is being drafted for Uganda. In order to avoid the historical weaknesses in policy and regulatory frameworks where application and enforcement are weak it is crucial that key players are prepared to implement energy efficiency. Project partners from Kasese have shown eagerness and conveyed a sense of appreciation to have their new building reconfigured for energy efficiency. The visit to Nairobi thus, is one way of exposing key decision makers to the possibilities. We also hope that the design process and the decisions that will contribute to reconfiguring the building for the better will serve as a capacity building exercise. To boost the design process and promote ownership, we will hold a workshop based visit to Kasese to reveal the possibilities while accomodating any feedback leading up to implementation. Inadvertently perhaps, other local governments following our documentation of the process and outcomes will emulate it all.

Continuing Professional Development Course – Kampala, Uganda, 7-11 November 2016

The consortium of the Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions (SAMSET) researchers is organising a CPD from 7 – 11 November, 2016 in Kampala (Uganda) during which it will share with key stakeholders findings thus far, strategies and case studies from the research and key allies in the field. Concepts from these sessions are geared towards supporting initiatives for energy transitions in various arena in the urban environment.

At the core of the SAMSET project is promoting responsible use of and access to clean energy. The role of national policy and regulatory frameworks and how these have since evolved to link government and governance on the one hand and academia, finance, investment and community on the other, in developing instruments that promote and facilitate energy transitions is interrogated in this project. The project is cognisant of the fact that social or socio-economic engagement in as far as they influence attitudes toward sustainable energy transitions are key drivers. As such, even at local/micro scale SAMSET is very keen to empower local communities to thrive on their own. As a strategy to deliver key action oriented messages, case studies that demonstrate the presence and impact of projects on communities at urban scale will be explored.

On the first day, 7 November, 2016, participants will be taken on a field trip to acquaint themselves with the scope of urban energy. This will be followed by four days of in-depth presentations to familiarise participants with the subject matter and group tasks to enable participants apply themselves in order to appreciate the concepts better. The key themes will include: Resource-efficiency in Energy Planning, Implementation and Management; Participation and Key Stakeholders in Energy Planning, Implementation and Management; Policy and Regulatory Frameworks and; BUILD[ing] Resilience.

While the CPD is open to all Built Environment practitioners ranging from government departments, development partners, architects, engineers, planners, building control officers, energy managers, contractors, housing associations, developers, clients, students, academics and researchers, it will also involve key actors like the the Parliamentary Committee handling Climate Change/Energy Policy and/or Building Regulations; Kampala Capital City Authority; Ministry of Local Government; Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development; Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda National Bureau of Standards; Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Local Government Association and; representatives from the project’s Pilot Municipalities in Uganda – Jinja and Kasese.

Please visit www.samsetproject.net for more details about the project, or click here for the course flyer.

Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

A plan of action, talk of action, chain reaction, yet?

Alex Ndibwami from Uganda Martyrs University write on the recent African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala, Uganda, and its relevance to the work and goals of SAMSET.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala.  This was the first time Uganda was hosting the event whose theme was Our Architect, Our Communities, Our Heritage. 

While there were a number of presentations and discussions, I will focus on three of particular interest specifically because they are at the heart of the issues SAMSET has set out to deal with.

Ms Jennifer Musisi, the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority, delivered a keynote presentation on urbanisation in general and what direction is being taken to improve the conditions in her city; while Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama, Executive Director, ACTogether Uganda, presented the approach to their work in informal settlements, challenging the built environment professional rethink their attitude towards urbanisation and the challenges it comes with; and from a gripping and  inspiring philosophical point of view Ms Lillian Namuganyi of Makerere University, College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology discussed socio-spatial landscapes in a historical and ideological sense, and what form it could take to renew a contextually rich socio-cultural dynamic in a contemporary sense.  Ms Lillian Namuganyi is also a practising architect and a researcher.  What these three presentations had in common was that they are concerned about the future of the city dweller.

What I will dwell on though are the subtle hints for a collaboration that these three players in the built environment are signalling.  While Ms Jennifer Musisi may have concluded inviting professionals to get on board and Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama reechoed the need for professionals to be less elitist, Ms Lillian Namuganyi simply set the arena for a renewed attitude toward the socio-spatial landscape.

