Tag Archives: Built Environment

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

SAMSET News – June 2014 – Second Network Meeting

Xavier Lemaire from UCL summarises the second SAMSET Network Meeting.

The second SAMSET network meeting took place in Ghana on the 14-16 May 2014. During this meeting, representatives from each municipality partner of the project have described the situation of their town and their expectations for this research-action project.

The six African municipalities – Cape Town and Polokwane (South Africa), Kasese and Jinja (Uganda), Ga East and Awutu Senya East (Ghana) – tend to face considerable difficulties to exert control on land use due to important internal and international migration combined with an important internal population growth rate.

Parnter Municipalities Map

In all countries, power supply does not cope with the demand and power cuts can be frequent which raises the question of the effectiveness of demand-side management policies; some municipalities also face constraints in terms of supply of water which will become even more acute in the near future; waste management can be an important unresolved issue; traffic congestion is also widespread due to the lack of public transport and cannot be solved by just implementing more infrastructure.

It was also emphasized during this meeting how data used by municipalities were inaccurate and misleading because of the importance of the informal sector, and that municipalities were always behind the fast changing situation on the ground. With yearly budgets planned according to the situation at a given time, but implemented with delays, flexibility in planning procedures was needed to allow the taking into account of changes that have occurred in the recent past, and not just to factor the growth rate of the municipality.

It has been underlined that data to be collected for the research did not need to be complete at the beginning of the project, because data collection was an on-going process and that data will get better once they have been started to be collected.

Each of the municipalities have taken the opportunity of this meeting to detail their specific issues and how they try to deal with them, particularly detailing and starting to compare their approach in terms of planning and electrification. After these first exchanges, further network meetings will help to design and implement effective strategies.

SAMSET Team

Members of the SAMSET Team in Ghana, May 2014

Urban Energy Transitions – Uganda

Prof. Simon Marvin from Durham University reports on the Durham SAMSET team’s recent work in Uganda.

During March we undertook initial fieldwork in Kampala, Uganda as part of our work on developing a knowledge exchange framework for urban energy transitions in African cities [1]. The work had three main components. i): a ‘netmapping’ exercise to review the institutional landscape of the energy sector with local and national policy makers. ii) meetings with agents of local energy transitions from the NGO and private sector. iii) And dialogue with our Uganda partners on understanding the case study cities and sensitising the knowledge exchange framework to the local context. Three sets of issues emerged that will be important in shaping our future work programme in SAMSET

 

Restricted Capacity of Municipalities to Shape Energy Transitions

We met the Municipal Town Clerks – the equivalent of a Chief executive in UK – from our two case study cities.  These municipalities have few formal responsibilities for energy issues with policy making priorities and capacity being exercised at a national level – through the energy ministry and the actions of an unbundled energy system of generation, transmission and distribution. Consequently, there was very limited capacity in the local authority to focus on energy issues – with only one member of staff employed to deal with all environmental issues – including working on forests, wastewater etc.  While municipalities were concerned about a range of energy issues in their cities including high costs, disruption, health and air quality plus access of households to formal energy system  – there are few formal mechanisms for them to interact with, or shape, the energy system.

 

By-passing Municipal and National Context

Mapping the urban energyscape revealed a wide range of local energy initiatives around lighting, fuel-efficient stoves and a range of decentralised technologies.  But these responses were strongly dependent on the actions of external intermediaries – NGOs and private companies  – who worked with local households and community-based organisations to develop local energy initiatives.  What was striking about these was the ways in which these responses tended to connect to international financial mechanisms, agencies and particular national contexts involving private companies, universities and NGOs to a particular local context – household, sewage works etc. There was strong sense that these initiatives largely by-passed the municipal and national contexts within which they were inserted according to external priorities – a form of transnational governance of local energy.

 

“District Champion” Energy Response.

While the energyscape was incredibly fragmented there was one example of an energy strategy at a municipal scale in Kasese that WWF has chosen as the “ Champion District”[2].  The imitative involves working with a cross-sectoral partnership designed to accelerate energy access for off grid communities through cooking and lighting. A number of different pathways are being experimented with including working with not-for profit NGOs and commercial models.  A private solar provider had report significant up lift in monthly solar installations from 2 up to 400 a month after the scheme provided enhanced access to the market through CBOs.  In contrast an efficient stove NGO reported that the scheme had been less successful in providing access to households.

