Machakos, 11 February 2016 - Deans, senior lecturers of architecture schools and chairs of professional bodies of East Africa last week congregated in the Kenyan town of Machakos to discuss education for sustainability in architecture and urban planning. The meeting saw teaching staff of the different schools of architecture and built environment meet to deliberate on the topic “integration of sustainable building design into curriculum for higher learning in East Africa.”  The workshop brought together some  25 participants from 18 universities came together to discuss on the best ways to embrace the green buildings concept in higher learning institutions.

Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development officially opened the two day workshop. He applauded UN-Habitat for its effort towards sustainable built environment.  “The push for a green future could be won or lost in technical institutions of higher learning. The future professionals need to be prepared for an inevitable future that is faced with challenges of climate change and scarce resources.” – He deplored the short cut and copycat approach of architects while designing new buildings.

He also highlighted that good theories and practice of energy efficient buildings must be interpreted into policies and laws for better implementation. Prof. Kaimenyi recalled the Government of Kenya’s effort towards achieving affordable and adequate buildings; he said the government through his ministry has incorporated issues of sustainability in the housing policy. He urged UN-Habitat, the East African governments and the academia fraternity to work together and facilitate transfer of knowledge on green buildings within the region and beyond.

Mr. Andre Dzikus, Head of the Urban Basic Services Branch at UN-Habitat thanked partners; UNEP, GEF and the five East African countries of the program “Promoting energy efficiency in buildings in East Africa.” He said the endorsed Paris Agreements by 196 countries call for a paradigm shift on how energy is generated as well as consumed. “Majority of buildings in Sub-Saharan Africa are replicas of buildings designed for the western world with cold and temperate climates. There is need for architects to consider the local environment like climate and material, the local economy, culture and customs of a particular region before designing and constructing buildings.”

UN-Habitat through the project dubbed “Promoting Energy Efficiency in East Africa” has developed different information and training tools that can enhance education for sustainability in architecture and urban design in East African universities. This among others includes the handbook for sustainable design in tropical countries that was presented by UN-Habitat as a valuable teaching tool that’s to be adopted by East African Universities. UN-Habitat in collaboration with member states as well as all partners including civil society organization, private sectors, professional bodies, academia among others, is preparing the new urban agenda that will be adopted soon during the Habitat III summit and to be used as the summits blue print document for the next two decades.

Prof. Kimeu, Chair of the Department of Architecture from the University of Nairobi posed a challenge to his colleagues asking why the gaps in both practice architecture and the concept for sustainable buildings “Most of the new buildings in urban areas today are built by our former students”. He called for the revision of the university curriculum to incorporate challenges of climate change and the need for affordable homes for the masses.