Green Heart of Kenya will deliver a regenerative eco-town that spans across two separate plots of 700 and 50 acres each, which are located on the Kenyan coastal town of Kilifi. The project will offer the wellbeing benefits of a rural environment, while providing its future residents with urban level facilities.
Arup’s site development services supported the lead consultant BuildX Studio with concept designs for Green Heart of Kenya’s transportation, integrated water management, and utilities. Construction works commenced in 2022 with ambitions to reach full occupancy for the 50-acre site by 2026. Following this, the 700-acre site is set to be completed in 2035.
We concentrated on a staged approach to upgrading the infrastructure, which will allow the development to grow organically as occupancy increases. Through our involvement in the project, the planning was completed below budget, reducing costs for the client. The project also aims to conserve and regenerate natural ecosystems which have been depleted through the existing mono-crop agriculture on site, to ensure that it has a net positive environmental impact.
Creating a diverse and vibrant space
The Green Heart of Kenya’s development relies on the clever use of space. When advising BuildX Studio, we thought strategically about where areas should be located to enable future residents to feel connected within a comfortable, sustainable environment, while also enabling the development’s local businesses to thrive.
The development will consist of 70% green space comprised of agroforestry, agriculture, and eco-tourism, and the remaining 30% will consist of mixed-use spaces made up of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. This approach creates an eco-friendly and sustainable business space – framed upon circular economy principles – that will catalyse employment opportunities in the local area. This commercial area is also located nearby large, central roads, which will help to connect businesses with key transport infrastructure.
In contrast, the residential areas will be clustered further away from the site’s industrial and commercial centres, creating a distinct village identity and a more tranquil atmosphere. This split will allow residents to separate their workspaces from their home lives. The site’s numerous cycle paths and footpaths will also ensure that they can easily travel between their homes and workplaces – as well providing easy access to local amenities.
Alongside this, we strived to strengthen the mix of social class in the area by creating various types of developments and offering a diverse housing market. The town will also have school and sports developments to offer education opportunities to the families living on the site. This approach will help to create a sustainable, multi-purpose space that encourages people to flourish in their community and benefit from its vibrant entrepreneurial hub.
Making the most of the existing landscape
Water management for Green Heart of Kenya was identified as a key challenge from the outset, particularly as the site’s water supply is unreliable. Rather than using a costly ocean water system – which would create issues for the project’s budget – our team came up with the solution to use stormwater harvesting and treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant to meet the site’s irrigation water demands.
Retention ponds were proposed to attenuate and store both storm water and treated wastewater, creating a healthy ecosystem that takes a nature-based approach to managing flood risk. We also recommended the use of local plants and crops that are acclimatised to the area, as these consume less water when compared to imported vegetation.
Like its water supply, the location’s power grid is equally unreliable. In response to this, we planned for solar power to be generated on site. This will not only reduce carbon emissions, but also gives residents and businesses access to a secure source of renewable energy that they can rely upon.
Moreover, the energy, water, and agriculture system work in combination, rather than in isolation. For example, we used an agrivoltaics approach, which enabled us to use the same land plot for both solar energy generation and agriculture. In addition to saving space, the solar panels also serve to shelter plants from the area’s harsh sunlight, helping them to grow more efficiently by reducing plant drought stress and regulating temperatures. As a result, future residents will be able to thrive and enjoy reliable, urban levels of power supply in a stunning rural area.
Creating a connected environment
Although sustainability and cost-efficiency were priorities in the implementation process, we also focused on making the development a happy and healthy place for people to live. We planned to connect the early phases of the development with the future phases of the project when we considered the internal road network. This means that upgrades to the road infrastructure will be adjusted to meet people’s needs as the development expands. This type of gradual improvement allows for improved budget management. We also planned the road expansions so that they build upon existing county roads, which helps to minimise the site’s impact on the natural environment.
Within the 70% provision for green areas, there will still be an estimated 100-metre wide-green belt along the site’s southern boundary that offers refuge for indigenous coastal fauna and flora. This will increase biodiversity as well as supporting the development’s carbon offsetting goals. Due to carefully planned road layouts, there will be minimal felling and the project has set a target of planting half a million trees during its build out.
Furthermore, residents will be able to reach key areas by using the many cycle paths and footpaths that span across the development, while enjoying its green spaces. This encourages active travel – primarily by bike – which further reduces carbon emissions. The result is a functional and sustainable transport network that provides serene travel routes for the residents of Green Heart of Kenya to enjoy.