Improving quality of life for Kibera’s residents
Kibera is the largest informal settlement and slum in Nairobi, which suffers from biannual floods. The poorest residents have no choice but to live in areas with the lowest rent, which are those most prone to flooding.
As a result, they are exposed to the risk of household destruction, health risks from contaminated water, and even death. Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a not-for-profit design and community development organisation, has been working with residents to create a toolkit that can be used to implement flood risk reduction strategies in the slum, empowering the people who live there to manage and improve the riverine environment.
BuroHappold Engineering recognised that we have the capabilities and technical expertise to support the project and play a key role in designing the toolkit. Our water group worked in close collaboration with KDI to deliver a hydraulic model that simulates a range of rainfall events, which can be used to assess the current risks to local residents, how these are likely to change with the effects of urbanisation and climate change, and how they can be addressed.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was working remotely from our collaborator’s base in Nairobi. Our experience undertaking the hydraulic modelling of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park highlighted the need for regular site visits to record key information, but as our team was based in the UK that was not possible on this project.
Instead, we liaised with local KDI staff who gathered the data required for us to build an reliable flood model.
Duncan Ker-Reid, Associate
We worked with KDI to find the best means of communicating data requests and results between our two locations. This enabled us to develop a streamlined flood model from free-to-use technology, which meant money raised through fundraising and donations was spent directly on project implementation rather than software. A member of our water group is now on sabbatical in Kibera, fine-tuning the model on site to ensure accurate results.
Our flood model has already been applied in practice in a number of scenarios, and is helping to create a comprehensive package of data that will give local authorities a full understanding of flood risk in the Kibera slum. It has proved to be a vital component in KDI’s toolkit, which is improving the quality of life for residents by providing a safe environment for them to work and live, both now and in the future.
Services and approach
When we integrate our specialist teams around an approach, the benefits to the client multiply