When building in Kenya today, one of the most intriguing aspects of interest today to the Kenyan Architect today is Green Architecture, also called sustainable design.  The process of building in Kenya has been fraught with emphasis on commercial and speculative concerns, resulting in a dearth of well-construed buildings that are able to function and last a lifetime. Only recently has there been a proliferation of structures that have been better designed to withstand the test of time.

Green Architecture for Building in Kenya

green architecture,  building in Kenya

green landscape around buildings

Building construction and operation have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Buildings use resources such as energy, water and raw materials, generate waste (occupant, construction and demolition) and emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Building owners, designers and builders face a unique challenge to meet demands for new and renovated facilities that are accessible, secure, healthy, and productive while minimizing their impact on the environment.

Considering the current economic challenges, retrofitting an existing building can be more cost effective than building a new facility. Designing major renovations and retrofits for existing buildings to include sustainability initiatives reduces operation costs and environmental impacts, and can increase building resiliency. These issues of ensuring an all inclusive building design requires an integrated, synergistic approach that considers all phases of a building’s life cycle.

What does green design mean when building in Kenya?

Sustainable design is a process of building projects that have an integrated approach that considers all the phases of a building’s life cycle. Sustainable design emphasizes environmental stewardship and conservation, resulting in an optimal balance of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits. At the same time, the major goal of meeting the mission and function of the intended facility or infrastructure is not overlooked..

The main objectives of sustainable design are to avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive. Good sustainable developments in Kenya and around the world make use of the best commercially-available materials and technologies to minimize consumption of energy and resources and maximize use of natural, recycled and non-toxic materials.

While the definition of achieving sustainable design in buildings is constantly changing, six fundamental principles are part and parcel of enhancing sustainability in projects. These are listed as follows.

  • Physical Planning & Site Design are primary aspects of building in Kenya

Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including consideration of the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings. The location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect the local ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use. Incorporate Smart growth principles in the project development process, whether it be a single building, or campus design. Siting for physical security is a critical issue in optimizing site design, including locations of access roads, parking, vehicle barriers, and perimeter lighting. Whether designing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, site design must integrate with sustainable design to achieve a successful project.

  • Optimize Energy Efficiency in building in Kenya

With the world’s supply of fossil fuel dwindling, concerns for energy independence and security increasing, and the impacts of global climate change arising, it is essential to find ways to reduce energy load, increase efficiency, and utilize renewable energy resources in public facilities. Harmonizing energy use is a central feature of achieving sustainable design.

  • Water Conservation in building in Kenya

In many parts of the country, fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource. A sustainable building should reduce, control, and/or treat site runoff, use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use, when feasible.

  • Use Environmentally Preferable Materials & Products

A sustainable building is constructed of materials that minimize life-cycle environmental impacts such as global warming, resource depletion, and human toxicity. Environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment and contribute to improved worker safety and health, reduced liabilities, reduced disposal costs, and achievement of environmental goals.

  • Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

The indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. Among other attributes, a sustainable building maximizes daylighting; has appropriate ventilation and moisture control; and avoids the use of materials with high-volatile organic compound emissions. Additionally, consider ventilation and filtration to mitigate chemical, biological, and radiological attack.

  • Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Considering a building’s operating and maintenance issues during the preliminary design phase of a facility will contribute to improved working environments, higher productivity, reduced energy and resource costs, and prevented system failures. Encourage building operators and maintenance personnel to participate in the design and development phases to ensure optimal operations and maintenance of the building. Designers can specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements; require less water, energy, and toxic chemicals and cleaners to maintain; and are cost-effective and reduce life-cycle costs. Additionally, design facilities to include meters in order to track the progress of sustainability initiatives, including reductions in energy and water use and waste generation, in the facility and on site.

  • Building resilience

Building resiliency is the capacity of a building to continue to function and operate under extreme conditions, such as (but not limited to) extreme temperatures, sea level rise, natural disasters, etc. As the built environment faces the impending effects of global climate change, building owners, designers, and builders can design facilities to optimize building resiliency.

  • Adaptability

Building adaptability is the capacity of a building to be used for multiple uses and in multiple ways over the life of the building. For example, designing a building with movable walls/partitions allow for different users to change the space. Additionally, using sustainable design allows for a building to adapt to different environments and conditions.


Employing these principles shall go a long way in promoting the construction industry in a manner as to ensure the creation of green buildings as the norm when undertaking building in Kenya.