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.