Localtalks is a series of quarterly after-work events that bring together people who are interested in, and passionate about, green design, architecture and construction in East Africa. The aim of these sessions, and the podcast, is to create an open forum for the exchange of ideas, honest debate and knowledge sharing. For more information, subscribe to our newsletter.

If you are interested in contributing to Localtalks, as a speaker or volunteer, please email randi@localworks.ug. Let us know about your area of expertise and we will get in touch with you.

Previous Talks

Localtalks 02.24 - Local Innovators: Green Products from Natural and Recycled Materials

This hybrid (online and in-person) event focused on innovative and sustainable Ugandan products. We invited a few local companies to share products that use natural and/or recycled materials. Speakers shared technical aspects of their products alongside their experiences of establishing and running green startups. They also displayed samples of the various products presented in a small exhibition.

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Localtalks 01.24 - Architectural Education: Nurturing East Africa’s Architects of the Future

This session explored the topic of appropriate architectural education for East Africa. It was held as a hybrid event hosted at Localworks’ office in Kampala and online. The event speakers were three experienced architectural academics: Dr. Mark Olweny, Dr. Hermie Delport and Garret Gantner. Mark is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture in the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Lincoln, and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment at Uganda Martyrs University. Hermie is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town. Garret is an architect, urbanist and the director of the architecture programme at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Our speakers explored various examples of attempting to find a locally appropriate, future-proof and sensible approach to architectural education. The topic was addressed in the context of the climate crisis and the need for local architects to adapt, as well as in light of changing professional requirements of the private sector. Following speaker presentations, a Q&A session was led by a panel including Arch. Davy Mugamba, Dr. Connie Nshemereirwe and Stephen Muwanguzi.

Localtalks 04.23 - Tropical Thermal Comfort: Double Facades, Solar Chimneys, Cooling – and More

This webinar event will focus on various green strategies that have been used to optimise indoor thermal comfort in tropical regions. The platform will host two speakers - Matilde Tellier, a façade engineer at Arup, Johannesburg and Lakshmishree Venugopal, a project engineer at Transsolar KlimaEngineering, Stuttgart. We will also screen an inspiring talk by Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce about nature-inspired buildings, held at the Sustainable Built Environment 2022 conference in South Africa.

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Double facades, solar chimneys and evaporative cooling are a few strategies that will be shared, as well as parametric tools that assess different building’s thermal performance. Following the presentations, attendees will be invited to participate in a discussion session.

Localtalks 03.23 – Counting Carbon: Quantifying Sustainable Construction

This session focused on quantifying carbon emissions in the construction industry. Two speakers with extensive experience in this field were hosted: Joe Jack Williams, a partner and researcher at FCBStudios in London and Tom Joseph Mukasa, a chartered quantity surveyor and PHD fellow at Makerere University in Kampala.

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Joe has contributed to the development of FCBS Carbon, a free whole life carbon review tool designed to estimate the whole life carbon of a building at early design stages. He unpacked this tool and use it to perform a live demonstration during his presentation. Following this, Tom shed light on the importance of carbon measurement in Uganda's Construction Industry and showed how the International Cost Management Standards (ICMS3) can play a crucial role in achieving sustainable construction practices. He shared a few worked examples through different scenarios. A Q&A session followed the two presentations.

Localtalks 02.23 – Green and Affordable: Sustainable Buildings for Everyone

This session focused on the issue of sustainable and low-cost housing solutions for East Africa and beyond. Three professionals shared case studies that illustrate innovative efforts toward addressing the topic.

To begin with, Nick Mwai, director and co-founder of Living Walls Africa, spoke on sustainable raw materials used for low-cost housing schemes in Kenya. This was followed by, Jakob Knudsen, Principal of Ingvartsen Architects and the Dean of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy, who shared his experience working on the Magoda Project and New Stars Homes project. These projects explore ways to enhance the health of people in rural Tanzania.

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Finally, Sebastian Kaminski, Associate Structural Engineer at Arup London, presented a low-carbon, resilient-focused project based in El Salvador. The presentations were followed by an engaging question and answer session with the audience.

Localtalks 01.23 – Breathing walls: Creating Healthy Indoor Environments

This event was about vapour-open wall buildups and products in the context of Uganda and beyond. The two part discussion was led by different speakers. The first speaker, Philip Murungi, is an engineer at Localworks with a material background. He spoke about various vapour-open wall buildups that Localworks has gained experience with over time i.e. earth, lime, wood, with quite a focus on lime plaster. The second speaker was Bernhard Lembeck from ProNature South Africa. He focused on sustainable coating systems avaialble within the paint industry.

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He explained the significance of breathable coatings for the integrity of building substance and their functionalities. He also shared implications of high moisture in buildings and tips on how to avoid moisture in buildings will be provided. An engaging discussion with the audience concluded the event.

