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Sustainable Construction Transition: A Kenyan Interior Design Market Segment Perspective

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Construction industry has been identified as key to the sustainability agenda. Efforts towards improved sustainability compliance in the construction industry involve a socio-technical transformation. Such transitions are said to be purposive, of a wider perspective, multi-dimensional in nature and are influenced by numerous factors. This paper focused on establishing sustainable construction (SC) uptake levels, including identification of key SC drivers and barriers with specific reference to the interior design market segment of the Kenyan construction industry. The study employed a quantitative research approach. For quantitative attributes, the study employed structured questionnaires to collect data from actively practicing architects/interior designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors and contractors drawn from the interior design market segment of Kenyan construction industry in Nairobi City County. Data analysis employed the descriptive statistics of distribution (frequencies), proportions (percentages), central tendency (mean) and dispersion (standard deviation). Generally, the respondents ranked the overall uptake of the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) as average-ranking as social, environment and economic in a decreasing order of uptake levels. The study findings ranked sustainability driver categories as organization related drivers, stakeholder related drivers, economic related drivers and management related drivers; in order of decreasing influence. Lastly, barrier categories were ranked as economic related barriers, professional/capacity related barriers, technology related barriers and societal/cultural related barriers, in order of decreasing influence. With the average sustainable construction practices uptake in the Kenyan construction industry, there is an implied call to action to leverage known sustainability drivers, while at the same time suppressing the known barriers. This implies significant room for improvement and an appropriate starting point for key construction project stakeholders as above identified.
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Sustainable Construction Transition:
A Kenyan Interior Design Market Segment Perspective
Samuel Kamau Joseph* and Anthony Oduor Ralwala
Received on 9th July, 2019; Received in revised form 7th October, 2020; Accepted on 21st October,
2020.
Abstract
Construction industry has been identied as key to the sustainability agenda. Eorts towards improved
sustainability compliance in the construction industry involve a socio-technical transformation. Such
transitions are said to be purposive, of a wider perspective, multi-dimensional in nature and are inuenced
by numerous factors. This paper focused on establishing sustainable construction (SC) uptake levels,
including identication of key SC drivers and barriers with specic reference to the interior design market
segment of the Kenyan construction industry. The study employed a quantitative research approach.
For quantitative attributes, the study employed structured questionnaires to collect data from actively
practicing architects/interior designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors
and contractors drawn from the interior design market segment of Kenyan construction industry in Nairobi
City County. Data analysis employed the descriptive statistics of distribution (frequencies), proportions
(percentages), central tendency (mean) and dispersion (standard deviation). Generally, the respondents
ranked the overall uptake of the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social)
as average- ranking as social, environment and economic in a decreasing order of uptake levels. The
study ndings ranked sustainability driver categories as organization related drivers, stakeholder related
drivers, economic related drivers and management related drivers; in order of decreasing inuence.
Lastly, barrier categories were ranked as economic related barriers, professional/capacity related barriers,
technology related barriers and societal/cultural related barriers, in order of decreasing inuence. With
the average sustainable construction practices uptake in the Kenyan construction industry, there is an
implied call to action to leverage known sustainability drivers, while at the same time suppressing the
known barriers. This implies signicant room for improvement and an appropriate starting point for key
construction project stakeholders as above identied.
Keywords:
Interior design, Kenya, Sustainability, Sustainable construction, Sustainability transition/
uptake.
INTRODUCTION
Eorts towards improved sustainability
compliance and sustainability transitions in
the construction industry involve a socio-
technical transformation. European Environment
Information and Observation Network (EIONET)
(2016), denes socio-technical systems as complex
inter-linkages and co-evolution of societal systems
and technology. It is these inter-linkages that dene
the way in which a given society meets its needs.
EIONET (2016), further postulates that socio-
economic and environmental challenges facing
the world have been identied as complex matters
to manage and solve. is has led to calls for action
towards improved sustainability compliance,
which have been termed as sustainability
transition. Economic, environmental and social
dimensions of sustainability have complex inter-
linkages. As such, changes in any one dimension
will result in gains and/or loses in one or more
dimensions. is further complicates eorts
geared towards improved sustainability. e
change required is usually at multiple scales
ranging from sustainability compliant products to
global sustainability agendas.