But what does it all mean in practical terms?  We all know that governments focus on infrastructure the best way it fits their political agenda while Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) actually tend to be more hands-on attempting to solve the real problems at the grassroots, yet unless efforts are combined any discourse will remain academic and the existence of the built environment professional float for elitist.

Is there room for a real collaboration that deals with the issues collectively and could deliver lasting solutions?  Who is well placed to lead this and sustain the momentum – a city manager, an NGO activist, an academic/researcher or a built environment professional?  It is difficult to tell in a society where accountability born of collective effort is not part of the work ethic.

Might Ms Lillian Namuganyi suggest a starting point for us in her assertion that “Whether operating within or at its margins, the re-working of the strategic city is a logic and order of fragments, scraps that are pieced together moment by moment.  It is a city of micro-logics of the people’s social and especially economic survival – many small thoughts and actions of many people, woven into the detailed space of the city, unpredictable, never static, ever mutating.” So I dare ask again without deliberate collaboration that acknowledges the complexity of the city and the contribution from different players is the plan of action simply talk of it?  Or is there potential for real change – a chain reaction of possibilities borne of new partnerships that combine astute managerial skills, compassionate activists, avant-garde professionals and more outgoing academics.

The SAMSET project is an action oriented research project setting out to close the capacity gap at municipality level while in a participatory manner developing strategies that will support energy transitions.  Indeed, capacity and engagement are a precursor to action, but without the acknowledgement of and investment in structures that promote inter disciplinary work ethos, is it sustainable?

Collaboration with Other Research Networks

David Mann from Uganda Martyrs University describes the recent Resilient Cities Roundtable in Kampala.

Recently, I had the opportunity to represent the SAMSET project at the Resilient Cities Roundtable organised at Makerere University by the Embassy of France in Kampala. The aim of the forum was to give a platform for the discussion of research around innovations to develop green infrastructure, to meet the growing demand for energy, and to reduce pollution in cities. Guests of honor included the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the French Ambassador to Uganda.

This was also an opportunity to introduce the RUBAFRIQUE network which features scholars from around Africa engaged in collaborative research, open debate, and other activities to advance the understanding of urban environments and their socio-ecological dynamics to promote better-informed decision making. An explicit goal is to bridge the gap between Anglophone and Francophone researchers – hence the membership of universities in Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

In the SAMSET presentation I included an overview of the project objectives, partners, and outputs as well as preliminary results from the energy model for Jinja. Other interesting panelist presentations included Master Planning to cope with floods in Dar Es Salaam, Conservation of urban forests in Nairobi, Non-motorised urban transport planning in Uganda, and Local industrial-scale production of charcoal briquettes as an alternative to traditional wood charcoal. KCCA has partnered with the French technical research agency ADETEF to carry out an energy audit of street lighting and administrative buildings in the capital, the results of which could be very interesting for the SAMSET team.

We learned also that the University of Nairobi is launching a new Master’s Programme on Urbanisation which will include a module on Energy in Cities for which they are currently seeking qualified lecturers. It seems that there is a renewed interest in urban energy transitions and that academia is just catching up to the demand.

Nuances of Collecting Data – A Uganda Experience?

Josephine Namukisa from UMU writes on the challenges and discoveries made during fieldwork for the SAMSET project.

At the heart of the process of generating a State of Energy Report is field surveys to garner an energy picture. Surveys may range from questionnaires and one-on-one interviews. The latter have been quite beneficial to the SAMSET research team in Uganda as a means of carrying out preliminary data collection. The experiences of carrying out interviews in Jinja and Kasese municipality were enriching in many cases sometimes far more than the data collected eventually and are therefore worth reminiscing about. We encountered lessons on formality versus informality and at times had to slow down and demystify energy concepts. Following are two encounters.

Formality Vs Informality
Clad in jeans, canvas shoes and rack sacks, we arrived at Jinja Municipality Offices ready for a day in the field, which because of our seven months experience so far, we approached with open-mindedness. We would be as flexible as need be and handle every interview as it came although with one constant; to walk away with the most credibly-possible data in keeping with the project ethos. In our estimation, the task would be even easier because an official from Jinja Municipality would be accompanying us into the field. Could we get more credible than that? In our minds, we saw our usually long verbal introductions highlighting organizations that our respondents hardly know about shortened and their responses lengthened simply because of the trust created from dealing with their own. We were in for a rude awakening.

