New construction technologies can address climate change issues

By Arthur Bore


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Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The continent is already recording temperature increases of approximately 0.7°C and with predictions that temperatures will rise further, Africa is facing a devastating impact, including increased drought and floods, decreases in food production, spread of waterborne diseases and risk of malaria, and changes in natural ecosystems.

Global warming is primarily being driven by carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases. The consumption of building materials and construction involves and use of large quantities of energy. Until now, most energy used in the construction sector are unrenewable.

Studies by the United Nations Environment Programme show that the building construction industry accounted for 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions. The amount of carbon generated through manufacturing building materials, transporting materials to construction sites, and the actual construction process account for most of a building’s total lifecycle carbon emissions. 


Energy efficient designs

Since most building-related carbon emissions come from energy use, the first step in addressing emissions is reducing consumption through energy efficient design.

The next is replacing fossil fuels with on-site carbon-free renewable energy, then off-site renewables. 

Moving the buildings and construction sector onto a low-carbon pathway will slow climate change and deliver strong economic recovery benefits, so it should be a clear priority for all governments.

The transition towards mainstream net zero carbon standards will also require immediate action to achieve greater awareness, innovation, improved processes to calculate, track and report embodied carbon, voluntary reduction targets from industry and roll out of new legislations.

Bamburi Cement on its part is pioneering a project aimed at reducing energy consumption in the construction industry. The “Houses of Tomorrow” project was launched by Holcim’s Innovation Center in 2019, with an aim to show how building materials can be used to build a house with an innovative, very low embodied CO2 footprint using cement-based materials, and locally available resources in five countries: Mexico, India, Kenya, Canada, France. In using these 5 countries, the goal is to showcase that sustainable materials are not limited by climate, geography, material availability or building techniques. It also allows us to compare the solutions used, within different contexts everywhere on the planet, but calculating with the same methodology for all.

The construction process involves careful selection, design and use of materials which leverage low carbon, and especially application of low carbon cement – minimizing carbon footprint in the overall construction. This solution has been made possible with the increased availability of green cement such as lower carbon footprint cement in the Kenyan market including Duracem, Powermax and Fundi by Bamburi Cement.



New innovations and approaches

One of the key observations that we have made is that it does not make any difference whether it's designed for a single individual or multiple families. The housing can be affordable or high-end, modern, or traditional, passive energy or not, urban or rural.

With most construction projects taking place in urban areas, City leadership is instrumental in pushing for new innovations and approaches. Oslo, Norway, for example has a commitment to fossil free construction sites. Vancouver, Canada, has mandated that embodied carbon be reduced in new buildings by 40% by 2030, as part of its climate emergency response, demonstrating the type of regulatory frameworks that can drive market change.

Currently, Kenya is going through a construction boom driven by an increase in population from 38.6 million in 2009 to 47.5 million in 2019, which has led to a rising demand for housing in most parts of the country. Continuous growth is expected in the sector as the Kenyan government plans to build 500,000 houses by 2022, and also to reduce corporate tax for developers who construct at least 400 units per year.

Kenya’s construction sector expanded by 8.6% and contributed approximately 6% to the country’s GDP in 2017. The country’s construction industry is a major contributor to the increase in CO2 emission and therefore has a huge role to play in reversing this trend by adopting efficient energy and modern construction technologies.


The author is the Head of Alternative Channels, Bamburi Cement Limited. Email: