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Loita Lodge

Research into Sustainable Design
Solutions for the Loita Lodge

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Table of Contents

Preface Jos Rek 05

Cees Duijvestein 09

Introduction Background 11
Goals 13
Setup of the Research 17

Pre Study Portfolio 19

Reference Projects The Necessity of Reference Projects 23

Il Ngwesi Lodge 25
Tassia Lodge 29
Elsa’s Kopje 33
Basecamp 37
Leopard Rock 41
Intrepid 41
Governors Camp 43
Serena Lodge 43

Interviews Loita Persons involved 45

The people of Loita 47
Jan Voshaar 49
Mark Glen 53

Sustainable Solutions Five Sustainable Solutions 57

Water 57
Energy 61
Construction 65
Waste 73
Infrastructure 77

Analysis of the site Loita Division 81

The lodge site 81

Using the site 83

The View 85
The Vegetation 87
Animal Activity 89
Weather conditions 91
Access 93

Conclusions and Recommendations 97

Reflection on the Research 101

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‘Loita by 4x4’

‘Walking to the site’

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Preface 05

First ideas about the Lodge | The link between two cultures

When Jan Geu Grootenhuis, who has been living in Kenya for more than 30 years, was
on holiday in the Loita Maasai region to visit the Loita Naimina Enkiyio forest and see it
with his own eyes, he met Ole Sonkoy. The Maasai seemed to be having a problem with
East Coast Fever, a kind of malaria which infects cows and from which more than half
of the calves die. By a lucky coincidence it turns out that Jan Geu is one of the experts
in this field and he knew the solution. He decided to work together with the Maasai to
solve the problems with the livestock and at the same time to help them also ensure the
continued survival of the forest.

“Will you help me with this?” was the question which was posed to Brains Unlimited
at the beginning of 2001. Together we have defined a number of projects which
are characterised by a business-like approach and exist under the name of “Maasai
enterprises”: an animal health business, a livestock marketing business and an eco-
tourism business. The income hereby generated benefits the investors which includes
the Maasai themselves. The Maasai use the income for the management of the forest as
well as educative and social projects within its own community.

Plans for setting up a lodge in the heart of the protected forest have been developed
as a part of the eco-tourism project. Protection of both the forest and the wildlife which
inhabits it is crucial to the success of the project. The lodge will provide an income for
the Maasai and will thereby create an added value to the forest and the wildlife. The
direct impact on the forest and the wildlife will be restricted as a result of the small
scale of the enterprise. The added value is maximised by aiming at the high end sector
of the market.

Loita Lodge is a special place, far removed from the inhabited world, in Africa, in the
heart of the Loita Naimina Enkiyio forest which is sacred to the Maasai, and one of the
few remaining original indigenous forests of Kenya. The lodge is situated at an altitude
of 2300 meters at the edge of the Great Rift Valley with a view reaching to Lake Magadi
1200 meters below and Lake Natron on the border with Tanzania. Here the visitor comes
into contact with the soul of Africa. Guided by a Maasai from the region, the visitor is
given the opportunity to penetrate a culture which has for hundreds of years remained
in balance with nature and with wild animals like lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant.
Knowledge which has largely been lost in western culture comes once again to life and
brings us closer to who we are ourselves. The forest has two personalities. On the one
hand it is a stunning and peaceful natural area which we can roam using paths made by
the animals, or alongside streams and waterfalls. On the other hand, it is an area where
the presence of wild animals is constantly palpable and carries with it a certain threat
which nevertheless can safely be undergone due to the presence of the Maasai. In this
environment the lodge is, however remote, a safe haven.

The lodge is a place where cultural exchange takes form. For the western visitor there is
the recognition and the comfort of excellent care and service; the unusual architecture,
the quality of the food and the reception by the Maasai. Loita Lodge is an equal partnership
of two cultures. The western culture brings with it not only the knowledge about the
desires and demands of the target groups, marketing and promotion, enterprise and
management, but also of the culture itself as seen from the same perspective as the
artists of western culture use. In addition to knowledge about interacting with nature
and the wild animals, which is embedded in cultural traditions, the Maasai provide
contact with Africa and its communities. Both partners influence each other and from

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‘Oltiyani, the site’

‘View from the site’

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Preface 07

the different traditions, a new culture emerges here which is firmly anchored in the 21st
century and is relevant to both parties now.

Brains Unlimited sees the lodge as a joint venture between two cultures which can
stand as a guarantee for an exchange that is both valuable and interesting for people
of all ages. In an ever shrinking world, it is of utmost importance to confront the
new generation, such as these students from the TU, with places where new forms of
partnership can evolve and which give us insight into ourselves and stimulate us to
forge a common future from our diverse backgrounds.

Jos Rek

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‘Local materials’

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Preface 09

Sustainable building

Not only here and in the present, but also there and in the future

Sustainable building is about building for the requirements of this generation without
reducing the chances of future generations and other people around the globe. This
means that sustainable building is not only about building “here and now” but also
about circumstances “there and in the future”.

The Urban Design & Environment research group has been involved in the education
and research of sustainable building at the Faculty of Architecture since 1978. The
success of these activities has varied. In the period between 1978 and 1990 a number
of interdisciplinary research groups in the Netherlands and in other countries were
studying on the relation between building and the environment. Under influence of
the trend of “education based on case studies”, the program IMAGO (Integration of
Ecological Aspects in the Built Environment) was developed from 1990 until 1998.

In 1998 this education program received a prize from the Ministry of Education and
the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Housing and Environment for the best environmental
education in the Netherlands. For the Faculty of Architecture this was a reason to stop
the program; “the issue of environment was clearly accepted and integrated enough”

In the same period the interest and the opportunities for internationally orientated
education was in strong decline. As a result of the latest reorganisation of education,
with the otherwise commendable aim of reducing the costs, the possibilities of working
together in interdisciplinary teams had unfortunately been reduced to zero too.

In these circumstances it is particularly interesting that students do take the initiative

of setting up a sustainability project in a developing country and go there to work with
the local people. It is an excellent example of “Think global and act local”.

It would be great to see this initiative creating more attention for developing countries
at the Faculty of Architecture again. This would probably be good for the people in
developing countries but certainly be good for the education and research at the Faculty
of Architecture too. In this way the Faculty can again carry out the principle phrase that
is promoted at Delft University of Technology: “People, Planet and Prosperity”.

I thank all the people involved in the project for their contribution to these principles
and wish the students success in the further completion of the study.

Prof. Ir. Kees Duijvestein

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‘Location in Kenya’

‘People of Loita’
‘Photo Discription’

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Introduction 11



The area known as Loita lies between the Nguruman - Magadi escarpment and the
Maasai Mara National Game Reserve in Kenya. It is an isolated area of Maasai land in
southwest Kenya that borders Tanzania. To the east there is the Great Rift Valley, to
the south the Ngorongoro Crater and to the west the Maasai Mara and Serengeti game
reserves. At the higher elevations, where the altitude varies from 1800 to 2400m, the
rolling hills are covered with one of Kenya’s remaining indigenous forests. At the lower
elevations there are vast African savannah plains.

On the edge of the Rift Valley lies the sacred Loita Forest called Naimina Enkiyio Forest
or Forest of the Lost Child in Maasai language, approximately 330 km² in size. The forest
can be classified generally as a “dry upland forest” and is one of the few un-gazetted
Trust land indigenous forests in Kenya.

The Loita Lodge will be situated near Entesekera at the edge of the Naimina Enkiyio
forest. Entesekera is a village in Loita with basic services like a small hospital, primary
school and airstrip. From the lodge site, there are great views over the valley towards
Shompole Mountain and on clear days even Mount Kilimanjaro can be spotted.

The necessity of the Loita Lodge

The Loita Maasai are currently threatened in their way of living by a number of problems:
the doubling of their population in ten years; a series of severe droughts that have
reduced the number of livestock and the cattle disease, East Coast fever, that kills half
of the calves. The droughts have forced the Maasai to graze their livestock deeper and
deeper in the forest and every year new settlements are established. Because of these
problems the fragile eco-system of the sacred Loita forest is threatened. To safeguard
the environment and the standard of living for the Maasai new solutions have to be


The Loita Lodge is part of an integrated approach to develop long term activities in Animal
Health service, Livestock marketing, Forest conservation and small-scale Ecotourism.
To guarantee an enduring economic and environmental balance, the Lodge will be
community based and managed by the Maasai themselves. By aiming at the high end,
exclusive tourism market only a limited number of guests are welcomed in the forest.
This makes the impact on the environment as small as possible. This community based
lodge is an initiative of the Loita Development Foundation, representing the Loita Maasai
people and Stichting Loita Maasai, their Dutch counterparts. The Dutch company Brains
Unlimited takes care of the financing of the project and assists in project development,
management and marketing.

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‘Sustainable building’

‘Sustainable building’

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Introduction 13

Goals | Mission statement

Sustainable building ideas

Building, as practiced today, accounts for a large proportion of the energy use, resource
depletion, and pollution in our world. It’s not just the materials that end up in the
building. The energy consumed in production, transport, and installation must also be
factored in. Ofcourse, the fuels used to heat and operate the house over time also play
a large part in its overall ecological impact.

Sustainable building minimizes these effects through energy efficient building design,
recycling and use of local materials. A related goal is to create a “healthy house,” of
which the interior space contains clean, non-toxic air. This is usually attained through
the use of natural or unprocessed building materials and by allowing people to regulate
the climate of their own building.

An ideal sustainable building is one that sits lightly on the land, requires little fuel to
heat or cool, operates on little or no outside electricity, and is healthy to live in. Some
of the materials will have to come right from the site or from nearby sources, such as
stone, earth, and wood. Some of the processed material (doors, windows, or lumber)
will have to come from farther away. Other parts of the house can also be processed or
reprocessed from low-grade or waste materials.

Sustainability for the Loita Lodge

The main goal for this project is the early implementation of sustainable technologies
in design of the Loita Lodge.


The lodge design is an initiative of the Loita Development Foundation, representing the
Loita Maasai people and Stichting Loita Maasai, their Dutch counterparts. The Dutch
company Brains Unlimited takes care of the financing of the project and assists in
project development, management and marketing. They have invited a team of students
from the TU Delft for a study to combine innovative sustainable technologies with local
building practice. The solutions found should be implemented early on in the process of
the lodge design.

From that point Tom Minderhoud, Coen Koster, Jeroen van de Weijer and Maarten Tas
became the Research Team for the Loita Lodge. After a few months, Prof. Ir. Cees
Duijvestein and Ir. Guus Westgeest, both from the department of Environmental Design
of the TU Delft, were approached by the Research Team to support their research in

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‘Research Team’

‘Research Team’

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Introduction 15

Besides the support of Stichting Loita Maasai, Brains Unlimited and the Tutors from Delft
University of Technology, the financial support was essential for a successful research.
This part is taken care off by the Delft University of Technology, and by the Dutch
company ICCO. The work of ICCO, a church organisation for development co-operation,
consists in financing activities which stimulate and enable people, in their own way, to
organise dignified housing and living conditions.

Research Team

Tom Minderhoud
Coen Koster
Jeroen van de Weijer
Maarten tas


Brains Unlimited (the Netherlands)

Jos Rek
Marjolein Albers

Stichting Loita Maasai (Kenya)

Jan Geu Grootenhuis
Frederique Platte

Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)

Prof. Ir. Cees Duijvestein
Ir. Guus Westgeest

Financial Support

Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)

Prof. Ir. Hans Beunderman
Thea van Arum

ICCO (the Netherlands)

Annick Schmeddes

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‘Site mapping’

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Introduction 17

Setup of the Research

This report is the result of the research for sustainable solutions which can be implemented
in the design of an ecological lodge in the Loita Hills. The research consists of five

Pre-study | Delft, the Netherlands

In this phase of the research the sustainable solutions that could be useful for the lodge
were examined. The solutions were analysed and five topics were selected. A portfolio
on the topics: Water; Energy; Construction; Waste and Infrastructure was gathered at
the TU Delft in the Netherlands. During the stay of the Research Team in the Loita area,
these technologies were assessed for their feasibility in the local circumstances.

Reference projects | Kenya

Due to lack of experience in developing such a specific building like an eco- lodge in
Kenya, it was of great importance that different lodges throughout Kenya were analysed.
During these visits the Research Team spoke to managers, constructors, subcontractors,
rangers, staff and architects, who all had their own ideas of developing and organising
a lodge. These visits were valuable in learning more about the variety of existing local
techniques and solutions.

Interviews | Loita, Kenya

The people that where interviewed during the stay in Loita were inhabitants of villages
spread over the Loita area. The main reason these interviews were held was to learn
more about the culture of the Loita Maasai. This could be used for the possibility of
linking the cultural and natural heritage of the Maasai to the design of the lodge. A
positive side effect is that a sense of commitment with the lodge is encouraged.

On-site analyses | Loita, Kenya

To make an analysis of the site it first had to be mapped. Until the research on site there
were no detailed maps of the Loita area and of the mountaintop. After the completion
of the map of the site, the possibilities for sustainable designing of the lodge were
documented. This resulted in a general proposal for the design that is described in the
final phase.

Sustainable solutions and recommendations | Delft, the Netherlands

In this last phase al the collected material and knowledge was used to write a report with
final conclusions and recommendations on the implementation of sustainable solutions
in the lodge design.

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‘Water for showering’

‘Energy forDiscription’
‘Photo the lodge’

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Pre-study 19

Portfolio | Five sustainable solutions

The main goal of the pre-study was to compose a portfolio containing sustainable
solutions that could be implemented in the design of the lodge. The techniques and
solutions gathered in the Netherlands would have to be assessed for their feasibility in

As mentioned in the introduction, the subject of sustainability covers a large research

area. This resulted in the decision to emphasize on five research topics, which are seen
as the five most essential topics for the sustainable development of a lodge in the Loita

1. Water
2. Energy
3. Construction
4. Waste
5. Infrastructure

Before going to Kenya this portfolio was reviewed with Ir. Guus Westgeest , our tutor
in sustainable and ecological studies at the University of Delft. After this review the
portfolio could be used as information source for the further research in Kenya.


The source of water is the determining factor in this topic. Water comes from natural
sources like springs, streams, surface water or rain.

The lodge site is situated on top of a mountain at an altitude of 2340 metres. At this
height water is a precious resource and this is why the possibilities of the nearest source
are an important item. According to information from earlier visits to the site, the
nearest source is probably found on the south side of the mountain.

This source is a small river of which the capacity should be examined. A delivery system
should be developed to ensure a constant and sufficient water flow to the lodge. The
water must be transported to a water tower on the mountaintop and from there to the
separate functions requiring water. If the capacity of the source isn’t sufficient for an
all year supply of water, there should be a storage facility created which is capable of
providing the lodge with an all year flow of water. This storage can be accessed in times
of severe drought.


The energy needed for the lodge can be provided by different sources of sustainable
energy. The most likely choices are wind energy, solar energy and hydro energy.

Providing the lodge with sustainable energy is not only about providing enough electricity.
In the design the functions chosen should be assessed on their energy consumption. Some
functions may not be suitable for the lodge because of their large energy demands.
The lodge is not only sustainable but has got high demands in terms of comfort and

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‘Building materials’


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Pre-study 21

therefore energy. This means that an all time access to electricity and heating needs
to be guaranteed. A solution has to be found for storage as a buffer of the fluctuations
that occur in the generation of energy out of natural resources.


For the construction of the lodge it is important to find out which kind of materials are
available on the site. Since the transport of materials is probably expensive and time
consuming, local materials from the site can be a good choice. These materials will
not only be easier to process by the local workers, but will also have a recognizable
connection with the local environment.

Because most of the workers have basic skills the applications of the materials should
be simple and understandable. The use of local workers has consequences for the
characteristics of the materials used in the construction and the level of detail that is


Waste can be separated into solid waste and sewage. Each has to be recycled as much
as possible. The amount of non-recyclable waste should be kept to a minimum by
choosing products that have little package material or recyclable package material.

Waste must be stored on site in a clean and discrete way until it can be disposed of in
the most ecological way.


The site is on a remote location and is now only accessible on foot or by helicopter.
This remote location can benefit the beauty of the lodge environment and the access
of the lodge should be subject of careful consideration. A new access road will probably
have to be built to transport equipment and materials during the building phase and to
transport goods during the exploitation phase. It is important that unnecessary impact
on the tree growth in the forest is avoided.

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‘View Tassia’

‘View Elsa’s Kopje’

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Reference Projects 23

The Necessity of Reference Projects

Lodges architecture is a specialization that is quite uncommon at the Faculty of

Architecture of the Technical University of Delft. Besides the lodge typology, the Kenyan
climate was an unknown area for the Research Team as well. This was why the lodge
analysis throughout Kenya was of great importance. In two weeks a lot was learned
about the variety in lodge typologies and the use of local techniques and materials.

The following analysis is a summary of the information collected in two weeks of visits
to eight reference projects throughout Kenya.

The visited lodges:

● Il Ngwesi Lodge Il Ngwesi Group Ranch

● Tassia Lodge Lekurruki Community Conservation Group Ranch

● Elsa’s Kopje Meru National Park

● Base Camp Maasai Mara National Reserve

● Leopard Rock Meru National Park

● Governors Camp Maasai Mara National Reserve

● Mara Intrepid Camp Maasai Mara National Reserve

● Mara Serena Lodge Maasai Mara National Reserve

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‘Arrival at Il Ngwesi’

‘The pool’

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Reference projects 25

Il Ngwesi Lodge | Il Ngwesi Group Ranch


Architect: Simon Dufresne

Constructor: Simon Dufresne
Manager: Jonathan Kip
Construction time: 11 months, opened in December 1996
Building costs: 9 million Kenyan Shilling
Building staff: --
Lodge staff: 27; 14 lodge, 12 ranger, 1 manager
Community based: Yes
Occupation rate: 60% Low season; May, November. High season;
rest of the year. Closed during renovation.
Guests: active people from Kenya, US and UK
Period of renovation: 2 weeks
Additional functions: pool, Cultural Boma, conference
Kind of pension: Full catering $190.- p.p.p.n., Self catering $405.- p.group
(max. 12 pers.) p.n.
Banda’s: 6


The Il Ngwesi Lodge is situated adjacent to the Ngare Ndare River on the edge of the
Mukogodo Hills and has beautiful panoramic views across Il Ngwesi Park. This park lies
in the northern part of Kenya. The climate in the north of Kenya is hot and dry except
for rainfall during the rain season. You can only reach the lodge by four wheel drive car
using a dust road that leads you from the main-gate at Lewa Downes into Il Ngwesi.


Il Ngwesi is a community based lodge build in the traditional way of using old wood,
Ferro-cement for the walls and swamp grass for thatching the roof. The construction
consists of Cedar wood from Nairobi. The lodge itself is situated on a hill top which offers
an exquisite view. Design of the lodge is based on the warm and dry climate, which
results in open shapes and big roofs creating shadow.

The orientation of the banda’s is based on the views and the position to the sun. The
banda’s are orientated on the west due to the sun and its heat from the north during
the day. Another aspect was the privacy of each banda which is guaranteed by situating
the banda’s far apart from each other. This sometimes results in considerable walking
distances to the central functions like the pool.

Although it is hot and warm in Il Ngwesi they do manage getting their water in a natural
way. A flexible pipe of 1.5 inch in diameter that cannot be damaged by elephants gets
the water from a natural spring in the mountains into the storage tank on top of the
lodge site. From this storage tank the water is transported to the different lodges.
Because of the height differences a pump is not needed and gravity does the work.

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‘Views of Il Ngwesi’


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Reference projects 27

The dry and hot climate is a result of intense and powerful sunlight which is rarely
interfered by clouds. In Il Ngwesi they use this sunlight for generating electricity with
solar-panels and heating water with sun boilers. The generated electricity is stored

in batteries. The whole lodge can run on these panels and batteries except for the
refrigerators which run on gas. The swimming pool pump is another exception and runs
on a diesel generator.
Reference projects
Waste is collected separately. If it is burnable, it is burned and the rest is transported
out of the area once a month and more often when the guest wants full catering.


The precautions for this warm climate can also be found in the design of the banda’s.
The roofs provide a lot of shade and if possible there is a direct open connection between
inside and outside. Guests enjoy the panoramic view of Africa’s natural beauty straight
from out of their beds. This is possible because of the low boarding on the terrace.

The beautiful view is one of the main features of the banda, by day, but also by night.
For example there is the possibility of rolling your bed out onto the terrace and sleep
underneath the stars. They have even thought of a way to hang your mosquito net outside.
The shower is outside too and privacy has been created by vegetation and situation. A
pleasant living environment is ensured by a natural airflow through ventilation holes in
the shape of Africa and Kenya in the Ferro-cement at the back of the banda.

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‘Main building’

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Reference projects 29

Tassia Lodge | Lekurruki Community Conservation Group Ranch


Architect: Jamie Furnan

Constructor: --
Manager: --
Construction time: 15 months, opened in 2002.
Building costs: 14 million Kenyan Shilling
Building staff: --
Lodge staff: 33; 18 lodge, 14 ranger, 1 manager
Community based: Yes
Occupation rate: High season; July, December and January. Low season;
rest of the year. Closed during renovation.
Guests: active people from Kenya, US and EUR
Period of renovation: when banda isn’t occupied
Additional functions: pool, watch tower, children room
Kind of pension: Full catering $120.- p.p.p.n., Self catering $380.- p.group
(max. 12 pers.) p.n.
Banda’s: 6


Tassia lies on a bluff, which protrudes from the Mukogodo escarpment and overlooks
a valley of the Northern Frontier District towards Samburu, Shaba and the Lolokwe
Mountain. This is near Il Ngwesi, in the Northwest of Kenya with her dry and hot climate
and can be reached by the same dust road leading from Lewa Downes, through Il
Ngwesi and from there to the Lekurruki Community Conservation Group Ranch.


Tassia Lodge is a community based lodge which provides the community with 40% of
its income. This money is used for transport and schooling. An example of the transport
paid for by the lodge is a four wheel drive for use by the community in case of an
emergency and other essential transport. The lodge also pays for community schools
and teachers.

The lodge itself is built in traditional materials similar to the Il Ngwesi lodge. Earth,
rocks, swamp grass and dead hard wood are the materials used for the floors, walls and
roofs. All these materials are found in the surrounding nature. Cedar wood and other
construction wood have been brought in from Nairobi.

The Tassia lodge has various banda designs unlike the more uniform Il Ngwesi lodge.
This results in a diverse lodge around the hilltop with its beautiful view. This exquisite
view is the main reason of the orientation of the banda’s on the north-side of the hilltop.
The paths that connect the banda’s and the central functions have a natural layout
which sometimes results in a difficult accessibility.

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‘Tassia pool’

‘Tassia staff & Team’

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Reference projects 31

The water supply is managed the same way as in Il Ngwesi. With the help of gravity as
a natural power source the water is transported from a spring in the mountains into the
storage tanks. But instead of using a flexible pipe a hard pipe is used which sometimes
results in pipes demolished by elephants. This means a loss of water and a lot of stress
in quick repair to ensure the water supply for the guests.

Electricity is generated by solar-panels which collect the intensive sun in this hot climate.
Batteries collect the energy by day for usage during the night or cloudy moments.
Besides solar energy there is also gas, for the refrigerator and diesel, for the pool

Waste is collected separately and either burned or transported to Borana.

An exclusive feature of this lodge is the swimming-pool which looks like a natural pool.
The use of the natural rocks for the floor and the swinging beds that hang on the


The diversity of the lodge is mainly defined because of the differences in banda design.
Some are designed in a traditional way like an open banda with Ferro-cement and old
wood for the walls and a big with swamp-grass thatched roof. One banda is in the shape
of a termite-hill made of Ferro-cement. It is a closed sculpture where the “termite pipes”
are used for daylight and fresh air supply. The banda is a special banda for children
where they can sleep together. Another banda is built like a watchtower. This results in a
banda with an exquisite view especially for honeymooners. Next to these differences in
concept there is also a difference in application of materials and the only aspect similar
for al the different banda’s is the water heater which runs on a log fire.

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‘Elsa’s Kopje’

‘Main building’

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Reference Projects 33

Elsa’s Kopje | Meru


Architect: Stefano Chelli

Contractor: Mark Glen
Sub contractor: Paul Njunguna
Manager: Ava Patton
Construction time: construction started in 1998, opened in July 1999.
Building costs: --
Building staff: --
Lodge staff: --
Community based: No
Occupation rate: 60% in good year. High season; July, December and
January. Low season; rest of the year
Guests: active people from UK, US and EU
Period of renovation: when banda isn’t occupied
Additional functions: pool, restaurant, shop
Kind of pension: Full catering $320 - $475 p.p.p.n.
Banda’s: 9 (1 with additional pool)


Elsa’s kopje is situated on Mughwango Hill from where it has beautiful views over the
plains of Meru Park and the foothills of Mount Kenya in the background. At an altitude
of 450 metres, it is hot and dry, like Il Ngwesi and Tassia. Meru Park is on the east
side of Mount Kenya, which lies in the northern part of Kenya. The park itself has very
well maintained roads but unfortunately the road to the Main gate of the park is less
well maintained.


Elsa’s Kopje is a real ‘high-end’, non-community based lodge. Formerly a large quantity
of the guests came from the United Kingdom. The past years their number declined
because of British Airways stopping their direct flights to Nairobi. These were difficult
times for the lodge and fortunately it is getting better now because of the direct flights
of KLM to Nairobi.

In the six years since Elsa’s Kopje opened its doors, the lodge has grown to a lodge
containing nine banda’s. Sub contractor Paul Njunguna has been involved in the lodge
from the beginning learning of his own projects. This can be seen in his techniques, but
also in his ideas about abstract design which Paul improved through the years.

This kind of diversity, from traditional designed and built banda’s to a more modern
style is typical for the process the lodge and Paul have gone through. The different
choice of materials in comparison with other lodges like Il Ngwesi and Tassia is part of
this process. Examples are the use of steel and processed timber from Nairobi but also
the use of concrete with oxide for coloring is interesting.

06a_Referenceprojects.indd 11 7-9-2005 20:45:55


‘The pool’

‘Luxury bath tub’

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Reference Projects 35

The banda’s are orientated around the hilltop to the beautiful views. Paths are well
maintained and consist largely of constructed wooden tracks. One of the high lights of
the lodge is a suspension bridge that was made to connect two hilltops. The privacy
of the pool is guaranteed by a natural rock formation that shields it from the central
restaurant. Unfortunately this only works when you sit on the terrace and does not work
while standing up.

The way that water and energy is handled at Elsa’s Kopje is not very ecological. Water
is pumped with a diesel-pump out of a borehole and stored in a tank. After using the
water there are no special measures to filter the water and to reuse or to recycle it.
The heating is done in an ecological way with sun boilers using the energy of the sun.
Furthermore the guests are asked in various ways to be aware in saving water.

Electricity on is generated by a large diesel generator that runs ten hours per day. The
way Elsa’s Kopje deals with waste corresponds with the other lodges; collect, separate,
burn and transport.

An interesting feature is the animal life on the lodge site. The hyrax, a rock rabbit, has
found a safe home there and a great number of them live between the banda’s.

On the site there is also a massage terrace and a ‘natural’ pool situated on a big rock
formation like the one in Tassia.


The luxury of the lodge can be seen in the detailing of the banda’s. The banda’s are
placed to create exquisite private views. This privacy even guarantees the possibility
of having an outdoor bathtub. The open plan rooms are individually designed, from
traditional to modern and incorporate the rocks into the structure. The beds look out on
to the veranda from where you have a beautiful view of the surrounding savannah. One
banda has a monolithic bath which could easily be found in modern lifestyle magazines
and which still perfectly fitted the African scenery.

06a_Referenceprojects.indd 13 7-9-2005 20:45:56



‘Basecamp banda’

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Reference projects 37

Basecamp | Mara


Architect: --
Constructor: --
Manager: Godfrey Mwirigi
Construction time: opened in 1997.
Building costs: 7.5 million Kenyan Shilling
Building staff: --
Lodge staff: 56 staff, 1 Manager, 1 Mechanic
Community based: Yes
Occupation rate: 70%, High season: July/November; Low season: April/May.
Guests: Norway, Sweden (because of management office)
Period of renovation: when banda isn’t occupied
Additional functions: restaurant, shop
Kind of pension: Full catering; single $140.- / double $200,- / triple $300,-
Banda’s: 16 tents


Basecamp lies on a peninsula by the Talek River at the edge of the Maasai Mara National
Reserve savannah. This reserve lies in South West Kenya and is one of the most popular
wildlife reserves, famous for the migration of wildebeests and zebras. The climate is less
hot and dry and is more diverse in comparison to the Northern part of Kenya.


The Basecamp lodge, former Dreamcamp lodge is a real community based eco-lodge.
The lodge provides the community with a certain percentage of the income, depending
of the occupancy. This money is used for schools, education and health.

Due the geographical position of Basecamp, a closed concept is chosen to protect the
guest against a diverse climate. This results in a tented camp consisting of sixteen
tents shaded by grass roofs. The lay-out of the lodge site is based on the shape of
the peninsula along the Talek River, the views and the sundown. There is no parking-
possibility at the main entrance of the lodge. A pathway across the Talek River functions
as the arrival place of the lodge, resulting in a “car-free” entrance. A negative aspect of
the infrastructure of the lodge is the distance between the restaurant and the kitchen
which is much too far and almost results in cold meals.

The roofing and load baring construction of the tents is built in a traditional way, using
dry and dead wood from the surrounding environment. The roof is thatched with grass
instead of swamp grass, which requires more attention and renovation than swamp
grass. The choice of this material is based on the shortage of swamp grass and the
presence of grass in the surrounding environment.

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‘Godfrey and Tom’

‘Basecamp service’

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Reference projects 39

The lodge site lies above the water level of the Talek River, first the water is pumped
up with a solar-pump into a storage tank. At this point gravity helps out and delivers
the water tot the different banda’s and other functions. Besides the fact that the water
supply is 100% ecological it is also reused. Used water is collected and filtered and
eventually used for the vegetation on the lodge site before flowing back to the river.
Energy is generated by solar panels, but because of the diversity of the weather in the
Mara, two diesel generators are needed as a back-up system. Basecamp has not got a
swimming pool, so a diesel pump is not needed.

Waste is handled like in most other reference lodges; collect, separate and then either
burn or transport.

A special feature of Basecamp is the watchtower with a beautiful view and from where
the animals can be watched. Another feature, which together with the other eco-aspects
from this lodge has lead to many eco-awards, is an eco-toilet. This toilet is a compost
toilet and when it’s maintained well it works properly without smelling or being dirty.


Every banda consists of one handmade tent, has its own terrace and en suite
bathroom. The construction and concept of the sixteen banda’s is quite similar and
only diverse in scale and view. The light that the LED-lights spread is very weak and
in the evening this has to be compensated by petroleum lamps. In daytime the tents
stay rather dark because of the big grass thatched roofs that cover the tents. The
wooden deck is protected against termites by using unprocessed engine oil and is
inside the tents closed and visa versa.

06a_Referenceprojects.indd 17 7-9-2005 20:45:59


‘Leopard Rock’

‘Mara Intrepid Camp’

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Reference projects 41

Leopard Rock | Meru

Banda’s: 15

This non community based lodge is situated in the bend of a river, in the north of the
Meru reserve. The complex consists of fifteen Banda’s, a pool and a main building. In
the lay-out of the lodge the main building combines the entrance, restaurant and the
only viewpoint. The Banda’s themselves do not have views and are isolated on the west
side of the main building. The pool is on the east side without a view along the river. A
bar and a bridge have a dominant role in the pool. The wood used in the main building
has all been varnished, and has lost its natural characteristics. This is not like the other
lodges, where most of the natural materials are kept unvarnished and unprocessed.

Mara Intrepid Camp | Mara

Banda’s: 30 tents

This tented camp on the banks of the Talek River can accommodate up to 60 guests. The
arrangement of the tents is in small groups of two, three or four units, which creates
individual mini-camps. A distinct feature of this camp is the suspended pedestrian bridge
over the Talek River which is also a wild life attraction; in the nighttime a piece of meat
is hung on the other side of the bridge, when a predator, mainly leopards, is attracted
by this meat light spots will turn on to make this event visible to the guests.

07_Referenceprojects.indd 3 7-9-2005 20:46:18


‘Governors Camp’

‘Mara Serena Camp’

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Reference projects 43

Governors Camp | Mara

Banda’s: 36 tents

Like Intrepid this camp is situated near a river, this tented camp was created on the
banks of the Mara River in 1972. The restaurant of the Governors Camp is also a tent
and gives the possibility to place all the tables in the open air. This main point in the
bend of the Mara River offers the most beautiful view of the surroundings and is the best
spot of the whole camp.

Mara Serena Lodge | Mara

Banda’s: 73

Unlike Governors Camp and Intrepid this lodge is situated on top of a hill. The orientation
of this in 1973 opened lodge is two sided. The main orientation is over the Mara River
and the big plains of this reserve, the other side overviews the south side of the Mara
up to the Serengeti. Two lines of Banda’s just beneath the highest point of the hill with
the main building in the middle form the main layout of the lodge site. One of the lines is
double sided creating the secondary orientation towards the Serengeti and the direction
of approach. During the approach, by car, the lodge stays out of sight untill the point of
the entrance of the main building. When entering the main building which houses the
reception, shop, restaurant and bar the fluid forms and colours of the seventies interior
create a distinct atmosphere. When leaving the main building the lodge opens up to
you; the pool, terraces and the three rows of the Banda’s, can all be seen from this
point. The Banda’s are erected in the same style as the main building, a massive style
with rounded roofs at the corners and a lot of grey, brown, and bright yellow.

07_Referenceprojects.indd 5 7-9-2005 20:46:21


‘Interviews in Loita’


08_Interviews Loita.indd 2 7-9-2005 20:46:47

Interviews 45

Persons involved

The Loita Lodge will be a community based lodge, in which the Loita Maasai community
participates. Therefore we interviewed local people to find out what their opinion is about
the lodge. What they think is important and to find out what makes the Loita Maasai
culture so special. This may result in interesting ideas concerning the lodge design.

Together with Dennis ole Sonkoi and Papiyo Muntet, the assistant of Maasai Trails, there
was a carefully prepared list of people the team wanted to talk with. These people
were selected by their involvement in the process of developing the lodge and their
knowledge about the culture of the Loita Maasai.

The following list is the result of this selection. During two days the list took the team
through the Loita area, from Olorte to Entesekera and Ilkerin;

Saningo Namunguk (Olorte, veterinarian for the Animal Health Service)

Rebecca Tikili (Olorte, descendant of the Purko Clan, North-Kenya)
Nike Simpano (Olorte, head teacher at a local school)
Francisca Muntet (Entesekera, director of a revalidation clinic by the Liliane Fonds)
James Samperu (Ilkerin, chairman of the Loita Development Foundation)
Paul Ole Koin (Ilkerin, commissioner of the Loita Development Foundation)
Morgan Sunaati Siloma (Ilkerin, project leader of the Ilkerin Project)
Sarah Sulul (Entesekera, shopkeeper in Entesekera)
Philip Meitamei Simpano (Entesekera, chief of Entesekera)
Mokonyo Ole Koisa (Entesekera, guide for Maasai Trails)

We also spoke to Jan Voshaar, a missionary of the Catholic Church who studied the
Maasai culture for the past 23 years. Some years ago, he has written a book about
these studies which describe different aspects of the Maasai culture. The interview
was about these different aspects. Another aspect of the interview was to make a
connection between their culture and the way Maasai build, that’s why it is mostly about
the symbolical meaning of different colours and forms in the Maasai culture. These
aspects of the Maasai culture can be used during the design phase of the lodge.

Mark Glen, who is a constructor with a lot of experience concerning lodge design is the
last man the team spoke to. After the site analysis for the lodge location, the ideas
about the lodge design were explained to him, so he could give his opinion and some
comments about the plans.

