CUEA library building wins award for best green building in Kenya

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The Learning Resource Centre in Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Kenya is among nine other buildings which won the Green Building Award category which sought to recognise buildings that met the environmental design criteria.

Even in the intense noonday heat, the new library at the Catholic University stays cool but without an air conditioner in sight. Instead, stones in the basement absorb moisture from the ground that creates a cooling effect as it evaporates, and the building’s large windows and doors are protected from the sun’s heat by shades.

The building’s energy-efficient design has won it an award this year from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers’ Centre for Energy Efficiency as the best green building in the country.

The resource centre was designed by Architect Musau Kimeu and was completed and occupied in 2012. It comprises a modern conference hall, a bookshop, an extensive library and a cafeteria. The conference hall employs an intricate cooling system where air gets in through vents located at the basement level, passes over well arranged bedrock where it cools further before being released into the auditorium through another set of vents. This is the only rock bed cooling system in Kenya.

To expel foul air, thermal chimneys are located at various intervals of the building. There are oxidation ponds for sewerage. A high-roofed atrium with a narrow plan allows natural lighting to filter through the building. To prevent heat buildup in glazed areas, concrete fins and aluminum louvre screens have been used. It is also oriented for the climate with the major window facades in the North and South facing walls preventing excess glare to the users.

Meanwhile, the University of Nairobi Architectural and Building Department took the same group’s Green Architecture award for promoting the design of green buildings in Kenya.

Environmentalists and architectural organisations are working hard to promote green design throughout Kenya and to position the country as a leader in sustainable construction and energy-efficient design, even as they admit that businesses are slow to take on board the advantages being touted.

Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from citing to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.