By Kuria Kimani
The Global Trade Center (GTC), situated along Waiyaki way right next to the 5 Star Luxury Hotel Villa Rosa Kempinski in Westlands is a sight to behold. The skyscraper is now the tallest building not only in East and Central Africa. The billion shilling mega project was launched in 2018 as one of the flagship projects in Kenya’s Vision 2030 program with a goal to provide wing to wing services to the elite business community from the capital and the world at large.
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GTC, which has been under construction since 2015, sits on a 7.5-acre piece of land and has 42-floors standing at 184 metres (603 feet) above the ground. The building, equipped with 11 high speed lifts, hosts GTC Tower office building, 514 GTC Executive Residences, GTC Mall and the luxury hotel brand JW Marriott Hotel.
Their website reads in part:
“The trade centre in Westlands hosts three new complex towers as well as sports and hospitality facilities. Baptised the Dream City, GTC boasts of a 32-storey 5-Star hotel, a 42-storey tower for offices, and another 32-storey serviced apartments tower”
On Thursday 23rd December 2021, the complex opened its doors for business and announced its readiness for occupancy. President Uhuru Kenyatta who graced the opening event expressed the government’s delight saying “as the Government of Kenya, we applaud the AVIC team for this milestone, and as a flagship project in Kenya’s Vision 2030, I am proud to see it come to fruition.”
But who are the brains behind the fruition of this landmark project? In this article, we look at the investors who funded the project as well as the architects and contractors who idealized, planned, designed, and brought GTC to being.
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AVIC International Real Estate Kenya is the Chinese firm behind construction of GTC, which is part of AVIC International Holding Corporation (AVIC INTL), a global share-holding enterprise that is affiliated to Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). AVIC International is the second Chinese company to put up its Africa headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The firm made a direct investment of Ksh 40 billion towards this construction project and got an approval from Nairobi City council in 2015 after paying a record application fee of Ksh 5 million.
Architects behind GTC
A number of Kenyan great minds played a central role in this GTC’s architectural design, planning and construction. In a highly contested selection process, the following architects were selected to participate in this project who would later collaborate in conceptualizing GTC.
James Gitoho is a seasoned professional architect who graduated in the year 1981 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Nairobi University. Gitoho has been the director of TRIAD Architects, since 1988 and a Fellow of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK). He is also part of the Quantity Surveyors of Kenya (BORAQS) and Board of Registration of Architects.
Known for his passion for orderliness, professionalism and integrity, James steered TRIAD who have operated in East Africa for the last 50 years to earn its ISO 9001-2015 certification in 2001. This family man and golfer also played a key role in the formation of TRIAD Foundation, a body whose goal is empowering people and transforming communities in Nairobi’s informal settlements. He also serves as the architectural advisor to the Church Commissioners for Kenya.
His role in the project included ensuring compliance and that the scope of the entire project was in line with the stipulations of the Kenyan construction regulations.
Gitoho revealed in a recent interview, his involvement in the design process saying,
“The project was an international design competition and the client wanted the best out of both worlds. They needed local input and so we started participating in a competition among four architects.”
Patrick was the supervising engineer of the GTC project. He is a professional structural and civil engineer who founded PI-D-KEI consultants, where he is the Principal engineer in charge of structural design and supervision of high rise buildings and large spans. Muriu graduated from University of Nairobi Bachelor of Science (BSc)Civil Engineering in 1977. He also holds certification in Environmental Education from Kenya National Cleaner Production Centre.
Muriu highlighted his role in the project saying, “ My role in this project is to ensure the integrity of the designs and compliance with both international and local standards… We worked closely with the local government and indeed set the pace for reforms in the sector that will (lead to) accelerated development of similar ventures. It has gone beyond the norm,” He said the biggest challenge for this highrise project was coordination with various suppliers and contractors while ensuring compliance.
He further described the project as state-of-the-art adding that the safety of the building is a high priority. Muiru added that some of the materials used in the construction were procured locally, while other structural steel materials had to be imported from China
“The building also has a bridge of 38 metres that crosses over the road. We had to do a serious integration of the design that was done in China to make sure that the project and elements are safe under the local conditions,” He said
Prof. Jacob Kibwage
Professor Kibwage is professional Environmental Planner with a keen specialization in Environmental and Social Safeguards in infrastructural development projects. With over 21 years’ experience, Kibwage is registered by the Environmental Institute of Kenya and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as a Lead environmental and social consultant. He has played a pivotal consulting role in over 1,500 Environmental Impact Assessment/Audit and training in the energy, waste management, agricultural, water, industrial, housing, roads and railways, forestry, commercial, Natural Resources Management and recreational projects since the early 1990s.
Kibwage was at the center of this project providing his expertise to ensure proper planning of the building given its proximity to Waiyaki way and Nairobi Expressway as well as the surrounding infrastructure. Professor Kibwage stated, “To ensure that the project itself does not have a negative impact on the surrounding, most of the roads were redesigned and widened to ensure that traffic flow will actually improve at the end of the project… The technologies which have been used in this building are basically to ensure that there is minimal usage of water in the apartments. Everything was undertaken with modern technology that is meant to ensure the conservation of energy.”