In order to get a proper overview first the interviews with local people will be analyzed.
The interviews with successively Jan Voshaar and Mark Glen will follow this analysis.

08_Interviews Loita.indd 3 7-9-2005 20:46:48


‘Rebecca Tikili & Team’

‘Morgan Siloma & Team’

08_Interviews Loita.indd 4 7-9-2005 20:46:49

Interviews 47

The people of Loita have a strong cultural tradition and a clear opinion about conserving
the natural environment. These aspects make them unique in comparison with other
tribes that have lost much more of their traditions. What follows is an extraction of the

The thing which is most important is that the Loita Maasai are very proud of their
culture. Loita Maasai still live in a traditional manner which is closer to nature than any
other tribe. A way to show this to the tourists could be some kind of a cultural area
within the lodge with all kinds of information. Maybe it can even be used to educate
their own youth again about their history. A cultural boma, constructed near the swamp
is also one of the possibilities; they have been talking about it in their meetings.

Eco-tourism must be a very important aspect of the lodge. Maasai have a close connection
to nature; therefore the forest is still original and unharmed. After agreements about
the conservation area, the forest will be an instant attraction. Nature also has to get a
place in the design, animal trails for mostly elephants and drinking places for buffalos
for instance should not be harmed.

Natural and local materials should be used for the construction of the lodge for several
reasons. First, the supply of materials on that location in particular is very difficult.
A road is needed to get all the materials there by truck. Even without using a truck,
some kind of a road is needed for the donkeys. And second, there is enough usable dry
wood available in the forest. Maasai also use these materials for constructing their own

The lodge must really be a community-based lodge, which will be good for the
employment. Within this community it must have a central position. To accomplish this
central position, everybody should get involved in the process and do whatever is in
their range to contribute to the lodge.

At this moment there are some who say that there has been done a lot of discussing
already, but still nothing happens. The sooner the lodge is built the sooner it can generate
profits for the Loita community.

Maasai really like bright contrasting colours as well for their clothing as for their jewellery.
One of the advises in these interviews was: “Use contrasting colours, there is already a
lot of nature and forest around there. Maybe you can use bright orange colours so you
will be surrounded by the green forest.”

In general favourite colours correspond with the colours of favourite flowers. People do
not know many flowers by name; the Bougainville is often described as a purple red
flower that looks like a rose.

Another interesting story mentioned in the interviews was about Oltiyani, the name of
the lodge site. Oltiyani is Ki-maasai for bamboo. The location is named after the bamboo,
because it grows on the slopes of this hill. It is the only place in the complete Loita area
where it grows. Oltiyani, the mountaintop, is the highest point in Loita. Resulting in a
perfect view over the complete Loita area.

08_Interviews Loita.indd 5 7-9-2005 20:46:49


‘Voshaar at his school’

‘Showing details’

08_Interviews Loita.indd 6 7-9-2005 20:46:50

Interviews 49

The bamboo is used for different purposes. The Maasai make special appliances for their
oldest age-group. Walking sticks for women over 50 years old and small snuff boxes to
store snuff tobacco in, for men over 47.

Elephants also make use of the bamboo. They put their young into the bamboo to
protect them against predators, while they are still very fragile.

The Maasai want to take guests on a trip through the forest and tell them stories like
these, about the forest and to show them which trees they use for medicines, for
example against stomach cramps and rheumatism.

Jan Voshaar | Entesekera 15-07-2005

After an explanation about the research on the mountain top and the discovery that
Oltiyani is Ki-maasai for bamboo, Jan Voshaar started to talk about the bamboo snuff
boxes. In his opinion this is a real masculin symbol, as well as the snuff tobacco which
is stored inside.

The Maasai house, on the other hand, is a feminine symbol; the covering roof offers
security and protection.

Feminin Masculin
- Left - Right
- Even numbers, harmonious - Odd numbers, 7 & 9
- Heaven, covering voile - Earth

When you ask Maasai what they are proud of, they will all say that they are proud of
their culture, but it is difficult for them to tell what their culture is exactly, how come?

Maasai can not tell you what their culture is, because they participate in this culture.
You will only be able to analyse a culture when you are an outsider. The last couple of
years you can see things losing their meaning, because people do not know the values
of these cultural habits anymore. As a result of this, traditional feminin and masculin
symbols are getting out of balance.

For clothing, old forms still exist, for women these are mainly V - forms. But as you can
see in the scheme below, the feminin and masculin forms are very much alike.

Feminin Masculin
- Blue colours - Red colours
- ▼- forms - ▲ - forms

The last 20 years the Maasai use more and more white colours for their clothing, but
there is no explanation for it. Milk is symbolised by the colour white, and milk stands
for prosperity, but white is also the colour for the end of a period and symbolises death
in the Catholic Church.

08_Interviews Loita.indd 7 7-9-2005 20:46:50


‘Maasai Patterns’

‘Flowers in Loita’

08_Interviews Loita.indd 8 7-9-2005 20:46:51


The Maasai are proud of their culture, which they say is the most traditional one, but
in relation to other tribes this is not true at all. Probably the idea makes the people

In regard to forms the feeling is still there, but they are not aware of its presence. The
feminine is presented everywhere, but it is the masculine that has to organize it. This is
also visible in the way houses are constructed.

Boma’s used to be more harmonious in earlier times. In those day’s it was not imaginable
for a man to have a house, it were the women who constructed the houses. A man was
able to have more wives and thus had to visit his wives in different houses which were
owned by his wives. In the present time, it is mostly the man who builds the house and
then tries to get his wife to come and live at his place.

What do you think about the idea of making a corridor entrenched in the top of the

I like the idea of connecting the reception, the highest point of the lodge, with the
central point by an entrenching corridor, because it would be a good correlation of the
feminine and the masculine. In fact the mountain top is just one big masculin symbol.

We heard some stories about the origins of the Maasai, they would be descendants of
a Roman army unit?

These are myths, people made them up, because they could not believe that the Maasai
would have been able to develop their own culture. In fact the Maasai are descendants
of the Nylotans. Four centuries ago this nomadic way of living was not yet found in
the Rift Valley. The Maasai really developed their own culture with their own language,
which was only partly taken over from other cultures.

How do you think about the idea of making some kind of an art studio for the
exchange of cultures?

An art studio will not work, because the Maasai do not know their own culture as you
found out yourselves. So, in this situation, the exchange of cultures is hardly possible.
Another reason for this is that you can not ‘feel’ culture; culture is not a thing that you
can feel in your stomach.

Everybody and every culture have his own values. These values can conflict with each
other, and can lead to incomprehension. In this case the exchange of cultures will loose
its meaning.

The exchange of cultures should be preceded by finding cultures. This is almost an

impossible task on national level, because everybody lost the path.

Can you tell us some more about the book you wrote about the Maasai culture?

I wrote this book in a period of four years, during my work as a missionary in the Loita
area. It describes everything I found interesting about the Maasai culture in the last 23

08_Interviews Loita.indd 9 7-9-2005 20:46:51


‘Bamboo near the site’

‘Mark Glen & Team ’

08_Interviews Loita.indd 10 7-9-2005 20:46:52

Interviews 53

It also describes the way the Maasai community is divided into age groups, and the
sequence, which can be found in this arrangement. It consists of two interconnected
spirals; the different age groups keep on existing next to each other. At a certain point
an age group name exists two times within the same sequence.

The arrangement into age group starts approximately at the age of 20 years, after the
warriors have proved to be men. Girls are placed in the age group of their fathers and
later on in the age group of their husbands.

The book also describes the Maasai numerical system, which can be derived from the
Arabic script just like the European system. Only Maasai also impersonate numbers with
their hands, not in the way we do by counting fingers but very figurative.

Mark Glen | Nairobi 03-08-2005

Mark Glen is a constructor and is very experienced in constructing lodges; he has already
built four lodges, including Elsa’s Kopje. During the introduction he was informed about
the research on the lodge site and the other findings.

Mark Glen advised to develop a tented camp when the impact should be minimised. The
only disadvantage of tented camps is that the tents only last for about 3 years, after
these 3 years they need to be replaced. Roofing with dry grass or swamp grass also has
to be maintained, but is more durable.

There is no problem in bringing up water for approximately 180 meters having a good
strong pump. Another solution is to bring the water up in different stages, with a big
storage tank halfway. The pipes should be hard PVC-pipes that must be dug into the
ground, otherwise elephants will damage them. The reason why should be chosen for
hard PVC-pipes instead of flexible ones, is because the flexible ones will dry out, this
causes the rubber to tear out. Another reason is because the pressure could be too high
for the flexible material, this would speed up the process of drying out.

A road is really needed to get all the building materials at the top of the mountain; this
should get the highest priority at this moment.

Concerning the access of the lodge site, the last reachable point by car should not be
further away than a maximum of 400 meters from the lodge. This point should have a
storage accommodation from where a tractor can take care of the last, toughest part of
the transport trough the forest, to the top.

When you want to use dry wood from the forest for the big poles for the banda’s, they
should at least dry for about 4 months before they can be used for construction. This
also should have been done already, if you want to start with the construction of the
lodge in autumn. The poles actually are the biggest problem right now.

As a solution the big poles can be made of eucalyptus trees, it is a technique which is
also used for telephone poles.

08_Interviews Loita.indd 11 7-9-2005 20:46:52


‘Construction materials’

‘Power supply’

08_Interviews Loita.indd 12 7-9-2005 20:46:52

Interviews 55

The stones which are on the lodge site can hardly be used as a construction material.
Maybe they can be used for the deck with concrete between them, but it also has a
disadvantage, the surface of the deck will not be completely flat, which is not very
handy with furniture. Mark does not know the technique which processes stones to fill
up steel baskets, which can be used for construction, but he thinks it can be nice. It is
something that has never been done before in Kenya. Maybe the technique with
tessellated coral, which can be find in Shella and Lamu, can also be done making use
of stones.

One of the best features of the lodge should be the spaciousness of the banda’s, this
must be one of the reasons why people will like to come here in the future. The size of
the banda’s should be comparable to the latest banda at Elsa’s Kopje. There should be
no problem in placing two extra beds in the banda’s, for example for the kids. These
beds can also be a lounge sofa which can be re-organized.

The banda’s should have a ‘summer’ and a ‘winter’ part, so guests will be able to retire
to a warmer part when it is getting cold in the evening. For the same reason, each
banda should have a deck that can be closed off partly. Furthermore each banda should
have its own fireplace.

The banda’s should not be further away from the centre of the lodge than 50 meters as
Mark knows by experience. This has to do with maximum walking distances, but in case
of the lodge site, this distance can not be shorter than 100 meters, because the scale
of the lodge site is very big.

For power supply, it is wise not to depend on solar energy only, because this system
always needs a back up system. People pay a lot of money to spend a night in this
lodge, maybe around $ 300. For this amount they may expect a certain level of luxury,
electricity and warm water are part of this luxury. Elsa’s Kopje for instance, has a big
generator with a capacity of 35 kV and a smaller one with a capacity of 28 kV as a

Furthermore, solar energy has very high initial costs, and there is a risk of running out
of capacity, in this case there is still a lot to invest on complementary systems in a later
It is better to invest in a good strong generator that can be used during the construction
of the lodge and that can be used as a backup system to recharge batteries during the
exploitation period of the lodge as well. These batteries should be very close to the
banda’s because otherwise a lot of energy will be lost during the transportation trough
the power cables.

All lodges started with the idea of being eco-friendly with solar energy and al that, but
eventually 99% of all these lodges make use of a generator for the power supply.
If the budget allows you, you should choose to make use of solar energy together with
a generator as a backup. Being eco-friendly is expensive and most of the time it means
that you will have to invest the double amount of money.

08_Interviews Loita.indd 13 7-9-2005 20:46:53



‘Hidden water
water tower’

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Sustainable Solutions 57

Five Sustainable Solutions

This chapter is about the findings on five sustainable research topics; water, energy,
construction, waste and infrastructure. In three consecutive stages these topics have
been examined. This resulted in a recommendation per topic for the further development
of the lodge.

