Kenya Promotes Sustainable Wood in Green Construction for Climate-Resilient Development

With the exception of environmental services, the forest industry accounts for 3.6% of Kenya’s GDP1 and is crucial to the nation’s socioeconomic development. By providing wood fuel and other non-timber forest products and services, the industry helps the people living in both urban and rural areas. Up to 50,000 direct jobs and another 600,000 indirect jobs are currently provided by this industry. Compared to its potential, which commercial forestry can exploit, the sector is largely underdeveloped.

Kenya committed to advancing the use of sustainable wood in green construction at COP28, joining a group of 17 other countries. Together with a robust policy and regulatory framework, a booming building industry supports this dedication. In addition, the government hopes to cultivate 15 billion trees on 750,000 hectares of plantation land.

Traditional building methods have always relied heavily on wood. Nevertheless, advancements in technology have prompted the creation of engineered wood products that can provide an environmentally benign alternative to fossil fuel-based building materials like steel and concrete in large-scale construction projects. Wood-based materials offer low fossil carbon emissions, are recyclable, renewable, and leave less of an environmental impact when supplied responsibly.

Across the world, several countries have put rules into place to improve the sustainability of their building industries, which includes using wood that is produced and sourced responsibly. Concurrently, it necessitates adhering to increasingly stringent international norms and requirements, which call for not only wood-encouraged construction policies but also national forest registration and management systems and timber traceability systems.

The demand for sustainable wood in Kenya’s building sector is examined, along with the policy environment, supply, and processing of timber. The report makes recommendations for the necessary short-, mid-, and long-term initiatives to support the emerging sector. The 5Ps provide a summary of these. Policy coherence, Production at scale, Processing efficiency, Piloting and Popularizing.

In particular, policy coherence is required to encourage the use of wood in building. For example, the draft building code recognizes wood as an alternative building material, but due to regulatory quirks, it is regarded as a transitory material, making insurance and financing companies view it as a high-risk material.

There is now a 10.3 million m3 shortage of wood in Kenya. Certain sustainably sourced qualities are needed for wood used in building. A portfolio of competitive genetic resources that enable risk mitigation from pests, diseases, and climate change will be necessary to support the nation’s commercial forestry sector. To guarantee uniformity and dependability in the quality of wood utilized in construction and other industries, Kenya must advance the formation of norms and Regulations, including adopting international norms for timber grading. Kenya must also increase its 30% efficiency in the wood processing industry, along with investmenLast 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 utilizing 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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