UN Goes Green in Africa

Global Warming, Technology, Travel

UN Goes Green in Africa

The United Nations is trying to set the example developing the first carbon neutral building on the African continent, its UNEP HQ in Nairobi, Kenya.

The world’s first energy-neutral United Nations headquarters opened its doors in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday (31 March).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki cut the ribbon to one of the greenest buildings in Africa, which features the continent’s largest solar panel installation, over 6,000 square metres, energy saving lighting, natural ventilation and an ultra energy efficient data centre, all designed to generate as much electricity as its 1,200 occupants consume.

“This facility embodies the new, Green Economy I have championed for years now,” said Ban Ki-Moon during the opening ceremony in Nairobi, adding that the Green Economy “can usher in a cleaner future, create jobs and spur economic growth.”

The building sector is the single largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions with one third of global energy use taking place in offices and homes, a figure that is expected to double by 2030. Therefore, the design and construction of new buildings – and the refitting of existing ones – represents a key, low-cost way of combating climate change and transitioning to a Green Economy.

The 19 million dollar office facility takes environmental sustainability to a new level in Africa and around the world, and is aimed to be an international showcase for how sustainable buildings can incorporate cutting-edge eco-architecture and energy neutral designs.

“It is remarkable that UNEP and UN Habitat, both of which are at the heart of global efforts towards sustainable environment and human settlements, are pioneering this milestone project in our region and Africa,” said Kibaki, addressing over 400 UN leaders, diplomats and delegates.

Situated almost 1,800 meters above sea level just south of the equator, Nairobi was deemed the perfect location for the new building, as it enjoys warm, sunny days and cool evenings.

The building’s data center benefits directly from these conditions. Unlike traditional data centers, which use high-energy consuming air-conditioning to maintain the servers, the so-called ITPAC (IT Pre-Assembled Component), which is based on Microsoft technology, stands by itself outside the building and is cooled through natural air.

“As with any office building – UNEP is no exception – the IT takes between 80-90 percent of the energy requirement,” said Frank McCosker, Managing Director of Microsoft’s Global Strategic Accounts group, adding that the new ITPAC “reduced the energy requirement for the IT by two-thirds, thereby giving energy back to this building for other usage.”

“We have installed the first ITPAC in Africa which is another example of how the latest technology can be deployed in Africa and this was also one of the objectives of the United Nations, to demonstrate that the latest technology available in the world market deserves to be deployed also in a continent like Africa, because energy is a major issue here,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program.

This is all part of UNEP’s master plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by three percent each year. Implementing the efficiency measure is expected to save the organization an estimated 800,000 dollars a year.


Language: English

Year of Production: 2011

Length: 2:30 mins.

Country: Kenya


  • Muhamed Sacirbey UNTV-UNEP


  • Susan Sacirbey