The first stage in examining each topic is the pre-study at the TU Delft in the Netherlands.
It involved a study into the western solutions on these five sustainability topics. In this
stage it was possible to make the first assumptions and to create the guide lines for
the following research. The second stage consisted of a number of visits to reference
projects. These reference projects are lodes around Kenya with aspects similar to the
Loita Lodge project. The knowledge and the experience gathered during these first two
stages is examined for feasibility on site in the final stage. By doing all this research it
was possible to write a recommendation concerning each of the five research topics.



During the pre study it became clear that a small river or stream was in the proximity
of the lodge site, although this looked very promising it was not sure what the flow rate
of this river was and how far downhill this river would be. If the height difference would
pose too many problems for the delivery of the river water, other options for a water
source had to be investigated. The options were:

Option A The creation of a water pump system to get the water from the river to the
lodge site.

Option B The creation of a bore hole on site, independent of the soil.

Option C To bring the water in by any other means of transport.

During further research, extra attention should be given to the water cleaning and the
possibility of re-using it.

Reference projects

During our research on different lodges throughout Kenya, we saw most of the methods
mentioned under the three options in use. For instance the Il Ngwesi and Tassia lodge
both made use of a natural spring in the nearby mountains. The lodge Elsa’s Kopje used
a bore hole and Basecamp used a river for its water source. The storage of water in
a water tower was applied in all lodges to create a gravity driven water management
system. To get the water in the tower Elsa’s Kopje and Basecamp both used a pump,
Il Ngwesi and Tassia used gravity. From the tower, gravity delivered the water to the
Banda’s the kitchen and the pool.

09_Sustainable Solutions.indd 3 7-9-2005 20:49:30


‘Water storage’

‘Measuring water flow’

09_Sustainable Solutions.indd 4 7-9-2005 20:49:31

Sustainable Solutions 59

For the delivery of water to the lodge two different types of piping were used at the
lodges, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:

● Pipes made out of a hard material: easy to be broken by big animals, but when
dug in, they are low on maintenance cost.
● Pipes made out of a flexible material: not easy to be broken when stepped on but
needs replacement often because the material dries.

To maintain a constant water supply whole year round, only the Il Ngwesi lodge made
use of extra water storage in a basin of eighty cubic meters. This back-up is sufficient
for half a year of water supply during droughts. The other lodges all used sources that
did not dry out over summer.

The differences in water treatment and water uses are shown in the next figure.

Lodges: Il Ngwesi Tassia Elsa’s Kopje Basecamp

Water source spring spring bore hole river
Amount water
-- -- -- 8000l
used p. day
Piping system flexible hard -- flexible
Extra storage yes no no no
Type of pump gravity gravity diesel pump solar pump
Reuse of water no no no yes
Cleaning of water -- -- -- filter, chemical

Research on site

As the soil of the site mainly consists of rock a bore hole is not a possibility, and as
the area itself is quite remote the transport of water by other means than piping would
be expensive. This left the first option of using the river located 200 meters below the
lodge site and 200 meters away, on a gradient descent.

To find out whether the river provided enough water for the lodge we had to measure its
water flow. To do this a dam was constructed and the water was piped of and measured.
The measured flow rate of this river is 2700 litres per hour. According to the guides the
river is an all year stream, which will take away the need for backup storage. Of course
it was not possible to verify this statement during the stay on the lodge site. This issue
will need further research.


For the Loita Lodge a use of 8000 litres of water a day was calculated. This is based on
the numbers provided by Basecamp and checked with Mark Glen, the constructor
of Elsa’s Kopje Lodge. The water flow near the site will provide enough water for all

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‘Water pumping scheme’

‘Solar Panels’

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Sustainable Solutions 61

functions in the lodge with its flow rate of 2700 litres per hour. However this is a big
amount of its daily flow. That’s why used water from the lodge should be directed back
to the river. The cleaning of this water can be done in the same way as practised at
Basecamp. This seems to work adequate and has no ecological disadvantages. For the
type of pumps and the amount of reservoirs a detailed calculation has to be made by a
specialized firm and the availability of water all year round should be checked.
Sustainable Solutions



The three natural energy sources which are mainly available at the lodge site are: wind,
water and sun. In combination with their generator they offer three options for the
creation of energy:

Option A Wind energy, generated by wind turbines.

Option B Hydro energy, generated in a hydro power plant.

Option C Solar energy, generated in solar panels and solar heaters.

All sources are natural and the amount of electricity produced may vary with the weather
conditions. To provide the lodge with a 24/7 access to electricity the lodge needs sufficient
storage capacity. This means that on an average day a surplus of electricity must be
generated and stored into batteries. This over capacity can be created by adding more
solar panels. Another option could be a back-up diesel generator, which will run only
when needed.
A list of energy consuming functions gives an idea about the amount of energy which is
needed for the lodge. Energy is used for:

● heating the (pool)water

● heating the Banda’s and restaurant
● the water pump
● lighting
● small domestic appliances
● kitchen appliances
● communication appliances

Reference projects

During our research on different lodges, it was clear that most of the lodges used solar
energy. This source was used to generate electricity by Photo Voltaic cells and to heat
water by Sun Boilers. In Basecamp the water pump worked on solar energy too. Elsa’s
kopje was the exception in the use of solar power. They used solar power for heating
the water, but a big diesel generator of 35 kVa was their main energy supply. By
running 10 hours a day this generator provided enough energy for the comfort level of
this high-end lodge.

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‘Wood fueled boiler’

‘Sun Boiler’

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They justified this with the argument that the generator improved the quality of the
lodge as they preferred luxury over eco-friendliness. They provided their guests with
warm water throughout the day, while at Tassia Lodge the banda’s would only have
warm water in the morning and in the evening. At Basecamp the lighting was even done
by LED’s to save energy, but this also meant a very low level of light.

This figure describes the energy systems of the lodges

Lodges: Il Ngwesi Tassia Elsa’s Kopje Basecamp

General energy
solar solar generator solar
Amount electricity
-- -- 35kVa --
generated per day
Electricity storage battery battery battery battery
Water heating solar fire Solar/electric solar
only for only for only for water
Back-up generator pool and pool and 28kVa pump and
maintenance maintenance maintenance

Research on site

Wind Energy

The direction of the wind at the site is mainly S-W and S-E orientated according to our
local guides. The wind usually differs from 1 to 4 on the Beaufort scale. This means
that most types of wind powered generators can be used. The option of a wind turbine
is the most common one but the structure needed is quite high. Wind energy can be
generated best when the generator is placed on top of a hill. This means on a hill top
near the site or on the lodge site itself. The idea of a 50 metres high wind turbine
towering over the mountaintop or over the trees on a nearby top is not very appealing.
The use of the smaller Darrieus rotors would be the alternative, but in comparison with
the turbine they are expensive and noisy.

Hydro Energy

To use hydro energy, a constant powerful flow of water is needed. Normally a dam and
a big height difference are used to create this flow. The only suitable water flow with
substantial power for hydro power is a waterfall at a distance of 3 kilometres from the
site. This waterfall has a drop of 140 meters and has a whole year flow. To put this
power in use is however quite problematic since the waterfall is also used as a tourist
attraction. The spectacular view of this natural waterfall might be spoiled if used for
hydro power.

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‘LED lighting’

‘Stamped earth’

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Solar Energy

The use of solar energy is the most common solution for heating water and generating
energy in the reference lodges. The situation on the site varies from cloudy to sunny so
solar panels could be used, but they probably will have a lower efficiency than the ones
used in Il Ngwesi, Tassia and Basecamp. Because of the different weather conditions an
extra power supply is probably needed, for example a back-up diesel generator.

The strong and weak points are compared in this table.

Wind Solar Water
Near site +- ++ --
Enough power ++ +- ++
Maintenance +- +- --
Hindrance(sound,view) -- ++ --


As shown in figure 3 the Wind and Water options are less favourable than the Solar
option. To provide the lodge with constant power however a back-up generator is
needed. The power that should be generated for the Loita Lodge can be compared with
the power needs of Elsa’s Kopje which is of a similar scale. All the energy consuming
functions, as mentioned in the pre-study paragraph, can then be operated without
running out of capacity. As the generator will mainly have a back-up function the lodge
should be capable of running on solar power alone. This means that for the solar option
an equivalent of 10 hours of 35kVa capacity should be generated. This generator can
also be used for providing power during construction and maintenance.



In order to find construction methods that could suit the site with a minimum of impact
on the surroundings, we did a research on rammed earth and loam rolls. These new
construction methods for lodge design and the more common methods of loam stucco
and wooden frame are shown in the picture alongside. Most of the Kenyan lodges are
situated on the savannah or along the arid plains in northern Kenya. Because of the
warm and dry climate these lodges can be constructed in an open fashion. On this point
the Loita Lodge differs because of its location on a mountaintop.

The climate on the mountaintop is not like the big Kenyan plains and insulation and
temperature regulating materials are required. An insulating technique that was
researched was the vegetation roof system. This roof minimizes the visibility of the
lodge from the surroundings by using the roof as new natural vegetation.

For temperature regulating structures the use of heavy materials was attractive, for
example the use of rocks and earth. The focus on this aspect of the lodge was the eco-

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‘Use of ferro cement’

‘Swamp grass roof’

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Sustainable Solutions 67

friendly and sustainable character of the materials which would be used. They should
not only have to be ecologically produced, transported and assembled but also have to
be durable and easy to maintain.

Reference projects

While visiting the reference lodges we discovered that the topic of construction in Kenya
relied on the use of local natural materials and local workers with basic skills. Most likely
there are also a number of difficulties to be found in acquiring and transporting non
indigenous materials. When deciding about the construction these issues must be taken
into account.

Choice of Materials

An important issue is how the construction is materialised. It is important whether or

not the material is found locally and that the material can be harvested without negative
consequences for the environment. In the reference lodges most of the materials used
were local. The roofs are a good example. At Il Ngwesi Lodge swamp grass was available
and it is used in the roofs while at Basecamp they used the Maasai Mara grass as a
natural building material for their roofs.

The local materials in the reference lodges are often used in an unprocessed natural
style. The lodges which differed from this style were Elsa’s Kopje with its newest banda
and the banda’s of Shompole. Although the used materials are more or less the same as
the Il Ngwesi and the Tassia lodge the craftsmanship applied is different. The differences
in materials and the way they are processed are shown in the following figure.

Il Ngwesi Tassia Elsa’s Kopje Basecamp

cement mixed cement mixed
cement mixed cement mixed with earth, with earth,
floor, and with earth, with earth, rock from rock from
platforms wood from rock from surroundings, surroundings,
Nairobi surroundings wood from wood from
Nairobi Nairobi
natural rock,
loam and
loam and loam and stucco, dry tent, loam and
stucco, dry stucco, dry wood from stucco, dry
wood from wood from surroundings, wood from
surroundings surroundings plastered self surroundings
roof construction cedar wood cedar wood cedar wood cedar wood
swamp grass,
roof material swamp grass loam and swamp grass swamp grass

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‘Concrete with oxides’

‘Concrete Roof’

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In addition to the natural materials used in the reference lodges there are some
exceptions. An interesting exception is the use of the material steel which can be found
at Elsa’s Kopje. The steel beams were used for the foundation of platforms and stairs.
They are used by the constructor Paul Njunguna for reasons of durability. Hard wooden
beams have to be replaced every five years due to termites eating the material. Steel
beams can last much longer and need less maintenance.

In general the use of wood in a construction in Kenya needs a lot of careful thought in
advance. A lot of the hard wood is cut illegally, especially the cider tree which is the
countries favourite building material. Some ecological lodges use especially grown trees
like Il Ngwesi, but still many builders and constructors use wood from which the origins
are uncertain.

Trained Labourers

In constructing the lodge the contractor will have to work with a workforce consisting
of labourers with basic skills. To create something appealing the materials and their
connections used should be easy to understand and to learn. The training and guidance
of this workforce is the job for the contractor.

In the case of Elsa’s Kopje this is clearly an example of a job well done. Out of the four
reference lodges it’s by far the best detailed lodge with nice experiments in materials
and their application. For instance, the use of oxides to colour concrete instead of earth
made it easier and cheaper to form. This resulted in new forms and experimental uses;
the bathtub in the new banda is a good example of that. It is completely made out of
concrete and seems to be part of the floor. This new banda with its exceptionally big
size, twice as big as the existing ones, took however only three months to construct.
This short construction time is the result of a tightly supervised planning. According
to Paul Njunguna, it’s best to have all the materials on site first before starting the
eventual construction of the lodge.

Transport to the Site

The choice between local materials or materials that have to be transported to the lodge
site is part of the consideration of the sustainable design. Prefabricated elements can
shorten the construction time, but if they are big and heavy you will need a road suitable
for heavy transports. The other option of gaining all materials from the surroundings
and bringing them in by local transport means less impact due to the road but more
impact locally through the harvesting of natural materials from the environment and
heavy work for the local people.
For example the Il Ngwesi lodge used men and donkeys for transport during the
construction because of the bad roads in the surroundings. As a result of this, no new
road had to be built, but the amount of wounded men during the construction of this
lodge was quite high. There was no environmental impact because there was no road,
but there was a human impact with wounded people because of this choice.

Another topic is the cost, as Mark Glen explained; sometimes it’s cheaper to use
prefabricated materials instead of construction on site. Although the labour cost is very
low in Kenya, construction on site takes time and is thus expensive. In his latest project
Mark Glen used prefabricated Makuti roof parts as a solution to this instead of a swamp

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‘Precise detailing’

‘Soft rock and hard rock’

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Sustainable Solutions 71

grass roof. This was on a location, where the natural roofing material was swamp grass.
The prefab roof parts option proved to be more efficient because of the time it would
take to construct a roof of this material.
This seems like a logical Western solution, but the ratio of expensive transport opposed
to cheap labour is different from the ratio in the western world. Because of this the
prefab solution can only be efficient on materials that are locally scarce and on the
condition that the site can be easily reached over the Kenyan roads which normally are
in a very bad condition.

Research on site

During our research on site we mainly focussed on the materials which were present on
the site or in the proximity. This is related to the fact that the site is very difficult to reach
in the middle of the forest and on top of a mountain at a height of 2340 metres. The
topics we tested the materials on were the availability and the value for construction.

This figure shows the materials that are present in the surroundings and on the site.

Material Distance(km)
Rock on site
Dry wood on site
Earth 0,2 km
Swamp grass 5,0 km
Cedar wood on site
Stones 10 km (Entesekera)

As shown in the figure, the materials on the site are rock and dry wood. To test these
we extracted some samples of them. The rock which was all over the site was present
in two main forms. One very hard variety that was almost impossible to penetrate with
tools. And a fragile variety that was quartz like with pink crystals. The fragile rock was
the most common one and the easiest to split. This fragile rock however didn’t have
a clean cut but would shatter when worked on. The hard rock was the compressed
version of the red fragile rock and was hard enough to break the chisel and pick axe.
This equipment however wasn’t of the best quality and according to our guides this rock
could be worked on with great effort and good tools.

The dry wood which was present on the site, had to suffer from the humid climate. In
contrast with the dry climate of the savannas the dry wood would not stay long when
fallen over. This was presented to us by the big amount of rotten trees which had fallen
over, the trees still standing on the other hand seemed not to be damaged. During our
expeditions around the site we encountered lots of dead tree sites were the trees were
still standing. According to our guides some of these dead trees would make excellent
building material.

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‘Building a banda’

‘Waste and Sewage’

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Sustainable Solutions 73


As pointed out in the pre-study the materials should not only be sustainable but also
durable. Regarding the mentioned characteristics of the materials, there are some
general recommendations which can be made concerning the construction of the Loita

● Use an experienced constructor. He is the one responsible for the planning. This
involves getting materials and equipment to the site on time and putting the
labourers to work.
● Use certified wood for the wooden platforms and if possible use hard Gum trees
instead of Cedar. This wood needs more maintenance but is easy to get hold of
in an eco-friendly manner.
● Do not use too many western materials like foils. They are expensive, probably
have to come from Europe and are vulnerable for damage during construction,
because application is difficult.
● Use materials that are available in the proximity of the site because transport will
come with big difficulties and costs.
● Materials that are excavated from the footprint of the lodge can be used for the
construction of the lodge.
● Use basic natural materials in different and exciting ways. For instance, pieces of
rock can be used in a Western innovative building technique that makes use of
steel gabions.



During the exploitation of the lodge there are two different types of waste:

● Solid waste.
● Sewage.

The solid waste can be divided into organic and non-organic waste. The non-organic
waste should be collected separately, because of the ecological character of the lodge.
At the end of the week it should be transported to the nearest place where it can be
burnt or preferably recycled.

The organic waste should be stored separately in closed containers to prevent it from
smelling. In the end of the week it can be transported to a place in the forest where
it can be processed into compost. We will have to study upon this solution, because it
must be a place far enough from the lodge site that the guests will not notice, and close
enough to be reached easily by the lodge staff. Another thing which should be taken into
account is the fact that the waste could attract unwanted wild animals.

Concerning the sewage, we should study the possibilities for cleaning the water and
filtrate it into the ground again. The water system should be a closed system, because
we want to influence nature as little as possible. Different purification systems are
available, so we have to sort out which is best.

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‘Septic tank’

‘Waste disposal’

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Sustainable Solutions 75

Reference projects

Most lodges we visited did separate their waste because this idea is promoted not
only in eco-lodges but all around Kenya. The part that could be composted would be
stored under a cover, to prevent it from smelling. The burnable waste would be burned,
because transport would cost them a lot of money. Plus, eventually the waste would be
burned at another location. Things like glass would be stored and picked up after every
three months.

All visited lodges made use of septic tanks for sewage which they buried under the
ground. Septic tanks don’t need a lot of maintenance, once installed they are self
supporting, this is why it is possible to burry them underground. Some of the septic
tanks were already working for the past 10 years without any malfunction.

A septic tank is part of a small scale sewage treatment system often referred to as a
septic system, which consists of the tank itself and a septic drain field. Wastewater
enters the tank where solids can settle and scum floats. Anaerobic digestion occurs on
the settled solids, reducing the volume of the solids.

The term “septic” comes from the anaerobic bacterial activity. Excess liquid drains from
the relatively clear portion of the tank to the drain field where the remaining impurities
naturally decompose and the water is drained into the soil, and eventually taken up
through the root system of plants or added to the groundwater. The entire septic system
can operate by gravity alone.

Research on site

As we compare our pre-study to the things we found out during the lodge visits, they
do not differ a lot from each other. That is why we started to look what the possibilities
would be for our lodge site. The ideas of separating waste are all very convenient;
except for recycling, which is still not very common in Kenya. The only thing which can
be recycled yet is glass.
Concerning the sewage, we wanted to study the possibilities for cleaning the water. A
good solution for this is the septic tank which we saw at the other lodges. To bury the
septic tanks underground, holes should be dug out of the rock foundation of the site.


By visiting reference projects and research on site we were able to test our ideas as
proposed in the pre-study. As a result of this research work we want to make some
recommendations concerning sustainable solutions on waste. As a recommendation
we want to suggest that the different types of waste should be collected and treated
separately. Because of the high transport costs for waste, it should be processed on the
site as much as possible.

A good spot must be found hidden in the forest at a short distance along the entrance
road to store it. At this spot waste can be stored or processed into compost out of sight,
so the guests won’t notice. If wild animals are attracted it will not be dangerous to the

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‘Access by helicopter’

‘Access by donkey’

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Sustainable Solutions 77

Concerning the sewage, we want to use septic tanks. These septic tanks are quite big for
only one banda, that is why we want to connect more banda’s to one septic tank where
possible, just like they did at the Il Ngwesi lodge. The drain fields these septic tanks use
should be put somewhere in the forest, around the lodge site. Eventually the filtered
water will be taken up through the root system of plants or added to the groundwater.
The result is a closed water system, which influences nature as little as possible.



The lodge site lies on a remote location and therefore has the possibility of being very
exclusive. The nearest road is miles away and the forest lies in between. Currently the
only way to access this remote area is by foot. It will take you about three hours. To
guarantee the remoteness of the lodge it has to be hidden from the guests before they
arrive at the lodge site. This minimizes the impact on the environment and contributes
to the surprise of encountering the lodge at this unexpected place.

Reference projects

During our research, the aspect of access seems to be solved well because all reference
lodges have access to a road and an airstrip. The lodges that do not have their own
airstrip share one with other lodges to lower the costs; Basecamp for example shares
one. The airstrip is normally not more than five kilometres away from the lodge location.
The remaining distance is covered by car.

In general the arrival of guests at lodge sites can be divided into three stages.

● The guests arrive at the lodge by car. Here they are welcomed by the Maasai
staff. This can be at a small parking zone, like Il Ngwesi, Tassia and Elsa’s Kopje
or in the middle of a bushy path like Basecamp. From here the guests are taken
into the lodge. Meanwhile the car will drive on to a parking place out of sight
where the luggage is taken out.

● When entering the lodge the guests will first encounter the reception area, this
can be the restaurant like in Tassia, a watchtower like in Basecamp, or just a
reception like in Elsa’s Kopje and Il Ngwesi. At this welcoming point a short
introduction of the lodge and its surroundings is given to the guests. Sometimes
the other facilities of the lodge can be seen from here like the pool at Tassia.

● From the reception area the guests can be showed around the lodge and taken
to their banda’s, which are usually not visible from the reception area, like Il
Ngwesi, Tassia and Basecamp.

On the aspect of supplying the lodge, all lodges have a similar system. It consists of
small and big purchases. Small purchases, like groceries, fruit and vegetables, are done
on local markets once a week. Big purchases, like luxury products, are brought in from
bigger cities like Nairobi once a month.

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‘Aproach of the site’

‘Aproach of the site’

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Sustainable Solutions 79

Research on site

As mentioned in the pre-study, the roads in the Loita area do not run all the way up to
the lodge site. The nearest road ends close to the swamp which is five kilometres away.
From here it takes a three hour walk over hilly terrain to reach the site. For transporting
luggage and supplies over this distance donkeys are the only available option.
Halfway this walk the Oltiyani mountaintop is visible for the first time. From this point
on it comes into vision again repeatedly and in increasing beautiful sceneries. The
existing path enters the lodge site on the west side; from here the top of the mountain
is visually blocked by groups of trees and a slope. When passing through these trees
towards the top, visions of the beautiful scenery will open up.


A road to the lodge site has to be created as well for the construction period as during
the exploitation of the lodge. The road should approach the lodge site as close as
possible, this means that the road will end at a distance of 400 meters from the site.
The last 400 meters can be a temporary road accessible only by tractor during the
construction period and by donkeys during the exploitation of the lodge. Guests and
supplies have to come in on this road. For the supplies it is no problem that the road
does not go all the way up to the lodge site, but at least the road should change into a
path to the storage area.

In case of any emergency a helicopter is the only appropriate way of transportation.

The top of the hill is an open spot where a helicopter can easily land. For access by
any other means than by car, only a helicopter and a zeppelin can bring you to the site
or close enough to the site to walk the last remaining meters. This would really be a
spectacular way of access.

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‘Detailed map Oltiyani’

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Analysis of the site 81

Loita Division | Location of the lodge site

The proposed site for building the lodge is located in the Loita division in southwest
Kenya near the border of Tanzania. This area lies between the Maasai Mara and the
Rift Valley and can be reached by a three hour drive from the nearest big town Narok.
Another way to reach the area is to fly in by a small plane, which takes less than half an
hour from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.

Entesekera is the village from where the last part of the trip to the lodge starts. It is the
exit point from the international road to Tanzania and the nearby airstrip is located here.
From the village a bush road takes you by car to a smaller place called Empurputye
in half an hour. After that it is three hours hiking up hill under supervision of Maasai

The lodge site is situated on a remote mountain top called Oltiyani and is surrounded
by a dense indigenous forest. This forest is part of the project proposal and will be
protected in a conservation area to ensure the quality of the nature around the lodge.
The forest is not only attractive because of its natural resources, but is also important
in the culture of the local Maasai people. The forest is respected and shelters the sacred
places and rituals of the people.

