The persistence of poverty, growing inequalities and environmental degradation are major obstacles to achieving sustainable housing worldwide. This was the narrative during the Sustainable Futures Conference 2016 co-hosted by JKUAT, Augsburg University of Applied Science, Germany and UN Habitat at the UN Headquarters Nairobi, August 31, 2016.
The conference brought together over 70 delegates from academia, industry and government to discuss pertinent issues in built environment and come up come up with action plans for joint development of courses for energy efficient and sustainable housing in the region.
Over the years, energy has become the limiting factor for sustainable development and economic growth. The supply and generation capacity for electricity does not keep pace with growing demand for energy for household and production process.
To tackle this, JKUAT, through the School of Architecture and Building Sciences (SABS), with the coordination of Augsburg University of Applied Science partnered with UN Habitat, Stellenbosch University, Uganda Martyrs University, University of Rwanda, European Union, ACP and EDULINK to enhance academic capacity building and knowledge transfer for energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies in the field of sustainable housing.
The project dubbed JENGA offers a unique framework for strengthening existing competencies as well as building new capacities. This is to be achieved by introducing the method of problem-based learning supported through the implementation of 3 practice-oriented design-build courses in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda into existing curricula of architecture schools.
The Works Secretary, Arch. Nathan Kureba, representing the Principal Secretary, Public Works, Prof. Paul Mwangi Maringa commended the JENGA project initiative and stressed the importance of aligning architecture curriculum to the built environment industry standards.
He acknowledged the need for contextualising green architecture, energy efficient systems and solutions in the built environment saying, “there is need to use the diminishing resources efficiently as we explore other resources.”
On her part, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga, said although numerous stakeholders are involved in housing delivery, architects bear the greatest responsibility of designing affordable housing.
“It is imperative that schools of architecture in the region take cognizance of the shortcomings of existing syllabi and develop curriculum that addresses the demands for affordable and sustainable housing,” said Prof. Imbuga.
She said JKUAT in partnership with UN Habitat established the Centre for Urban Studies to guide in research, training and development of innovative ideas that will help tackle the inherent complex and diverse issues in the urban setting.
She also said curriculum development should include the incorporation of results from both local and international research studies and reforms made in other countries.
The Coordinator Urban Planning and Design Branch of UN Habitat, Mr. Rafael Tuts, said the UN Habitat strives to aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and the New Urban Agenda which assist governments in addressing urbanization challenges through national and local development policy frameworks.
Mr. Tut believes this will enable Africa and the world to focus on empowering urban actors to solve practical problems, and address the specific challenges of urban poverty through provision of adequate, safe and affordable housing through locally acquired material reducing urban inequality and increasing productivity and resilience.
The meeting was also addressed by JENGA Coordinator, Prof. Susanne Gamper and Leader of the City Planning, Extension and Design Unit at UN-Habitat, Laura Petrella. Also present was Dean, SABS, Dr. Stephen Dianga among other JKUAT staff and students.