United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON)


HQ: Nairobi, Kenya

Focal Point: Talia Owen-Frigyik


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions 

Key Figures: Waste

Key Figures: Water


** Please note that the following information was last updated November 2016 **




UNON was established in 1996 as the common administrative and programme support office for the two United Nations (UN) programmes headquartered in Nairobi, namely the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT). In addition UNON manages the UN complex in Nairobi, providing office services to over 50 UN agencies based in the complex. Various common services are provided to most offices of the UN funds, programmes and agencies located in Kenya.


Experience so far

Data collection

UNON has been collecting, compiling and distributing to the 50+ Agencies, Funds and Programs (AFP’s) located at the UNON complex, all data related to green house has (GHG) emissions for facilities and common transport related functions since 2008.

In 2016 UNON prepared the first waste inventory, and in 2017 the first water inventory. It is anticipated that with the construction and operation of a waste management station at the UNON complex, there should not only be improved data collection but there should be an increase in the quantities of recycled/ reused material and a consequent decrease in the quantities of waste being landfilled from 2018 onwards.

UNON also has as one of its key projects in 2017, the installation of meters for monitoring and recording both electrical and water usage data per building across the complex.


Reduction efforts

Renewable energy: solar panels to power New Office Facility
  • The New Office Facility (NOF) was completed at the end of 2010 and was occupied by staff of both UNEP and UN-HABITAT by March 2011. During the balance of 2011 an additional 800 staff from 16 UN agencies moved to the UNON complex. The NOF added an additional 20,000 sqm of built up area to the UNON complex, with a capacity for 1,200 staff (workstations). Solar panels were installed on the roof of the NOF and were commissioned in March 2011, with a target of producing 750,000 KWH of solar generated energy per annum in order to achieve an energy neutral (produce as much energy as consumed) building. 
  • The NOF benefits from a north and south orientation to minimize solar overheating of offices, eliminating or reducing the need for mechanized ventilation.
  • The building is passively and naturally ventilated through cross ventilation and by the chimney effect of warm air rising through the landscaped atrium, which in turn draws through cooler external air from offices.
  • Light wells are provided throughout the building blocks. The central atrium is covered with translucent material allowing natural light into landscaped areas and offices facing the atrium. More energy efficient light fittings with more efficient light bulbs with electronic ballast introduce energy savings of 33%. Occupancy and light sensors in all office space introduce a further 40-45% in energy savings.

Note: A professional lighting study conducted by UNON confirmed that NOF total energy consumption on lighting would be approximately 200 KWH per annum, which is in-line with global best practice for an energy efficient building.