Markard et al. (2012), dene sustainability
transition as multi-faceted, long term change
of established social-technical set-ups to
comparatively sustainable consumption and
production modalities. According to Kemp &
*
Corresponding author:
Samuel Kamau Joseph, Department of Construction Management and Quantity Surveying, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Email: skksamwel@uonbi.ac.ke
ISSN: 2524-1354 (Online), ISSN: 2519-7851 (Print)
Africa Habitat Review Journal
Volume 14 Issue 3 (December 2020)
http://uonjournals.uonbi.ac.ke/ojs/index.php/ahr
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Lente (2011), such transitions have a dual nature.
ey involve a change in socio-technical systems,
and the same time changing the criteria with which
the various stakeholders judge products, services
and systems. Any successful transition, including
that of sustainability, should aim at achieving the
dual objective. Linstone (1999), argues that such
initiatives take time for successful implementation
and face a fundamental challenge. Typically, the
general population, including rms, have their
main focus on short term goals complicating
eorts by policymakers in rolling out long term
sustainability initiatives. Farla et al. (2012), note
that a review of past literature on sustainability
transitions points towards a system approach.
According to EIONET (2016), such transitions-
being unprecedented as to their execution-
are consequently complicated and uncertain
processes.
Sustainability transitions have been identied to
possess some unique characteristics dierentiating
them from other transitions. To begin with,
these socio-technical transitions are purposeful
endeavours geared towards a common good of
sustainability (Smith et al., 2005). Sustainability
eorts are aimed at nding a lasting and
benecial solution to economic, environmental
and social problems facing the society. Secondly,
sustainability transitions are associated with a
greater collective good, sustainability, as opposed
to largely individual stakeholder benets (Geels,
2011). As such, resistance is almost expected
when eecting the transitions given the tendency
of stakeholders to focus more on individual
benets as opposed to collective gain. Lastly,
sustainability transitions are multi-dimensional
involving complex interactions of public opinion,
economics, power and technology (Geels, 2011;
Unruh, 2000). According to EIONET (2016), their
success requires a combination of learning (formal,
informal and/or non-formal), experimentation
and collaboration in a bid to share improvement
ideas.
According to Farla et al. (2012), there are
many stakeholders in successful sustainability
transitions. One group of the key stakeholders are
policymakers and public authorities. ese actors
have been identied to sponsor innovations,
sustainable technologies and create supporting
institutional framework for sustainability
endeavours in a nation (Musiolik et al., 2012;
Quitzau et al., 2012; Bakker et al., 2012). e
second group of key stakeholders in sustainability
transitions consist of rms/companies. eir role
involves engaging in innovation and creating
a sustainable supportive environment. Lastly,
according to Farla et al. (2012), the other key
stakeholders are social movements, civil society,
consumers, experts, research organizations and
individual stakeholders.
THEORY
e uptake of sustainable construction practices is
propelled by many factors. Elmualim et al. (2012),
assert that there is need to simplify them to a
small set as advocated for by some construction
industry stakeholders. Basu & Palazzo (2008),
categorize drivers into three dierent groups:
performance, stakeholder and motivation drivers
(all the other internal and external enablers,
apart from the ones covered in the performance,
and stakeholder drivers). Motivation drivers
support both performance and stakeholder divers
(Faireld et al., 2011).
Wirtenberg et al. (2007), in a study of most
sustainable companies globally, outline seven
key enablers towards achieving the three-
pronged sustainability agenda (environmental,
economic and social). ese are commitment
by top management, centrality of eorts, values
consistent sustainability, metrics/measurements,
aligning formal and informal organization systems
towards sustainability, stakeholder engagement
and holistic integration across functions.