The lodge location is one of the most beautiful spots in Loita, everyone visiting the site
will confirm this, but up until now this had not yet been documented in maps or other
objective information. Arriving on the top of the hill for a stay of seven days, the goal
was to get a good impression of the possibilities of the site. To achieve this goal initial
research was required to get to a basic idea of the location and to make a detailed map
of the lodge site.

The Lodge site | Mapping

The process of measuring land and map making is not one of the basic skills that are
taught at the faculty of architecture of the TU Delft. This however did not discourage
the team in devising a number of techniques to map the terrain. The first concern was
the scale of the site and the height differences that added difficulties for the mapping in
3D. The site is curled around the top of the mountain with a lot of tree growth and can
only be seen as a whole from the air. To assemble a total picture of the site, it was split
into smaller pieces and organized in a grid.

The chosen approach was based on a 20 meters by 20 meters grid that was set out
along the north-south axis by compass. The highest point of the mountain was used as
the first reference point. From this point other reference points for the lodge site were
determined. While mapping the site it was clear that it was not possible to document
the whole mountain. It was decided that the chosen points should be limited to the area
suitable for building the lodge.

The choice of suitable reference points was based on the assumption that the impact
on the environment should be reduced to a minimum. Furthermore it appeared that the
terrain available around the top was spacious enough for the different lodge structures.
This resulted in reference points concentrated around the clearance on the top of the
mountain. The wooded areas around the top were left intact in the map area and used
as a natural boundary.

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‘Altitude map Oltiyani’

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Analysis of the site 83

With the grid in place detailed sketches were made of each of the squares in the grid.
These sketches were assembled to one map resulting in the exact shape of the lodge
site. The top of the mountain has an altitude of 2340 meters and from this point the site
stretches out in four directions up to a distance of 200 meters. The basic shape of the
lodge site in 2D resembles a large L-shape originating from the top. Around this main
area a number of smaller plateaus are found along the wooded boundaries of the site.

3D Mapping

The 2D map of the site was used to measure the steepness of the slopes of the mountain.
A measuring instrument was constructed out of a leveler and two straight walking sticks
connected at a 90 degrees angle. With this instrument it was possible to “shoot” an
exact difference in height of 1.5 meters. Using this as the interval for our height lines, an
approximate number of 150 relevant points were shot around the top of the mountain.

With these points the height lines along the whole lodge site could be drawn into the
existing map by connecting the measured points. These lines give a clear view of the
steepness of the site and were used as a starting point for further (computer) 3D
modeling. The important points around the top were later measured and confirmed
using a GPS device. Out of a practical point of view the top of the mountain offers the
most suitable and leveled land that is available on site. The height of the total site varies
30 meters. From the top the slope gets steeper from a very slow gradient into a rather
steep part at the far end of the L-shape.

The map of the lodge site was the first basic tool and useful as a first impression of the
site. During the mapping of the site a lot of its specific features and qualities appeared.
The following part of research on the top was aimed at documenting the topics on site
that could contribute to the sustainability of the lodge.

Using the site | Characteristics

From the start the emphasis in our research for sustainable solutions has been on the
sustainable solutions for the designing of the lodge. The main topics were:

Water, Energy, Construction, Waste and Infrastructure.

During the initial map-making on the mountain we realized that the site itself offered a
number of its own characteristics. These site qualities were observed and documented.
The choice of the topics documented was based on the uniqueness of the characteristics
of the site. In other words: Which unique elements of the site environment could be
conserved and could still be exploited optimally to sustain a luxury lodge with all of its

In this basic assumption it is clear that the lodge structures should use the possibilities
of the site, while having a minimum impact on the environment. In the Kenyan situation
Oltiyani is unique because of its location on the top of a mountain at an altitude of 2340
meters. Developing a lodge at this altitude has its difficulties but it also offers a number

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‘View to South Oltiyani’

‘View to South Oltiyani’

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Analysis of the site 85

of benefits.
The characteristics chosen to be documented represent the opportunities that should be
considered in building a lodge on this location.

Oltiyani Characteristics

The View
Animal Activity

The View | Orientation

On the top of Oltiyani the scenery around is magnificent. Each direction has its own
character with to the east the barren rift valley, to the south the peaks around Mount
Lengai and to the west the rolling hills of Loita. The view is one of the qualities of the site
that should be integrated in the sustainable lodge design. The rolling mountaintop provides
a variety in sloping terraces that can be used as spectacular viewpoints. Furthermore
the site itself should remain an unspoiled part of the natural surroundings.

In mapping the view a number of design principles should be taken into account. These
principles have already been used in the design of eco-lodges around Kenya. During
the stay in Kenya these principles were found to have been applied in a number of the
reference projects.

Rule number one is to keep the top of the mountain untouched by man made structures.
Good examples of lodges that really blend in with the natural environment are lodges
that are built just beneath the top. Il Ngwesi for example is situated just beneath the
top of a small hill and the banda’s do not disturb the natural lines of the hill.

At Oltiyani these principles apply differently on the two sides of the lodge’s orientation.
Because of the high altitude of 2340 meters it is not very likely that people will see the
lodge from the Rift Valley side, 900 meters below. The need for structures to be hidden
below the mountaintop is not relevant on this side because there is no direct relation.
To the west the hills are very much closer and to this side disturbing the view of the top
is not an option. People walking by in the forest below would be disturbed by human
activity in the shape of the lodge buildings. They should only experience the natural
environment of the forest.

Another important aspect in designing these luxury accommodations is privacy.

Organizing the different viewpoints should be done in careful consideration of the fact
that everybody wants their own private spot. The sightlines should be designed in a way
that no banda is orientated on other banda’s.

In the reference projects the banda’s are often positioned around the highest point and
use the slope and vegetation to create private spots. At Oltiyani this means ignoring the
bald spot on top of the mountain and organizing the banda’s on terraces at the edge of
the site. These outer terraces are secluded from the center of the site by vegetation and

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‘Flowers on site’

‘Flowers on site’

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Analysis of the site 87

open up to the surrounding scenery. On these concentric terraces private activity can
be created with direct links to the more public part of the lodge just beneath the top.
Another advantage of this concentric organization is that the paths to the banda’s are
not longer than 100 meters from the central function just below the top.

Using the view as part of the integrated design can result in a better design for the
environment and for the guests. If the lodge is designed just below the top of the
mountain and on the hidden terraces around it, it will not disturb the natural shape of
the hill environment. Still each banda can offer an exciting and unique view from the top
of the world over Loita, the Rift Valley and into Tanzania

The Vegetation

Around Kenya the variety of landscapes and the level of biodiversity is what make the
country special. In the Loita division in south west Kenya the landscape is defined by
rolling hills and one of the last indigenous forests. This forest differs from the other
better-known natural reserves in Kenya like the Maasai Mara, Tsavo and others. There
is no stereotype savanna with waving grass and the occasional acacia tree. Instead
there is dense bush growth and semi tropical rainforest on a rolling, high altitude and
mountainous terrain.

Indigenous forest

At the Oltiyani site the indigenous forest is found all the way to the top. The route up
the hill is along elephant paths and only the Maasai can guide you through the thick
undergrowth. These forests provide both the boundary of the mountaintop site and the
scenery overlooking the hills around. When the lodge is built a basic principle should
therefore be that this forest is conserved and that no forest may be destroyed to build
the lodge.

While making the map this principle was respected and only the open spots of the site
were appointed as terrain to build the lodge structure on. In this way the forest and
bush vegetation is respected and is integrated in the morphology of the lodge.

Succulent plants and mountain flowers

Besides the forest vegetation there is another special vegetation type that is thriving in
the circumstances of the humid mountaintop. On the rocky bald spots of the mountain a
number of succulent plants and flowers are profiting from the windy open spaces. These
vulnerable plants cannot exist in the surrounding forest or farther away on the savanna
and are therefore unique for this mountaintop environment.

In mapping the site these plants were part of a serious consideration whether or not
the terrain was suitable for human use. When trodden on they are quickly damaged
and with the increased human activity, due to the lodge being built, they certainly are
at risk. The outcome was that the site should not only respect the forest boundaries but
also take into account this plant growth. Any functions should be limited as much as
possible to clearly designated areas and human activity outside these areas should be
kept to a minimum.

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‘Bamboo on the slopes’

‘Birdlife on the site’

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Analysis of the site 89

The routing should be defined in a way that guests are kept to the planned paths and
that they are discouraged from wandering off. This means that the paths should be
able to access the complete site in a direct and comprehensibly clear way. Another
advantage of confining people to clearly designated paths is that they prevent people
from wandering out off the safety of the lodge.

Bamboo or Oltyani

The third unique vegetation type that is found on these mountain slopes is bamboo.
In fact the site is named bamboo since in the Maasai language of Maa, Oltiyani means
bamboo. This vegetation was primarily interesting for the research because of its
structural qualities. In an expedition down the slopes of the mountain it was located
one hour away from the site along one of the mountains streams. Regretfully it was
found to be a bushy variety and therefore it is not suitable for any type of construction
other than decoration.

Although it is not of direct use in constructing the lodge, the symbolic value can be
used. Because of the name of the site it is interesting in a decorative way, for example if
one can manage to grow the plant on the lodge site. This probably is possible provided
that water and the right soil are made available on top of the mountain. To the Maasai
the symbolic value of the plant is important, especially to the senior age group. Women
make walking sticks out of the bamboo and men make snuff boxes out of it. The plants
could then be subject of a cultural exchange with Maasai exhibiting the traditional use
of it to guests from around the world.

Most important with all of these three vegetation types is that the basic principle is to
leave them intact. Only then can they be of use in the lodge design.

Animal Activity

One of the most anticipated features in researching on site was the possibility of
encountering wildlife during the stay in the bush. For guests visiting the lodge in the
future, seeing wild animals will probably be one of the reasons for their stay. The issue
of wild animals should therefore be thought through, not only out of a perspective of
seeing them but also in terms of a safe and pleasant stay in the accommodations of the

The forest around Oltiyani has got a large population of wild animals including four
animals out of the big five. Out of the Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino, only
the Rhinoceros is missing after being poached to extinction in Loita. Next to these larger
animals there is a large variety of other animals including porcupines, colobus monkeys,
bushbucks, hyenas and many more who, in the present situation, all frequently visit the

That is, if there are no humans around. During the research period of seven days on the
lodge site the only encounters that occurred where with a few clip springers. Some large
birds flew by and there were a lot of animal sounds around, especially during night time.

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‘A clear day’

‘Mist in the morning’

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Analysis of the site 91

The reason for the lack of animals seen is not because they are not there, but because
of the dense forest undergrowth and the fear of animals for humans. The situation is
very different to wildlife parks like the Maasai Mara where animals are out in the open
and used to humans approaching them.

In using the site and developing a concept for the lodge it would be safe to assume
that there are no animals on the lodge site. If animals are required in the concept of
the lodge they will have to be introduced to the site by attracting them with water, salt,
food or safety. An example can be found at Il Ngwesi where visitors can view animals
drinking at an artificial water pool. At Elsa’s Kopje hyraxes have been breeding like
rabbits because of the lack of predators around the lodge. The animals attracted offer
added value to the visiting guests in both cases.

With the lack of animals on the lodge site another option considered was attracting
animals to hilltops around the site. Down to the Rift Valley a drinking place for buffalos
can be seen and on a hilltop to the south elephants were spotted. These elephants
however where at such distance that they could only be spotted with a very sharp eye
or a binocular. The spotting places on hills around are probably to distant and the best
option for the lodge would be to attract animals with salt or water on the far ends of the
mountains own slopes.
Although the animals will not be attracted to the inner area of the lodge site, there
is always the risk of a stray animal wandering in. To avoid humans bumping into wild
and potentially harmful animals the safety measures of the lodge should be thought
through very well. In Tassia Lodge, one of our reference lodges it was not uncommon
for elephants to wander in between the banda’s and the main building. In Elsa’s Kopje
a leopard with its young visited one of the farther away banda’s. Both incidents should
not be taken lightly considering the safety of the guests in the lodge design.

From these examples it is possible to conclude that especially the paths and the more
far away banda’s are vulnerable to animals. In the use of the site in relation to wild
animals it is important to design the banda’s in a way that animals can be kept out.
Paths must be clearly marked and lighted. It is an option to connect the main structures
of into a safe core for human activity inside the lodge area.

