Urbanisation, growing populations, and sustainability are high on the agenda, as governments around the world increasingly take a joined up, circular approach to city planning.

The population of Kenya’s capital of Nairobi has doubled across the last 20 years, with nearly 4.5 million people crammed into densely inhabited urban areas. This high premium on space, however, is making life difficult for the city’s residents and businesses.

Buildings are situated extremely close to each other, limiting natural light. This vertical congestion causes a reliance on electricity for lighting even during the day that cannot be provided by alternatives like solar due to limited roof space.

Overpopulation has led to neighbourhoods forming around the city with little or no planning or infrastructure to support them. This ongoing sprawl has led the Kenyan government to take a long-term view on city development.

Their new approach integrates sustainability and functionality into every single planning decision, resulting in a fully circular approach. This is the Konza smart city.

The city has sustainability baked into every planning decision, with solar, sustainable water management and green building practices integrated throughout

Building a city from the ground up

Just over 60km south of Nairobi, sits the site of the Konza Smart City. Designed from its very foundation by the Kenyan ministry of information and communications as a “broader city-from-scratch to bring research universities, industry and government together”, it is hoped the new metropolis can act as Silicon Valley-style tech hub.

A flagship project for Kenya’s Vision 2030 for economic development, Konza is planned to be a world-class city, powered by a thriving information, communications and technology sector and reliable infrastructure.

With easy access to the port at Mombasa, Konza aims to create sustainable production capacity in the tech sector for export. The city will also feature affordable residential homes, universities and student accommodation to go alongside its commercial buildings, offices, hotels and entertainment centres.

Planned to cover more than 2,000 hectares when fully finished, the city’s architectural design integrates solar power and rainwater collection and utilisation into it infrastructure. The initial phase covers 160 hectares, creating around 13,000 residential units that can accommodate up to 30,000 residents.

The city will also feature green spaces and urban practices to ensure sustainable water use, renewable energy, clean sanitation and waste management.

Steel makes an ideal green building material, due to its high performance and infinite recyclability

The city’s entire life cycle is being considered as part of its planning, and any construction materials used must be as ‘green’ as possible. With the IEA estimating that operation of buildings accounts for 30% of global final energy consumption, the developers understand the environmental impacts of building an entire city and are sourcing many materials locally.

“We look at the building through its entire life cycle from the design, construction, to the use of the building and the demolition,” says Nickson Otieno, architect and environmental design consultant at Niko Green.

In this model, steel-built structures offer many benefits for green construction, providing high strength and durability, as well as speeding the construction process with components that can be precision manufactured off-site.

When it comes to lifecycle considerations, steel’s infinite recyclability means that for a building’s construction, use-phase and even after demolition, it can provide green benefits that make it ideally suited to the creation of more sustainable buildings and cities.


Images: Konza Technopolis