BuildX LT
Mass timber sector development
Location: Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya
Funders: DOEN Foundation, Autodesk Foundation, Mulago Foundation, Good Energies Foundation
Year: 2019-Ongoing
Scope: Design, Build, Develop
Status: Ongoing
Partners: Gatsby Africa, Climate Smart Forest Economy Programme

BuildX and partners are pioneering mass timber in East Africa, the most promising opportunity for eliminating carbon in buildings on a global scale.

Trees naturally sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is stored when used in durable products. By using sustainable wood products to construct buildings we guarantee that carbon is locked away long-term, whilst we are also avoiding the high carbon emissions from using concrete or steel.

Since the early 2000s mass timber markets have successfully been established in Europe and North America. To date, in Africa, mass timber processing and building has only been introduced at a small scale in South Africa. Our mass timber initiative (BuildX LT) is based on a coordinated collaboration with organisations operating in the forestry and wood processing sectors across East Africa.

Within this wider collaboration, as BuildX, we aim to establish demand for and a pipeline of mass timber building projects in Kenya, which is required to promote the creation of in-country processing facilities for cross-laminated timber (CLT) as a high value market for sustainable timber. Long-term this will incentivize investments in a sustainable forest economy across East Africa.

We have recently completed the first phase of our BuildX LT initiative. During this two-year period, we formed strong sector relationships, constructed a full-scale CLT prototype, and carried out a comprehensive feasibility study for mass timber – particularly CLT (or Cross-Laminated Timber) – as a net-negative carbon (climate-positive), faster and potentially more affordable solution for urban buildings. 

We also developed a flat-pack CLT concept design system for housing (called ‘MODUL’), with two market versions focused on low income and middle income audiences. 

As a result of our work to date we have recently been selected as the lead partner for a mass timber Breakthrough Initiative under the Climate Smart Forest Economy Programme 

Having developed a clear case for developing a mass timber construction market in East Africa, we are now moving into the initial implementation phase focusing on creating the first mass timber buildings in Kenya (alongside other sector-wide activities we will carry out with our partners). 

We consider such demonstration projects as a critical step towards creating market demand and fostering an enabling environment for mass timber processing and building at commercial scale.

Want to learn more? You can download our BuildX LT Strategy Report.