CRESA’s Pension Towers Adventure
Members of CRESA were up bright and early on the 30th of January 2023 ready to take to the streets. No, comrades, not for any malicious purposes, but to embark one on of the many adventures pursued by the association. Now, if you’ve been to the CBD, then no doubt you’ve seen the two, blue, tall leaning towers that look nothing like the buildings surrounding it. Many Nairobians, including me, have always been fascinated by those towers that almost seem to be falling. We could almost call it one of the great wonders of CBD!
I imagine that the most interaction most of us have had with the building has been purely from outside, passing by. Well then, allow me to introduce you to CBK Pension Towers. Arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings in the CBD.
The CRESA team was afforded the wonderful opportunity to have an interactive tour of the building, and you are about to find out that its beauty lies not only on the outside. The towers are what we would refer to as to having beauty and brains.
The team assembled at 1:30 pm outside the towers, notebooks and phones in hand, ready to document the experience. It didn’t take long for our guides to pick us up from the entrance. Getting inside, and waving that hot Nairobi afternoon sun goodbye, the lobby offered a pleasant blast of cool, fresh air. There were chandeliers gracing the ceiling that offered warm lighting.
Here, carefully glassed were the towers’ models, and it was here that we learnt of the building’s history.
Construction of the two towers began from an already existing 5 story building. The construction begun on the 17th of September 2017 and the building was completed on the 8th of December 2019. I know! Such a short time. We will find out how this was achieved in a few. For now, let’s talk about our walk to the subterranean level. Okay, I'll be less dramatic. It was just the basement. An entire 285 car capacity in their parking lot. Half of Nairobi can park there. I mean, give or take. We had a quick visit to the generator room after which we took ‘bullet’ lifts to the 5th floor. I call them bullet lifts because that is the kind of speed those lifts move at, and anyone who has taken any one of them has understood the name immediately.
The quick flight was not without soothing, relaxing music. Probably to distract you from the yanking speed at which you were travelling at. The 5th floor, also known as the podium, had a lovely terrace that was sunny and airy. Here, we stopped for a few photos and a quick lesson about their solar panels. The building boasts of 108 solar panels, each converting 450 watts per hour. However, for this big giant, this is only enough to service its common areas, the rest is sourced from Kenya Power Limited Company.
Another bullet lift and a few notes of music later, we emerged on the 26th floor. It was amazing seeing the view from inside the elevator expand wider the farther up we went. Nairobi expanded before us, laid out like a model of sorts. We were all in awe as we went up the stairs to the rooftop.
You had to be there. All around us Nairobi fell flat looking miniscule, and even farther beyond. Afya Centre looked like a blade of grass stacked against fellow blades of grass, so far away beneath us.
From the rooftop, on one side we could see Ngong Hills high and mighty, clear as day in the horizon. From another end we could see the expressway, like a lowly snake, wondering how truly small it had all of a sudden become.
Then, what looked like ants, busy, moving around on the ground, but alas, it was people. It felt like you could reach over and pick one up with but two fingers. Cars looked like toys zooming down on thin roads. It was almost a humbling experience to see how small one can become from high enough.
Photos and videos were taken in plenty, in fact, everywhere you turned you ran the risk of appearing in like four people’s videos at once. Our guides were really helpful, giving us information about the structural design of the brownish roof structure you see at the top of the towers.
At this point, I should mention that our guides were Mr. Wallace, who is a valuer, with the Property Department at CBK, Engineer Amos, who is a civil engineer and PM Eric who is a construction manager. The engineers had been part of the building project since it’s inception and we were lucky to be getting first hand information from the consultants themselves.
On the sides of the buildings were cradles. Let me explain. Imagine a James Bond movie, with a SWAT team breaking into a building using the windows on the side of a building, suspended by ropes hanging from the rooftops.
Okay, but let’s replace the commandos with cleaners armed with disinfectants and other necessary cleaning equipment. These cradles are purposefully for the cleaning staff to maintain and clean the glass on the windows on the sides of the building. Talk about meticulous! And truly, those windows are sparkling clean, not a stain nor a smudge. And maybe we all should take a lesson home from these commando cleaners.
After a billion photos for snapchat and Instagram, we were ready for a sit down session as well as an interactive Q and A with the members of the CBK team hosting us.
Back at the 5th floor, CRESA had decided comrades hakuna kuinama and had ready for us each some refreshments. Even an apple to balance it all together! Kudos to the catering team, they have all my stomach and I’s respect. As we snacked, the team hosting us introduced themselves and each talked about a specific topic. It is impossible to put down all the knowledge we gained from these wise professionals, but for your sake, I will try.
Now, I hope you remember the short amount of time it took for this building to be completed, because this is where we find out how. A very innovative method was used; precast slabs and beams. This genius method saw the slabs and beams being precast from the factory, and be transported for fitting on site. This enabled them to construct at an almost supernatural speed of four floors per month!
It was here that our jaws dropped as we got the financial tour of this trip. The valuer put the current value of the building at a whooping 4.4 Billion. Even more surprising to learn was that the towers were constructed on a cash basis of 3.7 billion. But that’s just the building. The consultants went to bed with a clean 700 million. That alone can tell you the kind of building we were in. By the time its construction was complete, the spaces were at 100% list-out with a 700% demand. Quite crazy numbers, but they are actually real.
The Q and A session was quite interactive and members had millions of questions to dish out to these professionals. After all, it is not every day you are in a room with such a diverse skill set, at your beck and call. We were able to learn more about the building, the challenges they faced during construction, such as covid. I hope you were not expecting me to mention financial limitations as a challenge because this client’s motto for this project was ‘money is not a problem’. Yes, I know, we all wish we could say the same. However, it was evident that it was the high professionalism and good workmanship of the team doing the construction project, that gave birth to a beautiful building embracing modern technology and adopting a unique innovative stance. A breath of fresh air to the construction industry.
What a wonderful excursion, they had to almost quite literally drag us out. We were having so much fun! CRESA’s day out was a huge success, and of course, we continue to hope for even more such trips. See you on the next one 😉
– Wairimu Ngotho –