• Musau Kimeu: The Philosophy of Environmental Design

Day two of the Triad@50 celebrations brought in a familiar face from the world of sustainable design. Arch. Musau Kimeu is renowned for his environmental strategies in Kenya, a visionary some would say with his radical ‘sustainable’ ideologies which have silenced many in the LRC buildings at Catholic University, Karen.

Musau Kimeu: The Philosophy of Environmental Design

As the day drew a close in the late Tuesday evening, the Leakey auditorium was buzzing with young architecture students and professionals from Universities all over East Africa, courtesy of the Triad@50 student competition. It was the first Public Lecture of the week and most did not know what to expect. Their thirst for knowledge quenched as the lecturer from the University of Nairobi took the stage and shared his 15 strategies to achieving an Environmentally Sound Building. His words were passionate and firm, why would anyone in the construction industry waste money, energy and time in using air conditioning and unnecessary mechanical systems while in the Tropics. With simple, cheap, sustainable concepts, the issue that emerged was copy pasting building templates from the Northern and Southern Hemisphere had no place in an Equatorial society.

Musau Kimeu: The Philosophy of Environmental Design

The strategies employed by contemporary architects does not fit into the region and needs revision and a conscious decision making that includes not only natural lighting, passive heating, cooling and ventilation, but proper acoustic design, renewable energy, waste water recycling and use of recycled materials in construction.

As a critical thinker, he would provoke one with his Auditorium Design in the LRC. The acoustics of the hall are undoubtedly world class, and work well without the need for sound systems due to careful planning and design of sound reflection from the ceiling to the walls. The rock cooling system exemplifies the building as ‘Green’ for no other project in Kenya shows a brazen approach at passive cooling that is inexpensive and effective.

Musau Kimeu: The Philosophy of Environmental Design

The Library encloses a beautiful atrium that spreads natural light and elevates the building into an altar of learning. The project embraced rainwater harvesting from the roof and incorporated the concept of a termite hill to achieve passive ventilation upwards through exhaust chimneys. The cafeteria had an airy presence due to the double volume entrance, and you could begin to see why the site was graced with the President’s Inauguration Ceremony earlier in the year.

Musau Kimeu: The Philosophy of Environmental Design

Triad’s staff were clearly excited and they made no attempt to hide it. “We are proud to have had him as a former member of staff…” and it became clear of the distinguished resume that the architect had etched for himself. Finally the lecture ended with a round of applause and a heavy dose of reflection in every aspiring architect.

[Arch. Musau Kimeu is an alumni of University of Nairobi and University of Cambridge where he attained his masters in philosophy on environmental design.]

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