Elmualim et al. (2012), add legislation, corporate
image, organizational ethos, senior management
guidance, pressure from clients, life cycle cost
reduction, pressure from employees and pressure
from shareholders, to the list of sustainable
construction enablers. Manoliadis & Tsolas
(2006), add energy and waste management, desire
for enhanced indoor environment, environment
considerate technologies, appropriate resource
use, incentives, standards, regulations and policies,
training, re-conguration of the design process,
sustainability conscious construction materials,
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new cost metrics, innovative partnerships,
stakeholders, innovative products and enhancing
productivity of building assets.
e categorization of the identied drivers, as
advanced by this study- including their sources- is
as outlined in Tab le 1.
On the other hand, sustainability pursuits in the
construction industry face numerous barriers.
Du Plessis (2002), outlines lack of capacity,
TABLE 1: Sustainable construction drivers categorization
Source: Authors 2018
Driver Categories Sources
A. Stakeholder Related Drivers
1. Pressure from clients Basu & Palazzo (2008); Faireld et al. (2011);
Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
2. Pressure from employees Basu & Palazzo (2008); Faireld et al. (2011);
Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
3. Pressure from other stakeholders Basu & Palazzo (2008); Faireld et al. (2011);
Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
4. Legislation Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
5. Enhanced indoor environment Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
B. Organizational Related Drivers
1. Corporate image Wirtenberg et al. (2007); Elmualim et al. (2012)
2. Organization ethos Wirtenberg et al. (2007); Elmualim et al. (2012)
3. Alignment of organization (formal
and informal) towards sustainability
Wirtenberg et al. (2007)
4. Design process re-engineering Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
C. Management Related Drivers
1. Commitment of management Wirtenberg et al. (2007); Elmualim et al. (2012)
2. Centralization/integration of eorts
towards sustainability
Wirtenberg et al. (2007)
3. Training Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
D. Economic Related Drivers
1. Boosting business performance Basu & Palazzo (2008); Faireld et al. (2011)
2. Lifecycle cost reduction Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
3. Avoiding sustainability related
penalties
Faireld et al. (2011)
4. Enhancing productivity of built assets Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
5. Innovative products Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
6. Appropriate incentives Manoliadis & Tsolas (2006)
uncertain economic environment, poverty
and low urban development, lack of accurate
data, lack of interest, unavailability of new
technologies and uncoordinated research, as
the inhibitors to sustainable construction in
developing countries. More barriers according
to Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams & Dair (2007)
include failure to understand associated benets,
perceived cost implications, lack of interest, lack
of stakeholders’ commitment to sustainability,
inadequate sustainability expertise, unavailability
of information on sustainability and unavailability
of sustainable construction materials.
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Powmya & Abidin (2014), in a study of Oman,
identied the following groups of challenges to
sustainability: economic, professional, society
and technology related challenges. Economic
challenges cover extra cost and increased project
time. Professional/capacity challenges cover
lack of materials and technologies knowledge,
limited availability of sustainable materials and
information, lack of evaluation tools, lack of
appropriate building codes and regulations and
lack of capacity by involved professionals. Society
challenges entail lack of incentives, resistance to
change and limited awareness. Lastly, technology
challenges consist of issues such as uncertainty
of sustainability technology performance, failure
to understand how sustainable technology works
and inadequate technology specications on
sustainable approaches.
In a study of barriers to sustainable construction
in Ghana, Djokoto et al. (2014), identied four
categories of barriers namely: cultural, nancial,
capacity/professional and steering. Cultural
barriers consisted of lack of public awareness,
resistance to change and lack of demand. Financial
barriers are postulated to entail lack of incentives
and possible increased cost of investments.
Capacity/professional barriers in this study
covered lack of design team, lack of sustainability
expertise, professional knowledge, information
and technology, increased documentation,
longer planning, lack of training and cooperation
between design and construction teams. Lastly,
steering concerns entailed lack of government
support and evaluation tools. e categorization
of the identied barriers, as advanced in this study,
including their sources, is as outlined in Tabl e 2.
RESEARCH METHODS
A quantitative research approach was used for
this study. e researcher collected primary data
from key project professionals using structured
questionnaires with the help of research assistants.
