UN embraces energy-efficient architecture

1 Apr 2011

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a new energy-efficient United Nations office complex in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, yesterday.

Ban said the new complex is a model for environmentally sustainable architecture in Africa and beyond.

“This building is beautiful, comfortable and efficient. But more than any of that, this building is a living model of our sustainable future,” Ban said at the opening of the facility at Gigiri, which houses the new offices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).  

According to UNEP, buildings are the largest contributor to green house gas emissions and can be held responsible for more than one-third of global energy use. The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts emissions from buildings to increase to 11.1bn tons by 2020.   

The production of building materials creates an additional 4bn tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This number is increasing with the continuing rise in construction across the globe.

“If our growing population is going to survive on this planet, we need smart designs that maximise resources, minimise waste and serve people and communities,” said Ban. “This facility hits all of these targets.”  

The building, which has environmentally-friendly paint on the walls, features 6,000 sq metres of solar panels. The new UN offices, which consist of four buildings, can accommodate 1,200 staff.

The energy-neutral complex also includes automated low-energy lighting for work spaces, energy-efficient computers and water-saving lavatories. Rainwater is collected from the roofs to feed the fountains and ponds at the four entrances, and sewage is treated in a state-of-the-art aeration system and recycled to irrigate the landscaped compound.   

“This facility embodies the new, green economy I have championed for years now. An economy that can usher in a cleaner future, create jobs and spur economic growth,” said Ban, who was joined at the inauguration ceremony by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, UNEP executive director Achim Steiner and UN-HABITAT executive director Joan Clos, as well as other UN officials and dignitaries.  

Ban hopes the building will be a “model for green architecture in Africa and beyond.”

He added the UN is planning to make its headquarters complex in New York, which is undergoing major renovations after 60 years of existence, one of the cleanest, greenest buildings in the world.