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 01.22 - Indigenous Landscapes: Preserving nature amidst human needs

The session was based 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 based on the theme of ‘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

Localtalks 03.21 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' with Prof. Yigal Tzamir

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' with Felix Holland and Edson Agume

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.