Kenyan Architects and other practitioners involved in building in Kenya are faced with the challenge of ensuring that their buildings are responsive to the demands of today’s modern environment. The issue of building sustainability is a key consideration in the process of building in Kenya. Part of the subject of building sustainability has consideration for the matter of ensuring human comfort in the internal and external environments in the most economical and sustainable manner possible.
Temperature Regulation through Passive Thermal Control for Building in Kenya
Building in Kenya is favored by several factors. One of the key factors that makes the construction industry thrive is the availability of natural materials in relative abundance. Certain materials are easy to find in the Kenyan market, and are relatively cheap. These include materials such as stone, stabilized soil blocks, clay bricks and others. Even simple materials such as lime and mortar are readily available in many areas and allow for simplified construction methods to be used.
In traditional vernacular architecture building contexts, materials such as sticks, mud and cow dung were used to create simple plastered walls of astounding thermal control capability. The Nilotic and Bantu communities constructed housing with simple materials like earth, dung and sticks and achieved well regulated internal temperatures in the interiors of their houses, despite the various climatic conditions that they may have faced. The Cushitic communities who often lived in hotter drier savannah lands and enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle adopted themselves to it by creating dwelling tents made from animal hides, which had a relatively good characteristic as regarding the desert heat.
Man has advanced in leaps and bounds regarding the construction systems of the world during the course of time. The advent of reinforced concrete construction has seen larger stronger construction facilities being created, and there are denser urban development being created as a result. The development of new systems of construction technology allow for lighter yet stronger and more durable forms of construction.
Locally available materials enhance sustainable building in Kenya
Concrete has its own inherent thermal characteristics that are favorable for thermal control, as it does not have high heat conductivity. This means that it can absorb heat during the day without conducting it quickly into internal spaces, keeping them cool. In the evening, it slowly radiates the heat it has gained into a building’s interiors, and heats them up accordingly at the time when the night temperatures may be cooler. As such it acts as a heat regulator, keeping spaces cool during the day and warming them up at night when it is cold.
Thermal bricks made of clay are another good thermal building material due to their good insulating characteristics. These are simply formed from pressed earthen bricks which may be stabilized through addition of cement or fibrous materials, and in some cases are fired in kilns. There excellent thermal features ensure that they are able to withstand high temperatures during day time without heating up the interior spaces. The easy accessibility of these materials ensure that building in Kenya can be environmentally sound and energy efficient.
Creative use of materials is a key to achieving energy efficient building in Kenya
Creation of buildings that are able to adopt to their environment using materials that suit is a cornerstone of energy efficient design using passive means of thermal control. The simple principle is to use materials that reduce or increase the influx of heat or heat gains into spaces as and when required. It is preferable to have materials that cut off excess heat during hotter periods during the day, and materials that allow and store heat within when it is cold. This is the concept of passive thermal control.
The Architect in Kenya is well advised to incorporate this concept of passive thermal control as a means of creating energy efficient and environmentally sustainable mode of building in Kenya.