June 10, 2024
2 Min. Read


Fumba Town is betting on wood. More and more houses in Zanzibar’s first eco city are built using engineered timber – from stylish holiday homes to practical low-cost-shops and studios. Dreaming of a natural timber home? Here’s an overview of its benefits. 

Have a drink first? Shop at the colourful Kwetu Kwenu market or stroll through the wood exhibition recently shown in Fumba Town? Quite a number of visitors during the Busara music festival in February opted for the latter. Town developer Tobias Dietzold, 40, whose brainchild the exhibition was, explained. “People hear about the renaissance of wood as a building material, but many questions remain. How fire-proof is engineered timber really? How can it be environmentally-friendly to cut down trees? What about the termites in Africa?” 

Zanzibar wants to become greener. New homes and holiday homes on the tourism dream island should be built more ecologically. 

But how? Timber construction can help. Backed-up by international studies and actually allowing visitors to touch and compare different high-tech-timber samples - from cross laminated timber (CLT) to “glue-lam” -, a recent exhibition in Fumba Town did provide answers. 

A show house for the planned Burj Zanzibar skyscraper will also be erected soon. The Burj Zanzibar (see story on the right) by developer CPS is set to be the tallest timber apartment building in the world.

Why are timber buildings experiencing a renaissance? In Germany, already a fifth of residential houses have been constructed with engineered timber in the last few years. With growing environmental awareness, the oldest building material in the world has turned into the darling material of the future. There are many good reasons, the exhibition demonstrated.

  • Dirty cement: The conventional construction industry with cement and steel is responsible for 37 per cent of greenhouse emissions because of its high-energy production and transport, while wooden buildings do just the opposite and store CO2 like a battery. A 4,000 cubic metre building like the planned Burj Zanzibar with 28 floors would bind 3,200 tons of carbon dioxide, stored in the wood forever.
  • Healthy forests: Wood is a fully regrowable raw material. Contrary to what one my think, the wood industry is growing but forests, when correctly reforested, are not diminishing. Austria for instance has more forest than 30 years ago.
  • Speed building: Timber construction is faster and more precise than conventional building because of its pre-fab elements. “In Zanzibar, we can assemble one floor per week”, forecasts engineer Prof. Thorsten Helbig, an expert in the international building consortium which will oversee the construction of the Burj.

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