Wood conference looks at role of timber in design and construction

The Wood Architect Rockstars program, a knowledge platform for architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and timber experts, took place on the 24th of October to 4th of November at Tobriana Hotel in Nairobi.

The event themed, The Journey, aimed at changing the narrative around timber and to break the cycle of skepticism around wood as a desirable and safe construction material in sub-Saharan Africa.

Hosted for the first time in Nairobi by KCIC Consulting in partnership with EIT Climate KIC, the Wood Conference played host to 30 young professionals, engineers, architects and timber and related industry professionals and delegates from across the country.

Sponsored by Good Energies Foundation through EIT Climate KIC the programme offered key industry players a platform to share insights into the extensive possibilities of timber in design and construction, design and propose solutions on how to make timber the go to construction material in East Africa.

The two-week conference covered a range of topics from the state of the local forestry sector to the benefits of marrying BIM, or Building Information Modelling/Management, with timber for better workflow, efficiency and engineering.

The Journey participants were subjected to intense problem-solving and idea generation by a hotshot set of young architects, engineers, and timber bucks. Participants also attended sessions where the keynote speakers presented informative topics. The topics discussed include designing and building with timber, the climate and future of the timber industry, timber supply chains, and timber business.

The takeaways from the range of talks were clear: we need to use more timber in design and construction; digital design and timber make a formidable combination in creatively solving a host of design and architectural challenges; and in addition to being well positioned to play a role in housing, design work, global green economies and more, used more in these and other spheres, timber can also play a significant role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions the world over.

Professor Alfred Omenya, CEO Eco Build Kenya participated in this year’s Wood Conference, delivering a talk focusing on the challenges and opportunities for startups working with timber.

He argued that timber construction, which it is estimated accounts for around 70% of all housing stock across developed countries, has excellent potential to be a frontrunner, not only in lowering the carbon footprint of public and private buildings, but in sequestering carbon during its ‘manufacturing’ stage.

The Journey culminated in the final pitch competition. The challenge focused on how to build a local sustainable market and meet its demand for timber homes throughout Urban East Africa.

The winning team, KAYA, sought to continuously educate both the trade and consumer for a general shift in mindset and perception as the key to growing the market for timber frame building locally. The team proposed to facilitate home ownership through investment in skills incubation.

The four members of the team will receive 8 hours of free coaching and a 3-month EIT Climate KIC course to build their idea.

“The Wood Conference was a fantastic opportunity for industry professionals, students and even the public interested in timber as a design or construction material to learn more about the incredible properties of this green material and the innovations springing from East Africa to harness its potential for creative solutions to human challenges across the world,” says Silvia Doglioni, Strategic Programs Builder at EIT Climate KIC.