At the municipality head quarters, we were ushered into a large office with leather sofas and a large mahogany desk behind which our soon-to-be “field assistant” was seated, his secretary was rapidly typing out a letter of introduction nearby. We sat quietly for an hour waiting for the official business to be completed before heading out into the field. Our first stop was the UMEME office and the moment our suit-clad field assistant handed over our introduction letter to the Manager and uttered a short “We are from the Town Clerk’s Office”, it was like a brass gate fell between us and the Manager because she visibly acquired an intensely formal stance, ushered us into her office and for the next fifteen minutes explained to us the procedure of carrying out research at UMEME field offices, inclusive formal letters to the Head Office, authorizations and other requirements that in her estimation would take no less than a month. Case closed. Yes our introduction was short, her answer long but both of them absolutely futile.

In Kasese a week later, we were the wiser. Again armed with field clothes, lengthy introductions and the attitude of researchers and not government officials, we made what we referred to as a “courtesy call” on the UMEME office. Again we were offered seats but not so that we could be briefed on protocol but rather on the goings on at the office. The Officer in charge then called his Area Manager informing him of our visit and even though the manager was skeptical at first, that being his first month in the position, on meeting us he relaxed and plunged into a lengthy and fruitful discourse about his work. When we told him about an earlier visit to HIMA cement and Mobuku Power Dam, all things he cares about as part of his work, he opened up about electricity service delivery in Kasese Municipality, the main consumers and strategies for distribution and future projects such as OBA – a project to connect homes for free. Yes, clearance from the Head Quarters in order to access more detailed information was talked about but we walked away information-richer than was the case in Jinja

Unpacking the Bill
One old lone figure on the verandah of an aging post-colonial house is watching the road, her maize cobs spread out in the sun to dry in the large compound of her daughter’s estate- the daughter who lives in Kampala but pays the bill monthly; utility and Dstv bills, the latter without fail so that her twin daughters, the old woman’s grand children can be entertained hourly, daily, weekly and monthly.

Our arrival is greeted with wariness; the team of two who could be anything from walkers who have lost their way, door-to-door evangelists or bill collectors but certainly not researchers into that which eludes her on a monthly basis; the green and white UMEME bill she cannot read because it has no Luganda or Lusoga translation. However, once we introduce ourselves as SAMSET researchers, enquirers into Long Range Energy Alternatives; planners with a vested interest in her energy future, the bill becomes a prop that sets us on common ground. The twosome is the old woman’s dream come true; a magnifying glass to help her make sense of what is eating up the largest chunk of the allowance her daughter sends monthly. She, on the other hand is the bane of the research’s existence; a single micro entry with no records to enter into a statistical sheet. But we take the chairs she excitedly offers, retrieve our pens, magnifying glasses and Luganda vocabulary because for the next hour we shall translate Kilowatt hours, amps and appliance types.

“Aaaah!” it finally dawns on her after no less than an hour; the revelation that the electricity bill has been accurate all along. “But what can I do to keep it down?” The old woman enquires, not sure which would be wiser; switching off the fridge and forfeiting ice-cold water or denying her adorable granddaughters two hours of Cartoon Network a day. That, we leave to her discretion and armed with a table of calculations and statistics; the copy we quickly made after she requested an original she couldn’t read, we head off into the sunset in search of more homes to survey.

SAMSET – a much needed look at energy in Ugandan cities

David Mann from Uganda Martyrs University offers his thoughts on the importance of the SAMSET research at this crucial juncture in Uganda’s urban development.

As other bloggers have already pointed out, energy is indeed at the heart of development and human welfare around the world. Ugandans are migrating from the countryside to towns and cities in search of the services and opportunities that these urban areas provide. Ideally, there are clinics, schools, and shops, and there is running water, entertainment, and perhaps most importantly, employment. But almost all of these urban promises require energy in one form or another and keeping up with the pace of development (at affordable prices) has proved difficult for both the electrical grid and the petrol station.