Solar Lighting in Kasese

Solar lighting in Kasese © WWF-Norge/Will Boase

[1] http://samsetproject.site11.com

[2] http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/uganda/

The Challenges of Low Carbon Urban Development

Mark Borchers from SEA comments on the C40 City Mayors Summit, held in Johannesburg in February.

There are plenty of ideas about low carbon urban development. These tend to circulate in policy documents, reviews and conference presentations. The challenge is to take these ideas and let them take root and gain life in the messy engine rooms of cities where the aircon may have been broken for many months, the average qualification basic, a receptionist painting their nails, the engineer gone and the finance officer unwilling to do anything new. It may take 3 months just to appoint a staff member; up to six months to issue a tender and appoint a contractor. I have heard of instances where money for retrofit of public lighting ended up paying staff salaries; and funds for solar water heating installation could not be spent as there was no engineer to sign off that the houses could structurally bear the load.

Scratch the surface, however, and there is also a wealth of experience, irreplaceable on-ground technical knowledge and institutional memory. I have also experienced, across almost every municipality in South Africa at least, a massive commitment to meet the environmental challenges facing us.

In February city leaders met in Johannesburg for the C40 City Mayors Summit. Political analysts Richard Calland and Jerome van Rooij (‘African cities need to work together’) posed the question: will African cities be able to ‘catch the wave’ of cities being “where it’s at” with regard to sustainable development and green-growth, given their fiscal and political/legal limitations? Not without a major gearing up, they conclude.

SAMSET aims to address this, following a model that has been enormously successful in South Africa to date: taking an sustainable energy/urban development idea, working on it hand in hand with city staff; when it hits a snarl-up, deepening the investigation, exploring a number of possibilities and moving closer to a solution – a programme of real intervention. As the work happens, the finance begins to flow in, the capacity to do the work expands, new offices develop and the institution reconfigures itself. Incremental, but potentially powerful.

Where Is The Blackwood?

Simon Batchelor from Gamos offers his thoughts on the importance of considering charcoal use as a fuel option, even in urbanising areas.

As David Mann of UMU points out in last week’s blog, “wood and charcoal still represent roughly 90 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country (Uganda).” He goes on to say that “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.”  This energy mix is important for Africa municipalities, although wood and charcoal remain a mainstay.  Remember that cooking remains the largest single use of energy in an urban household.  Even in a large city like Kampala charcoal looms large.

Using Measure DHS data we can show  in the figure below that charcoal was a dominant choice of cooking fuel in Kampala in 2011.  Each dot represents a cluster of respondents, and each red dot shows that between 75% to 100% of households surveyed in that cluster were using charcoal for cooking.   Only in a few areas at the very centre of Kampala do the number of households using charcoal drop to below 50%.

Gamos Blog Feb 14 Image

So given the prevalence of charcoal for cooking, it must feature in designs for the future?  Given our focus on modernity, and the irrelevance of charcoal to the mega cities of the Western world it is easy to marginalise the role of charcoal.  Consider the Future Proofing Cities report.  This scoping study sought to “help national and regional  government and development agencies understand the environmental risks to growth and poverty reduction in cities to target investment and support at those urban areas or greatest need”.   It “assesses the risks to cities from climate hazards, resource scarcities, and damage to ecosystems and how they can act now to future proof themselves.

This comprehensive report addresses the balance to be struck between urban growth and development on one hand, and environmental damage on the other. Energy is indeed one of the factors considered, but when it comes to the use of biomass specifically, it lists a biomass power plant and tree planting as options for Bangkok.  Although it does acknowledge the use of fuelwood (almost in passing), it fails to mention ‘charcoal’ specifically, and only touched on deforestation as a contributor to the complex agriculture water erosion nexus.  This is not to criticise the report team, but rather to illustrate how a focus on modern approaches to urban development can easily overlook a simple, but currently a major, energy source in Africa.

Charcoal will remain important for cities in Africa for the foreseeable future, and we need to bring it into any discussion of, as David puts it, ‘energy production and usage at the scale of the municipality’.

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.