Establishment of Environmental Management System (ISO 14001:2004)
  • An Environmental Review was conducted by UNON in 2007 to assess the current environmental performance of UNON, and to provide recommendations on further steps for the implementation of an environmental management system for the UNON complex.
  • UNON’s Publishing Section achieved ISO 14001:2004 certification in 2007.
  • In 2010 UNON’s Division of Administration trained 11 staff members as implementers and internal auditors of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in compliance with international standards (specifically International Organization for Standardization ISO 14001:2004).
  • In 2016 UNON tendered for the services of an external consulting firm to assist UNON in achieving ISO 14001:2015 certification by mid-2019. Per the EMS ISO 14001: 2015 road map for UNON, establishing of an EMS is part of the overall process.
  • It is intended that UNON’s EMS/ 14001 certification will cover both UNON’s facilities and operations. It is anticipated however that initial goals will be the services and activities performed by FMTS (Facilities Management and Transport Section) for the entire UNON complex in terms of Energy, Waste, Water and Wastewater.
  • As part of this exercise, UNON is in the process of constructing a waste management (sorting and recycling station) at the UNON complex. A tender is currently in progress for a waste management station operator. Recycling bins to be in offices and common spaces throughout the complex which will enable the separation of waste at source have been procured and will be distributed, and a waste separation program implemented once construction works has been completed in 2018.
  • Related to this, UNON recently stopped the sale of all plastic bottles for water at the UNON complex, and switched to glass, which are returnable to the vendor. Waste bins to facilitate the separation and ease of collection of these glass bottles for return to the vendor have also been introduced.
Environmental Commitment Charter
  • In 2015 as part of the World Environment Day celebrations UNON, UN Environment & UNHABITAT (with their Headquarters at the UNON complex) signed the Environmental Commitment Charter. Other agencies have since joined.
  • This Charter formally acknowledges the importance of sound environmental management of facilities in the UN Gigiri complex and the need to minimize the impact of operations and buildings on the environment by reducing the waste generated, promoting waste recycling, conserving energy, water, paper, and other natural resources, enhancing the use of renewable energies and promoting UN staff awareness on environmental sustainability.
  • One of the specific commitments of the Charter was to strive to develop an environmental management system, in line with ISO 14001.
Bio-diesel pilot project, for UNON official fleet
  • UNON initiated a pilot project in 2010, fueling two vehicles (a van and minibus) with biodiesel. The biodiesel used in UNON’s trial is from a non-food source, using cotton seed oil generated as by product from cotton production process.
  • The pilot vehicles have continued to function well since change over from fossil diesel to bio-diesel. The main constraint hindering the expansion of the project to UNON’s wider fleet has been the availability of bio-diesel in larger quantities. Currently bio-diesel is purchased in small 20 liter containers, which is suitable for up to two vehicles only.
  • UNON continues to have as an aim to expand the project to its wider fleet, including UNON security vehicles and potentially a trial on at least one of the staff buses.
Sustainable procurement
  • UNON is progressively and carefully integrating practical environmental considerations into its contracts for goods and services. This is aimed at reducing the climate footprint associated with goods and services procured by UNON during the life cycle of a given product.



The 2015 reporting period with the first time that UNON considered offsetting GHG emissions associated with facility operations and travel through the purchase of Adaptation Fund (AF) CER’s, and as such could be considered as climate neutral. 

UNON has already signed an agreement with UNFCCC to purchase AF CER’s to offset emissions, and as such be considered as climate neutral for the 2016 reporting period.


Next steps


UNON continues to work on plans for establishing an Environmental Management System (EMS) as well as achieving 14001:2015 certification by 2019.

UNON will continue to support all UN offices based at the UNON complex through the timely provision of accurate emissions data, and the introduction of environmental and emissions reduction initiatives at the complex, which will benefit all agencies that use the services provided.

A mobility strategy is currently in progress for the UNON complex. One of the key components of the strategy is to develop a set of action plans that UNON can adopt to enable and encourage more sustainable forms of travel to UN complex. While many commuters to the UN complex do currently use sustainable modes as means for commuting; walking, cycling, matatu/bus, and staff bus, it is anticipated that amongst the actions will improvement the staff bus service, introduction of systems for carpooling and improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

As advanced environmental features were incorporated into the design of the New Office Facility (NOF) completed in 2010, current plans for construction of a new office building at the UNON complex will incorporate similar and improved features. Some of the environmental features anticipated include passive & natural ventilation, maximized natural light, water and waste recycling including rainwater harvesting and sewage wastewater treatment systems and energy efficiency, with the installation of solar photo-voltaic panels over rooftops of the new office facilities and parking areas for power generation.

UNON also has as one of its key projects in 2017, the upgrade of washroom facilities across the complex, to replace existing plumbing fixtures in washrooms with water-efficient fixtures. This follows on from recent project to replace and install solar water heating systems for catering, medical and other operational facilities.

Other ongoing initiatives at catering outlets include discounts for staff member’s bringing their own take away containers/ coffee cups, no single use condiments/ sachets, coffee cup lids on demand and caterer’s sourcing of meat, fruits and veg within 100 km’s of Nairobi.


UNON case studies