It is important to bear in mind that wood and charcoal still represent roughly 90 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country. However, as Ugandan cities grow and develop, the fuels used in transportation, industry, refrigeration, lighting and entertainment become more diverse; we see gasoline, paraffin, diesel, and electricity increasing their share of the energy mix. Efforts by government, private enterprise and development organizations to bring photovoltaic technology to households have met with some success and advocates for the preservation of biodiversity and forest cover aim at reducing charcoal use through the introduction of efficient stoves and alternative means of water purification. There are also major internationally financed projects aimed at increasing electrification (currently 8 per cent of population), hydroelectric production, and the efficiency of household appliances.

The recent discovery of oil reserves in the west of the country is likely to change the resource equation and enlarge the government coffers to finance infrastructure development. The debates about the impact this discovery will have on energy usage and urban economies will be enriched with the findings of new research such as that supported under the SAMSET project.

Much of the ongoing research is either looking at the national energy policies or the purchasing decisions of individual households. SAMSET takes the unique approach of attempting to study energy production and usage at the scale of the municipality – a boundary within which thousands of people make daily decisions affecting energy, but also where a government might be able to better influence those decisions through regulation, promotion, and procurement. The team here at Uganda Martyrs University is eager to work with academics, policy makers and community leaders to better understand the drivers of energy consumption as well as the potential solutions using the tools of urban planning, civil engineering, architecture, and others. This will not be an easy task as the problems are indeed quite “wicked”, but considering the early stage of development of many secondary towns in Uganda (most with population over 100, 000), setting up implementable systems and policies is very likely to have an excellent Sustainable Energy payback.

Municipalities: The Cities of Tomorrow

Alex Ndibwami of Uganda Martyrs University offers his perspective on urbanisation in Uganda, and its energy challenges.

Today’s municipalities as we know them are the cities of tomorrow.  I have come to terms with the fact that cities are inevitable but, much as development of any sorts borrows from global trends, it is also possible to plan how sustainably a society will harness the resources the environment provides.  If only as a warning, it has been predicted that the least developed countries unfortunately, will have the least resilience in the event of any [imminent] natural disasters – the consequence of a wasteful attitude toward our natural resources.

Top of the list of resources is energy, or rather where it is harnessed.  Energy at a social level contributes to how we live, how we work, how we relate, how we think and how we consume.  But for some time and now, today – the main question is about how efficiently it is used and how accessible it is.

In Uganda, like any other (Sub-Saharan African) society, there are a number of different sources of energy and end uses.  Hydro is a ‘popular’ albeit unreliable source of energy and in households for example, this electricity: is used for lighting, cooking, among other household needs or luxuries.  Nationally though, wood based fuel is the most utilised resource because it is not only affordable, but fits within the traditional way of living and preparing meals.  The urban dimension of things however, requires us to look beyond that household threshold to how accessible for example electricity is and how efficiently oil/gas is used and perhaps what alternatives there are in order to mitigate the impacts of (uncontrolled) consumption at both domestic and commercial scale.

But, this is not a concern of many a consumer, because all they need to know is how to survive.  Research initiatives are one way to fill this gap – to advance knowledge on how to deal with some of these issues.  As such, it is a great privilege to be part of such a formidable team.  Indeed, SAMSET is well situated to cater to as wide a context for Africa in West Africa (Ghana), East Africa (Uganda) and Southern Africa (South Africa); and such seasoned partners from the United Kingdom.  The Faculty of the Built Environment at Uganda Martyrs University is committed to research on energy and SAMSET adds an action-oriented dimension for which we are eager to undertake.  The level of service delivery and how far issues to do with energy are understood varies in each context; what is common though is that it ought to be improved.  In this regard, the first network meeting reiterated the need for a careful stakeholder analysis and appreciation of cultures of reception.  As such, for SAMSET to make significant strides, the selection of stakeholders has to take into account the contribution they will make and how strategically situated they are – in local government, community based organisations and the like.  In addition, we will be dealing with municipal councils and their constituents whose context we have to appreciate for them to embrace any interventions.

We look forward to a successful project.