Encouraging sustainable wood in Kenyan green construction for resilient, low-carbon development

Posted on : Tuesday , 5th March 2024

When environmental services are taken out, the forest sector accounts for 3.6% of Kenya's GDP1, which is a significant contribution to the country's socioeconomic development. The industry provides non-timber forest goods and services, such as wood fuel, to both urban and rural populations. At the moment, the industry supports up to 50,000 direct jobs and about 600,000 indirect jobs. Compared to its potential, which can be realised through commercial forestry, the industry is mainly underdeveloped.


Kenya joined a group of 17 nations at COP28 that made a commitment to advance the use of sustainable wood in green construction2. This dedication is supported by a thriving construction industry in addition to a strong policy and regulatory environment. Furthermore, the government wants to expand its plantation area to 750,000 hectares and grow 15 billion trees.


Wood has always been a crucial component in conventional building methods. But as technology has advanced, engineered wood products have emerged that can provide an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuel-based building materials like steel and concrete for large-scale construction projects. When supplied responsibly, wood-based materials have low fossil carbon emissions, are recyclable, and leave fewer environmental imprints.


Many governments throughout the world have put policies into place to improve the sustainability of their construction industries, which includes using wood that is produced and sourced responsibly. Simultaneously, in order to meet the increasingly stringent international standards and criteria, it is necessary to comply with forest registration and management systems, timber traceability systems at the national level, and policies that encourage the use of wood in building.


This article investigates the policy framework, timber supply and processing, and the adoption of sustainable wood in Kenya's construction sector. The study makes recommendations for the short-, mid-, and long-term measures needed to support the emerging industry. 5Ps serve as a summary of these. Coherent policy, large-scale production, effective processing, testing, and popularisation.


In particular, policies must be coherent in order to encourage the use of wood in building. For example, although the building code recognises wood as an alternate material for construction, certain regulatory intricacies classify it as a temporary material; as a result, insurance and financing companies view wood as a high-risk material.


Kenya is currently experiencing a 10.3 million m3 shortfall in wood supply. Sustainable sourcing of specified qualities is necessary for wood used in building. To mitigate risks like pests, diseases, and climate change, the national commercial forestry sector will need support from a portfolio of competitive genetic resources. To guarantee consistency and dependability in the quality of wood used in construction and other industries, Kenya must advance the formation of standards and regulations, including adopting international standards for timber grading. Kenya must also increase wood processing efficiency, which is currently 30%, and make investments in.


Last but not least, there has been a change in public awareness and industry collaboration. By informing the public and working with the building sector, architects, and engineers about the advantages of utilising sustainable wood, we can raise the demand and use of this material. Proposals are initially made for piloting by the public and private sectors.

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