TABLE 2: Sustainable construction barriers categorization
Barriers Categories Sources
A. Economic Related Barriers
1. Increased project cost Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams & Dair (2007);
Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto et al. (2014)
2. Increased project duration Powmya & Abidin (2014)
3. Uncertain economic environment Du Plessis (2002)
4. Poverty and low urban development Du Plessis (2002)
5. Lack of government support Djokoto et al., (2014)
B. Professional/Capacity Related Barriers
1. Lack of appropriate knowledge/
information
Du Plessis (2002); Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams
& Dair (2007); Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto
et al. (2014)
2. Lack of sustainable construction
materials
Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams & Dair (2007);
Powmya & Abidin (2014)
3. Lack of appropriate sustainability
evaluation tools
Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto et al. (2014)
4. Lack of appropriate building codes
and regulations
Powmya & Abidin (2014)
5. Lack of appropriate professional
expertise
Powmya & Abidin (2014); Zhou & Lowe (2003);
Williams & Dair (2007); Djokoto et al. (2014)
6. Inecient coordination between
design and construction teams and
lack of design team
Djokoto et al. (2014)
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Source: Authors 2018
C. Societal/Cultural Related Barriers
1. Lack of interest Du Plessis (2002); Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams
& Dair (2007)
2. Lack of incentives Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto et al. (2014)
3. Resistance to change Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto et al. (2014)
4. Limited awareness Powmya & Abidin (2014) Djokoto et al. (2014)
5. Lack of demand Djokoto et al. (2014)
D. Technology Related Barriers
1. Uncertainty over sustainability
technology performance
Powmya & Abidin (2014)
2. Failure to understand sustainable
technology work
Powmya & Abidin (2014)
3. Inadequate technology specications
on sustainable approaches
Powmya & Abidin (2014)
4. Unavailability of appropriate
sustainable technologies
Du Plessis (2002); Djokoto et al. (2014)
For this study, key project professionals were
identied to be interior designers/architects,
electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, quantity
surveyors and contractors. is categorization
of key professionals was informed by the fact
that they were the typical core interior design
project team professionals in Kenya. is was with
specic focus on professionally run interior design
projects as opposed to ones run without requisite
professional qualications to assume the various
project roles and responsibilities.
For this study, the population [Universe] from
which the sample was drawn from was the pool
of key project professionals from the Kenyan
construction industry. For the specic components
of the population [sampling units], these were
identied as interior/architectural designers
(interior designers/architects), building services
engineers (electrical and mechanical engineers),
quantity surveyors and contractors. e source
list [sampling frame] for this study was dened as
being the pool of interior/architectural designers
(interior designers/architects), building services
engineers (electrical and mechanical engineers),
quantity surveyors and contractors from Nairobi
City County. To ensure the respondents were
actively practicing, and in light of limited time
and other resources, they were drawn from
completed and ongoing interior design projects
between the years 2016 to 2018. Focus on interior
design projects was mainly informed by limited
scholarly work in this market segment. Lastly,
Nairobi County- being the researchers’ county
of residence- was selected when conducting this
st udy.
A formula approach, as postulated by Yamane
(1967), to sample size computation was adopted for
this study. e resulting sample size was adjusted
for non-response as postulated by Israel (2012), to
give a sample size of 60 respondents. is sample
size was constituted of 12 interior/architectural
designers (interior designers/architects), 24
building services engineers (12 electrical and 12
mechanical engineers), 12 quantity surveyors
and 12 contractors. ere were 46 valid
responses constituted as 10 interior/architectural
designers (interior designers/architects), 18
building services engineers (9 electrical and 9
mechanical engineers), 8 quantity surveyors and
10 contractors. ese valid responses represented
a response rate of 77%, which, as postulated by
Mugenda and Mugenda (2008), is a very good
response rate.
e structured questionnaires used for this study
had four parts: denition of key terms used,
respondents’ prole, sustainable construction
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uptake levels, sustainable construction uptake
drivers and sustainable construction uptake
barriers. For part 2, the questionnaire had xed
alternatives questions on respondents roles in
interior design projects, their experience in the
construction industry market segment, number
of projects they were handling as of when the
questionnaires were being administered and
their academic credentials. For parts 3 and 4, the
questions requested for ranking of sustainable
construction uptake levels, drivers and barriers on
a 5-point Likert scale respectively. For uptake levels,
this was for the three dimensions of sustainability
(economic, environmental and social) dimensions
individually. For sustainable construction uptake
drivers and barriers, this was through indicating
the individual inuence attributed to them for the
various categories as identied in Tables 1 and 2.
is was ultimately geared towards computing the
overall joint uptake levels for the three dimensions.
