The new Swiss embassy in Nairobi: a step towards sustainability

Reddish brown embassy building in Nairobi with seating in the foreground.
New embassy building in Nairobi © FOBL

Switzerland is implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both at home and abroad. The new Swiss embassy in Nairobi is a good example of this: the construction of the new building supports native biodiversity and the associated local Green Belt Movement. Resources are saved through the use of modern technologies.

At first glance, the building appears natural and green: the planted roof, the earth-red colour of the building and the dense, diverse garden vegetation form a unit that allows the site to blend into the surroundings. As well as being attractive, the green roof is able to store moisture. The evaporation provides natural cooling of the building without any electricity whatsoever. The variety of plants contributes to biodiversity and also meets the requirements of the Green Belt Movement (GBM). This local environmental movement encourages the population – women in particular – in their efforts to achieve a sustainable lifestyle. Therefore, the building has to adapt to the trees, not the other way round. For the new embassy building, this means that most of the trees that stood on the site before construction were not felled but still stand there today. The lush vegetation is irrigated using rainwater and grey water. Rainwater is also used for toilet flushing.

Temperature balance via a sustainable construction method

Sustainability was also taken into account in the construction of the new embassy. The embassy was built mainly using materials from the surrounding area, associated with low pollutant emissions. That way, the transport of building materials was kept as low as possible, too.

The skilful use of exposed solid concrete makes the best possible use of the moderate outdoor temperatures throughout the year. In the cooler months, the building stores heat, while in summer it protects against the heat. Thanks to natural night-time cooling, a pleasant, almost constant indoor temperature is maintained. Heating and cooling of the building are thus reduced to a minimum. Structural sun protection complements these measures. The roofs are fitted with solar panels: the electricity generated from solar power is fed into the building’s mains supply, thus increasing the share of renewable energy in the embassy's electricity mix.