Localtalks 04.22 – Designing for Refugees: Changing Narratives, Creating Opportunities

The final Localtalks event of 2022 was based on the topic of designing for refugees. It provided an opportunity to think critically about design responses to spaces for refugee communities in Uganda and beyond. Three presentations by Patrick Muvunga, Xavier De Kestelier and Evan Easton-Calabria occupied the first half of the session.

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Evan, a Senior Researcher at the Academic Alliance for Anticipatory Action, Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University, and a Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, explored refugee-centred design from an academic angle. With her wide research experience in East Africa, she was able to share key considerations drawn from her research on and with refugee-led organisations. Patrick is a designer, builder and activist and founder of Opportunigee - a non-profit organisation and learning space for young refugees in Western Uganda. He spoke about this particular platform and its impact on refugee lives. Finally, Xavier, a principal and head of design at Hassell, took attendees through the design and development process of the project Bidi Bidi Music and Arts Centre. This Centre is currently being constructed by Localworks within a refugee camp in Uganda’s northwestern region. The event concluded with an open discussion that invited attendees to join the conversation around refugee-focused design projects.

Localtalks 03.22 – Green Water Solutions: Appropriate Technologies for Rainwater and Wastewater

Localtalks 03.22 was a webinar about alternative rainwater and wastewater technologies in Uganda. The two part discussion was led by different speakers. To begin with, Allan Semakula, Head of Building Services at Localworks, gave a presentation focused on biodigesters – an eco-friendly wastewater and sewerage management system. He explained the workings of the system alongside practical built examples from different Localworks’ projects. Various failures and successes observed with biodigesters were also shared.

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Following this, David Wituszynski from Engineering Ministries International-Uganda (EMI) gave a brief overview of rainwater harvesting. He then shared recent EMI rainwater harvesting projects and the trials encountered undertaking them. Finally, he presented findings from a series of first flush configurations. A question and answer session open to all attendees concluded the event.

Localtalks 02.22 – Collaborative Construction: Building Better Together

This event was hosted in collaboration with Artachat, 32° East’s public discussion series; it was held as a webinar live from 32° East’s construction site in Kabalagala on Wednesday 15th June, 2022. The session started with an interactive site tour in which attendees explored the construction site and raised various questions about the project. This was followed with three presentations by Teesa Bahana, James Hampton and Felix Holland who represented three entities involved in the development of 32° East. These are: 32° East – the client, Newmakers Bureau – the designers and, Localworks – the builders.

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The speakers shared their different roles in the project and collaborative method of working to design and build a new arts centre for 32° East . The presentations were followed by an engaging question and answer session.

Localtalks 01.22 – Indigenous Landscapes: Preserving Nature Amidst Human Needs

The session focused on the theme of Indigenous Landscapes. The webinar event hosted three speakers with extensive experience working with landscapes and natural contexts across East Africa.

The first speaker, Joannes Bosco Samikwo is the director of Multiplant International Medicinal Conservation-Seed Bank in Kenya. He discussed the way in which natural systems and species in Uganda are facing unprecedented pressure from industrial development and human populations. He addressed the urgent need for well-planned conservation action through indigenous landscape, especially with rare and endangered tree species, to ensure that none of Uganda’s tree species becomes extinct.

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Matt Cooper, one of the founding directors of Kyaninga Forest Foundation (KFF) spoke next. He is currently completing a PhD through the ETH in Zurich where his research is addressing the legacy effects of land conversion on forest recovery in Kibale Forest National Park. He outlined changes that have taken place in Uganda over the last 20 years in terms of the natural world. His presentation predominantly highlighted the work KFF does to work with farmers and improve local farming systems through the use of indigenous trees. Finally, Chloé Humphreys presented on behalf of The Landscape studio which she founded in Kenya in 2014 with Michael Humphreys. The studio has championed site-specific responses that proudly reveal the essence and identity of place. She took us through some experiences that have helped shape their work and has made them increasingly mindful of the need to meet the needs of the human brief whilst protecting and conserving our indigenous landscapes. The three presentations were followed by an open discussion with attendees.

Localtalks 04.21 – Building with Bamboo: Robust, Resilient, Regenerative

Localtalks 04.21 was titled ‘Building with Bamboo’. The platform hosted three speakers with extensive and varied experiences working with bamboo in different contexts.

Stefan Pollak, founding member of AK0-Architettura a kilometro zero ETS, presented different available species and sizes of bamboos and various ways of employing the material. Recent projects were used to illustrate how lightweight structural behaviour of structures such as domes and gridshells can enhance the building process by providing inputs through direct interaction between involved people and the material.

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Flavia Nabugere represented the Ugandan Bamboo Association (UBA) as their Secretary General. She discussed the work of the association including strategies of producing and processing bamboo for construction and, the ambition to see greater investment and use of the material in Uganda. Nripal Adhikary, founder of ABARI, shared built examples from his work with bamboo as an architect in Nepal. He discussed various qualities of bamboo, from its regenerative nature through planting to its strength and durability as a building material. The presentations were followed by a short question and answer session.

