Building a Timber Innovation Center in Kampala

24. May 2022|In News, Uganda

Picture: Löffler_Schmeling Architects, Karlsruhe

We are convinced that reforestation means more than just planting trees. An important part of our holistic approach is to work along the entire timber value chain by promoting the use of fast-growing reforested timber as Engineered Timber Products, such as Glulam (Glue Laminated Timber) or CLT (Cross Laminated Timber), in the construction sector. With these products, we can increase the demand for fast-growing timber species and add value to them. At the same time, it reduces the demand for illegally harvested timber from the surrounding rainforests. 

The Timber Innovation Center

As a physical manifestation of this approach, we are currently working on an exciting project:

In collaboration with Löffler_Schmeling Architects and other stakeholders, we will establish and manage a Timber Innovation Center in the city center of Kampala. It will be constructed on top of the Crown House building – where our Ugandan office is located – and the construction will include Engineered Timber Products manufactured in Uganda. The objective is to showcase the aesthetic beauty, innovativeness and strength capability of wood as a construction material. The center will serve as our new country office, and it will contain a conference room for workshops and seminars.

Picture: Löffler_Schmeling Architects, Karlsruhe

The Timber Innovation Center is set to be the first of many collaborations between our international team of timber and forestry experts, and carpenters and designers in the Ugandan timber construction sector. In this network, we aim to share knowledge and experiences in timber construction, wood preservation, wood connectors, and various innovation technologies that improve the timber value chain and reduce wastage and add value to the fast-growing timber species.  

It will be the initial step towards establishing the timber constructions sector in East Africa and shaping a future with a sustainable building material for easy, affordable, and sustainable housing in Uganda, and the entire East Africa region.

Next Steps

As of today, Crown House is a three-story building, with a rooftop terrace, located in the center of Kampala. The building’s location and accessibility makes it the perfect location to showcase timber construction with new engineered wood products. Prefabrication of most sections of the building will be done in the workshop to make construction clean, fast – and less inconvenient for other tenants occupying offices downstairs. 

The building has already gone through a structural integrity test that confirmed its ability to carry our lightweight timber innovation center. The whole area of the timber innovation center will be 1,1641 sqft (152 sqm) and the highest point around 5.6 m tall. All structural beams and columns will consist of Glulam made from FSC certified pine (Pinus Caribaea). The ceilings, floors and decking will be done from kiln dried pine timber, Plywood or Blockboards.

For the treatment, we would like to coat the timber with three layers of linseed oil to protect it from weathering due to friction, the sun heat and moisture. As a foundation, the building will have a steel frame to anchor the building with the existing reinforcement of the columns. The architects decided to implement big slide windows to let in enough natural light and aeration. 

The doors will be light and custom-made, also from local timber. Throughout this project, we have tried to procure all necessary materials and equipment locally. However, some of the accessories such as connectors and fasteners are not yet available in the market and will have to be either custom-made or shipped in. This includes the Polyurethane or Melamine adhesive used to manufacture the Glulam.

The First of its Kind

Being the first engineered wood construction in the country, and the first official timber construction in the Central Business District (CBD) of Kampala, there will be policy and implementation challenges our team has to manage. Official timber construction in the CBD is limited in absence of National Timber Construction Standards. Standards approved by the International Standards Organization can be adopted for use in Uganda, but require approval and supervision from the National Building Committee. This is accompanied by a number of strength and safety tests that are already ongoing. The British Standards of Wood construction and the South African standards of Glulam strength testing, manufacture and finger jointing, for example, are our suggestions to be adopted for this project.

Successful construction of the Timber Innovation Center will break the ice and also provide a road map for stakeholders – not only for lightweight construction on other rooftop terraces in the CBD, but also for the establishment of full Mass Timber Construction in the country.

Learn more and get in touch

For participation, collaboration, and contribution, please reach out to us: 

Simon Bosch

Project Manager MTCEA

simon.bosch@fairventures.org