The creation of a circular economy in construction is vital if Africa’s vision of green, sustainable urban growth is to become reality. More recycling of material resources and the use of natural local materials in building projects is needed to achieve that aim.
Leading East African architecture and engineering firm FBW Group is calling on the construction and property sectors to invest more in African manufacturing, cutting the reliance on imported materials for building components.
Despite recycling having a long tradition in Africa, FBW also wants to see a concerted drive towards circular principles in the building industry. FBW made its call for action in support of World Green Building Week.
It believes a strategy should be two-fold, promoting firstly an up scaled production of ‘hand-made’ products such as clay, stone and compressed earth.
Secondly, more international investment in the local manufacturing of specialised products serving large complex projects will stimulate innovation, activate supply chains and create jobs.
It is an approach that will also help deliver Africa’s green cities of the future, with the quality infrastructure and affordable homebuilding needed to meet the challenges of fast-growing urban centres and populations.
FBW has operations in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, as well as a base in Manchester in the UK. A major player in the region’s construction and development sector, it is celebrating operating in East Africa for 25 years.
Antje Eckoldt is an FBW Group director and its Kenya country manager. She points towards the predicted growth of the Nairobi metropolitan area, already home to 10 million people, over the next three decades.
Antje says: “When you look at the pressure of land prices in the city it is little wonder that we’re seeing the construction of more and more tall buildings.
“The technologies required to construct these means that most of the materials and components needed, such as aluminium windows, are currently imported from Asia and Europe. There is hardly any local manufacturing.
“To create the circular economy that we need to achieve net zero we have to push the international players to look at innovative ways to manufacture in Africa.
“We also need to focus on a more local aspect to production, with more reliable, locally-sourced products created out of natural and traditional African materials. Apart from clay and stone products these could be bioplastics or natural fibre boards.
“Then there is the need to drive the industry towards recycling products on a larger scale, even including something as basic as using reclaimed products in concrete.
“Due to scale of projects in urban areas, the structural frame is usually concrete. For instance, we currently have limited steel recycling facilities in East Africa. This would also allow for by-products that can be used in production of lower carbon cement.
“There needs to be a major scale-up if we are looking to reduce construction carbon impacts, including reduction in the impact of transporting materials over long distances.
“Put all this together and we will be building towards the circular economy that will deliver a greener future for Africa’s urban areas.”
World Green Building Week (21-25 September 2020) is the World Green Building Council’s annual campaign.
It is calling on the building sector, policymakers and governments to take urgent action to deliver net zero buildings.
As part of its continuing commitment to ‘build green’ and to advocate for green buildings FBW is also a member of the Kenyan Green Building Society, part of the World Green Building Council.
It is also a champion of the EDGE green building certification system. The Kenyan government has declared that all affordable housing development projects under the nation’s ‘Big Four’ agenda must meet the EDGE standard.
The government will provide developers with free land to build affordable housing projects that meet its commitment to resource-efficient structures.
Its ambition is to close the housing gap for Kenyan people in an environmentally-responsible way. The World Bank estimates that 200,000 housing units are needed annually in Kenya, but the supply is only 50,000 units.
Antje, who is also FBW’s EDGE expert, said: “The green certification system is making a difference in terms of savings in energy, water and embodied energy in materials.
“The initiative we are seeing in Kenya highlights just how important the green approach to building is becoming across Africa. It is high on the agenda as nations look to meet the challenges of increasing urbanisation and population growth.”
Banner image: Antje Eckoldt, FBW Group director and Kenya country manager.