Localtalks 03.21 – A Future for the Past: Restore, Redevelop, Reuse

This event was based on the topic of preserving architectural heritage in East Africa. The event discussion was preceded and guided by three presentations.

The first presentation explored specific examples of architectural heritage in Uganda. It was led by Timothy Latim, an independent photographer and designer who has experience documenting Ugandan heritage buildings. He shared his observations and findings about three buildings in Kampala: Bank of Uganda, UDET House and the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung Buidling.

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Following this, the focus shifted to the practicalities behind preserving architectural heritage across East Africa. This angle was presented by Iga Perzyna and Berend van der Lans, team members of African Architecture Matters, a not-for-profit consultancy working on projects within the African built environment. Iga shared some challenges behind preserving heritage and a few strategies of preservation that have been used in East Africa. Berend then unpacked two models for investment and management of historic buildings in Amsterdam and Zanzibar. After the presentations, Kalandar Kamalkhan, an architect with extensive conservation experience in Kenya and Aida Mulokozi, the CEO of Dar Centre for Architectural Heritage, shared short statements on the topic and opened up an engaging discussion forum.

Localtalks 02.21 – E-Mobility Made in Uganda: Distant Dream or Close Reality?

Localtalks 02.21 focused on e-mobility, a technology that provides eco-friendly, low-emission, quiet and efficient modes of transport. The session speakers represented two Ugandan companies that are spearheading local e-mobility innovations across the country: Bodawerk International Ltd and Kiira Motors Corporation.

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Bodawerk has developed an intelligent energy storage system that can be used in equipment and mobility devices for motorcyclists, persons of disability and farmers. Their social, economic and environmentally sustainable solutions were presented by the company’s COO, Janos S Bisasso. Kiira Motors' Kayoola Solar Bus concept was shared by the company’s Director of Marketing and Sales, Allan Muhumuza. He took us through aspects of the project’s progressive vehicle manufacturing system and, their environment-focused vision for public transport in Uganda.

Localtalks 01.21 – Tropical Roofs: Sunshade, Rain Collector, Power Plant – and More

Our first event of the year, Localtalks 01.21, was held on Wednesday 17th March, 2021. In the session, Antoni Folkers, one of the founders and director of FBW Architects, with 25 years building and research experience in Africa, presented a series of built projects in which the tropical roof played a crucial role. We also hosted Daniel Propst, Research and Development Manager at EMI Uganda, who discussed the findings of an extensive research project into the thermal properties of metal roofs, the most widely used roofing material in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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An engaging discussion followed the presentations as the audience raised questions about various topics, from noise mitigation and ventilation to different types and qualities of roofing materials.

Localtalks 03.20 – Building With Straw: A Suitable Construction Material for East Africa?

Our third session, held on 16th December, was dedicated to two speakers, Andy Horn and Eckardt Dauck, who introduced us to two very different ways of building with straw. Andy Horn who is a South African Architect and Principal of Eco Design Architects with over 24 years of experience demystified the notion of building with straw bales. He also showcased previously completed projects, shared his experiences and findings as well as the various experimentations his firm has done with the material.

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We were also delighted about the presence of the founder of Zero Carbon Designs, Eckardt Dauck, who presented to us his made-in-Uganda Zero Carbon straw panel, and how it is being used in construction throughout East Africa.

Localtalks 02.20 – Planning a Green Future: The Physical Development Plans for Kampala and Uganda

On 16th September, 2020, Prof. Yigal Tzamir, one of the main authors of the Kampala Physical Development Plan as well as the National Physical Development Plan for Uganda introduced the plans and also talked about progress made so far in their implementation. A panel of experts that included Dr. Richard Irumba (KCCA) and Mr. Silas Anguzu (Urban Planner) led an open discussion about the plans and their future.

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Due to the requirements of social distancing the event was held as a Zoom webinar.

Localtalks 01.20 – Building with Earthbags: A Webinar Hosted from Mustardseed Junior School

Our first event, themed 'Building with Earthbags', was held as a webinar on Wednesday 17th June, 2020. The event was presented from Mustardseed Junior School in Sentema. This kindergarten and primary school, designed and built by Localworks, is currently under construction using the earthbag technology as well as a series of other inventive eco-friendly materials and appropriate technologies.

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Buildings made of earthbags, a technology originally invented by the military for flood control and bunkers and later widely adopted by American hippies building ‘earthships’ in the desert, represent an interesting way of using non-stabilised earth without having to face the challenges of formwork and of relying on a relatively simple form of manual labour. Using material excavated on site, mixed with sand, filled and compacted into woven polypropylene bags made in Uganda and tied together using barbed wire, this technology represents a particularly local and green type of building – a suitable showcase for what Localtalks is all about. The two presenters, Felix Holland (Architect) and Edson Agume (Structural Engineer), presented the design and construction technology in detail, both on drawings and on site, and openly shared their experiences whilst using this technology – challenges and successes.