Additionally, the study sought to compute the joint
inuence of identied sustainable construction
drivers and barriers.
On validity of the research instruments, the
study sought to enhance internal and external
validity as postulated by Kothari (2004). Internal
validity was enhanced through critical review
of the dra questionnaire by 6 professionals – 2
interior/architectural designer (1 interior designer
and 1 architect), 2 building services engineers (1
electrical and 1 mechanical engineer), 1 quantity
surveyor and 1 contractor – drawn from the
Kenyan construction industry to ensure its
adequacy in addressing the research questions. On
the other hand, to enhance external validity, the
resulting ndings of this study were dened to be
generalizable to key project professionals– interior/
architectural designers (interior designers/
architects), building services engineers (electrical
and mechanical engineers), quantity surveyors and
contractors– in the Kenyan construction industry
on sustainable construction uptake/transition as a
key factor to sustainable construction compliance.
Additionally, the study sought to enhance
reliability of research instruments – specically
the stability and equivalence aspects as postulated
by Kothari (2004). e stability aspect of reliability
was enhanced ensuring data was collected in a
standard time span, specically before noon, to
minimize inuence of factors such as fatigue and
boredom. e equivalence aspect was ensured
through standard questionnaire administration
procedure. Lastly, the research assistants were
trained on assuring the respondents of their
anonymity and condentiality on the information
provided. All this was aimed at ensuring that the
respondents were clear of the nature of this study
and aimed at ensuring they were objective when
responding to the questionnaire.
e analysis of the resulting data took a descriptive
approach. is was aimed at summarizing,
classifying and explaining the collected data. To
this eect, descriptive statistics of distribution
(frequencies), proportions (percentages), central
tendency (mean) and dispersion (standard
deviation) were employed. e resulting data was
presented in form of tables, charts and graphs. e
next section presents the ndings and a discussion
based on the analysis of data from the respondents
to this study.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Respondents’ Prole
Respondents role in interior design projects
Figure 1 shows the categorisation of the
respondents based on their typical role in interior
design projects.
FIGURE 1
Respondents’ role in interior design projects
Source: Field survey 2019
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From Figure 1, all the respondents were from the
pre-identied categories of key professionals in
interior design projects. Additionally, all categories
were represented.
Respondents’ experience in interior design
projects
Table 3 shows the respondents’ experience
in interior design projects. An overwhelming
majority of the respondents had over 5 years
experience. is implies that they understand
interior design projects and are in a position to
ensure that sustainability approaches are context
specic.
Number of interior design projects handled
Figure 2 shows that an overwhelming majority
of the respondents were actively involved in 4-5
interior design projects. is implies that they had
ample opportunities to ensure uptake of sustainable
construction practices in their projects.
TABLE 4: Respondents’ academic credentials
Source: Field survey 2019
Highest Education Level Frequency Percentage
Primary Level and Below 0 0%
Secondary Level 0 0%
College Level 2 4%
University Level 44 96%
Total number of respondents 46 100%
FIGURE 2
Number of interior design projects handled currently
Source: Field survey 2019
Respondents’ academic credentials
An overwhelming majority of the respondents
had their highest education level as university
(Tabl e 4). is implies that they are in a position
to articulate and comprehend sustainable
construction practices.
