A Kenyan academician working in the US has been appointed to head a global network to advance building science, construction and management.
Esther Obonyo, a University of Nairobi alumna and associate professor of engineering design at Penn State's College of Engineering, was named director of the Global Building Network (GBN) on Friday.
The network aims to create an international framework that will make buildings more sustainable, more efficient and healthier to live and work in.
“The silos and fragmentation within the built environment that continue to have a negative impact on the sectors’ productivity across the globe have a lot of similarities with the state of agriculture in Pennsylvania before programs such as the Penn State Ag Extension emerged,” Obonyo told Penn State News.
“The GBN is a high-performance building-centric outreach and extension platform for research in the public good and education for citizens within an interconnected and interdependent global context.”
Obonyo and her team will, among other tasks, seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and improve the quality of air in built environments.
Improved air quality in buildings will in turn help reduce the incidence of diseases, especially respiratory infections.
According to Penn State News, Obonyo’s passion for improving the built environment is driven by the commitment to making life better for diverse people.
“The way we have designed and developed buildings over the last century has resulted in walls that leave many people feeling isolated,” she is quoted as saying.
“In addition, these divisive walls encouraged unsustainable overconsumption of resources. In sharp contrast, high-performance buildings, which are designed in harmony with the natural systems, encourage us to live in more connected communities and promote responsible resource consumption habits even as they improve our quality of life.”
Obonyo graduated from the University of Nairobi with a bachelor’s degree in Building Economics in 1998.
She was one of the experts who delivered an emergency retrofit project for the US embassy in Nairobi, which had been devastated during an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack.
She has also worked as a construction engineer, project manager and innovations analyst in several engineering and construction companies in Kenya, the UK and the US.
She holds MA in Architecture from University of Nottingham and a Doctor of Engineering from Loughborough University.