Weather conditions | Implications for the lodge

The weather at Oltiyani is different from the rest of Kenya because of the altitude and
the location along the Rift Valley. The prevailing winds blow along relatively humid air
that bumps into the hills and is released as rain. In the cold season temperatures can
be as low as ten degrees, with overhanging clouds, mist and drizzle. On warm days it
immediately heats up to temperatures up to 35 degrees due to the direct heat of the
full sun at a high altitude.

For the research it was difficult to establish a clear picture of the general weather
conditions on site because the research period only lasted seven days. The observations
made are in this sense subjective but the experience gained with the possible extreme
conditions on site was valuable in determining the requirements of the lodge. Both cold
and warm weather was endured in the seven days on the mountaintop.

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‘Reaching Oltiyani’

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Analysis of the site 93

In attracting guests to these circumstances it is wise to be realistic about the possibility

of changing weather conditions. People can be attracted by the beautiful sunny views on
one hand and by the view of beautiful cloudscapes on the other hand. Even the idea of
having to endure the cold weather condition should be seen as an opportunity to enjoy
a nice fireplace while on holiday in the heart of Africa.

Because of changing weather conditions it is not possible to design lodges like the type
that have been built in Il Ngwesi and Tassia. These reference projects were built in an
open style and are adjusted to the hot and dry climate of northern Kenya. Even at night,
temperatures there are high enough to sleep outside. The humidity in the north is also
lower and there is much less rainfall. Because of these circumstances and the concept
of open design these reference lodges have a very direct and pleasant relation to the
surrounding environment. The lodge at Oltiyani should realize a pleasant inside climate
where people can retire to their own banda, while still maintaining the opportunity of
having contact with the environment outside. Oltiyani must meet higher requirements
in switching from different weather conditions and must be wind and watertight.

The possibility to switch when circumstances require it, leads to requirements for
different weather conditions both warm and cold. A solution could be a structure with
hybrid qualities, a banda with a partition for cold conditions and a partition for warmer
weather. The colder partition would have to be built more robust to stay warm and dry.
This building could be designed according to the example of an English cottage. This
could mean including a fireplace for warmth and comfort. The part for warm weather
conditions should be open and have a direct relation to the surrounding environment
maybe in combination with a sundeck.

Most important is that there is a choice when the conditions are not optimal. Even when
the weather is cold, rainy and misty, guests should be able to enjoy an exceptional level
of comfort. In promoting the lodge it should be made clear to guests that the weather is
not like typical Kenyan weather to avoid disappointments and negative reactions.

Access | Problems and solutions

The remoteness of the lodge site on top of a mountain in the middle of a dense forest
is one of the reasons of its beauty. This environmental feature must be preserved in the
lodge development. Still the lodge site needs to have good access. In the early stages
workers must be able to reach the site easily and building materials and machinery
needs to be transported up to the top. During the use of the lodge, supplies and waste
must be transported up and down the mountain and guests must be able to travel there
comfortably and safely by car.

The main issue in the accessibility of the lodge will be the road up to the lodge. In the
current situation there is no existing road leading directly to the lodge. The journey
from Nairobi by car takes about six hours and leads through Narok and into Entesekera.
Entesekera is also the place where small planes coming from Nairobi can land on the
local airstrip. From Entesekera a bush track leads around the swamp to a small village
called Empurputye half an hour away. There the road stops and the only option is
walking the three hours to the top.

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‘Aerial view Oltiyani’

‘Aerial view Oltiyani’

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Analysis of the site 95

The currently non-existing part of the access road will have to be constructed straight
through the conservation area the lodge aims to protect. Trees will have to be cut down
to construct the road and the heart of the forest will be made accessible for more human
activity. If this is done in a thoughtless way the lodge project will do more harm than
good to the forest.

When the road is finished, agreements should be made about the use of the road. It is
important to keep the use of the road to a minimum to reduce the impact to the forest.
Other activity than strictly necessary for the functioning of the lodge is unwanted. This
measure will prevent activities like shops for the tourists along the forest road and will
also prevent the harmful harvesting of wood out of the forest.

The limited money that is available for the route up to the lodge should be used to
keep only the last piece of the road in superb condition. Teams of road workers should
be trained to provide a constant upkeep of this road. Of course these teams and their
equipment can be used to maintain public roads in the area when there is spare time.
When the upkeep of this road done well, this also increase the safety of the guests
incase of an emergency.

The road to the lodge starts at the swamp near Empurputye, this road is where the
experience of the stay at the lodge can start. It should be the place where the guest
gets a feeling of entering the forest, for example through an impressive archway or
gate. Another option in enhancing the idea of starting an adventurous stay at the lodge
would be to use the swamp. Instead of using the bush track around the swamp guests
could take a shortcut from Entesekera and directly cross the swamp on foot with a
floating wooden path way.

At the entrance the guest should get an official welcome by an impressive welcoming
party of Maasai from the lodge. The guest can then be put in a car and driven up the
mountain. In the vicinity of the lodge there must be a car park for the vehicles. This car
park should be close enough to the lodge for people to stroll over but far enough away
to not hear cars on site. The best option for Oltiyani would be a rocky ridge about 400
meters southwest of the site where guests could leave the car. Maybe it is possible to
construct a suspended walking bridge to connect the parking lot with the lodge site;
this bridge would have to span an estimate of 200 meters.

Other options include flying in directly by helicopter from Nairobi or even wilder ideas
like using a zeppelin. There is enough space on the site but it all depends on the amount
of money guests are willing to spend.

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Conclusions and Recommendations 97

In the different stages of the research in Kenya and the Netherlands a lot of information
was processed. The approach consisted of a pre-study of the five selected topics on
sustainable solutions for the lodge design: Water, Construction, Energy, Waste and
Infrastructure. During the research in Kenya the topics where examined in the local
circumstances to evaluate the presumptions made in the Netherlands. The conclusions
on these subjects have lead to recommendations per topic that can be implemented in
the design.

The local research was important to get a clear picture of how the lodge should relate
to nature, to the local people and their culture and eventually to the guests. This was
important to determine in which way local sustainable solutions could be implemented
in the concept and the design of the ecological lodge.

These final conclusions and recommendations are an elaboration of the results found.
They give an idea of the way the different results should be valued in the integrated
design approach.

Use of the Site

The Oltiyani location predefines a large part of the design concept because of its specific
morphology and the relation to the local natural environment. It is recommended that
these conditions are respected as the basic values that define the uniqueness of this

This means that the space that is suitable for building is defined by the vegetation on
the mountaintop. The forest around should stay intact as a natural boundary and the
access of the lodge site should be carefully designed in the natural environment. To use
the site efficiently it is also important to exploit the morphology of the mountaintop in
an intelligent way. The building of structures is much easier on a horizontal plot than on
a plot with steep slopes and routing can be made comfortable by avoiding slopes.

Finally the Oltiyani site offers beautiful scenery that can be used to enhance the features
of the site. In planning the different functions each view is unique and can offer a private
quality to the different structures of the lodge.

Using these principles a site plan was materialised organising the functions of banda’s,
main building, reception, swimming pool and routing on the mountaintop.

Design of the Banda’s

Comfort and luxury are the defining characteristics of a high end accommodation. In an
ecological lodge this must be achieved with sustainable resources and a minimal impact
on the environment. To ensure these demands on the Oltiyani site the variable weather
conditions are an important factor. Each change in weather requires different solutions
to guarantee the well being of the guests.

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‘Oltiyani model’

‘Hidden among
‘Photo the trees’

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Conclusions and Recommendations 99

It is important that the banda’s in which the guests are housed reflect the variable
circumstances on the site. If they are designed to adapt to different weather conditions
they can do this with less resources and without loss of comfort and luxury. These
principles lead to a hybrid concept that can handle both warm weather and cold weather
in the same volume.

The cold weather partition of the volume should be equipped to withstand low
temperatures, wind and rain. These conditions are similar to the circumstances buildings
have to withstand in the north of Europe. The English cottage could therefore be an
analogy for the cold weather partition. It is constructed out of heavy materials and
tucked away into the hillside.

The warm weather partition on the other hand must have a strong interaction with the
sun, scenery and nature outside. This open typology is closely related to the reference
lodges seen in Northwest Kenya. It can be translated in a very light spacious structure
that offers exciting possibilities in interesting forms.

These two partitions merge somewhere in the middle of the volume depending on the
weather conditions and the desired activities of the guest.

Choice of Materials

Unlike in Europe not every material is available at a reasonable price. When it is available
the price is often defined by the cost of transport, especially if the building site is on a
mountaintop of 2340 metres high. Therefore it is important that the building materials
are primarily acquired on site. In Kenya labour is cheap in comparison to transport and
by doing a lot of work on site the community can benefit of the employment created.

This notion combined with the fact the forest should be left unharmed results in the choice
of using the material of the mountain itself. The material of the mountain is available
in large quantities and will blend with environment because of its characteristics similar
to the rocky underground. The material found on Oltiyani mountaintop has a strong
resemblance to the Quartz stone. This makes it both beautiful and difficult to process
which is unwanted because of the basic skills of the labourers.

A solution for a relatively simple and efficient application of this Quartz material could
be the use of gabions. This technique originating from coastal barriers consists of steel
netting that can be shaped into the desired form and can contain unprocessed rock.
In this way only the steel netting has to be transported up the mountain to be shaped
there. The rock can be harvested and processed easily on top of the mountain.

Recommended Solutions

By using these recommended solutions in the design of the lodge, issues like transport,
skills of the labourers, availability of materials on site and impact on the environment of
the site are integrated in the concept.

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‘The team at the TU Delft’

‘The team on the Mara’

12_Reflection on Research.indd 2 7-9-2005 20:51:28

Reflection on the Research 101

From the start of the project in January 2005 a roller coaster ride of events spread
out over a good part of this year. Because of the complexity of the project and its
international nature a lot of thought had to be put in the setup of the project and in
the choice of the goals to pursue. This had to be done in close communication with
the different parties involved in the project: Stichting Loita Maasai, Brains and the TU
Delft. It resulted in an approach of researching five topics on sustainable building in the
Netherlands and Kenya.

Before being able to travel to Kenya and implement the research plans the issue of
financing the project needed to be resolved. A budget of E15,000 was needed to
finance the research plans in Kenya and to publicize the results in the Netherlands and
Kenya. For this cause an information leaflet was designed to attract investors for this
interdisciplinary project.

It was difficult to explain to companies in specific fields of work what the direct benefit
of this interdisciplinary project in a developing country like Kenya could be. Finally we
found an enthusiastic partner in a government funded development agency called ICCO
that appreciated our integrated approach on sustainability.

With the financial issue resolved planning for the research could continue. Although
an exact program of requirements did not yet exist for the Loita Lodge, financing and
development was already underway. This was a complicating factor for the research team
resulting in a pragmatic approach. The way of researching the subjects was adapted
to the progressing ideas concerning the Lodge site and the approach was often double
checked with the bosses in the Netherlands and Kenya.

Arriving in Kenya on the 25th of June it became clear that working in Kenya can be
much more complicated and time consuming than in the Netherlands. The visits to the
reference projects which were an important part of our plan still needed to be planned
and in these circumstances we had great help in the local expertise of Jan Geu and
Frederique Grootenhuis. They adjusted our ambitious plans to achievable proportions
and helped us starting up in Kenya.

The forty days in Kenya proved to be overwhelming with countless impressions and
because of our tight schedule experiences kept on coming. On the one hand this ensured
an optimal use of our time on the other hand details where missed and it drove us to

The pragmatic approach proved to be fitting for the African mentality of living by the
day and we had to be careful to remain on track for our research. This applied both in
time planning and in subjects chosen to research traveling around Kenya. The pragmatic
approach offered little guidance and we did wander a bit off subject by providing a more
holistic view on the lodge design than our initial plan with five subjects suggested.

Back in the Netherlands all this information was processed and all the facets of the
project were concentrated in a presentation and in this report. It is likely that this
information and recommendations will be used in the further lodge design!

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