TABLE 3: Respondents’ experience in interior design projects
Source: Field survey 2019
Categories of Experience Frequency Percentage
< 1 Year 1 2%
1-2 Years 3 7%
3-4 Years 5 11%
> Over 5 Years 37 80%
Total number of respondents 46 100%
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TABLE 5: Sustainability construction uptake levels
Source: Field survey 2019
Sustainability Dimension Mean Item
Scores
(MIS)
Standard
Deviation
(SD)
Rank
Social related practices such as ensuring fair labour
practices and access by the physically challenged
3.5000 0.9129 1
Environmental related practices such as ensuring
reduction of project related emissions and
minimizing waste
3.3261 0.7319 2
Economic related practices such as ensuring
lifecycle cost eciency
3.2391 0.9472 3
Grand Mean 3.3551
Sustainability Construction Uptake Levels
Respondents rated the overall uptake of sustainable
construction practices (economic, environmental
and social) in interior design projects as average
[Mean item score (MIS) =3.3551]). is implies
that the three dimensions of sustainability are
receiving average uptake levels in the interior
design market segment of the Kenyan construction
industry. is is illustrated in Tabl e 5.
Sustainability Construction Drivers
e overall eect of stakeholder related,
organizational related, management related and
economic related drivers on uptake of sustainable
construction practices in the Kenyan construction
industry scored average (MIS=3.8043; Tab le 6 ).
With all scores above average, the ndings imply
that the four categories of drivers are key inuencers
of uptake of sustainable construction practices. As
such, this validates the sustainable construction
drivers within the sample geographical connes
as postulated by Basu & Palazzo (2008); Faireld
et al. (2011); Elmualim et al. (2012); Manoliadis &
Tsolas (2006); Wirtenberg et al. (2007).
Sustainability Construction Barriers
e overall joint eect of economic related,
professional/capacity related, society/cultural
related and technology related barriers on uptake
of sustainable construction practices in the
Kenyan construction industry had an average
score (MIS=3.8098; Tab le 7).
TABLE 6: Sustainable construction drivers
Source: Field survey 2019
Sustainable Construction Driver Category Mean Item
Scores
(MIS)
Standard
Deviation
(SD)
Rank
Organizational Related Drivers 4.1304 0.5815 1
Stakeholder Related Drivers 3.9783 0.9773 2
Economic Related Drivers 3.6957 0.8659 3
Management Related Drivers 3.4130 0.9793 4
Grand Mean 3.8043
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TABLE 7: Sustainable construction barriers
Source: Field survey 2019
Sustainable Construction Barriers Category Mean Item
Scores
(MIS)
Standard
Deviation
(SD)
Rank
Economic Related Barriers 4.4565 0.7213 1
Professional/ Capacity Related Barriers 3.6304 1.0824 2
Technology Related Barriers 3.5870 1.0017 3
Societal/ Cultural Related Barriers 3.5652 1.0467 4
Grand Mean 3.8098
With all scores above average, the ndings
imply that the four categories of barriers are key
inuencers of uptake of sustainable construction
practices. As such, this validates the sustainable
construction barriers, within the sample
geographical connes, postulated by Du Plessis
(2002); Zhou & Lowe (2003); Williams & Dair
(2007); Powmya & Abidin (2014); Djokoto et al.
(2014).
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Firstly, the study sought to establish the extent
of sustainability transition/uptake in the Kenyan
construction industry. Generally, the respondents
ranked the overall uptake of the three dimensions
of sustainability (economic, environmental and
social) as average. For the individual dimensions
of sustainable construction, the ndings showed
that the respondents ranked the uptake levels as
social, environment and economic in a decreasing
order of uptake levels.
Additionally, the study further sought to establish
the key drivers attributed to the established
transition/uptake levels. ese were ranked as
organization related drivers, stakeholder related
drivers, economic related drivers and management
related drivers in order of decreasing inuence.
Lastly, the study also set out to establish the
barriers that were impeding improved uptake of
sustainable construction practices in the Kenyan
construction industry. e respondents ranked
these as economic related barriers, professional/
capacity related barriers, technology related
barriers and societal/cultural related barriers in
order of decreasing inuence.
From the ndings, it was established that
sustainable construction uptake levels for the
Kenyan construction industry were average.
is implies signicant room for improvement.
Consequently, this study recommends the need to
leverage sustainable construction uptake drivers
while at the same time suppressing the identied
barriers in a bid to improve the uptake levels.
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