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Budget constraints give boost to cheap housing options

The high cost of decent housing is a tall order for the lower end market. This is because most building materials in Nairobi are expensive.

This has prompted material manufacturers to embrace the use of prefabricated technology to help provide eco-friendly houses at affordable prices.

In spite of question marks over its shorter life span, several companies are already supplying prefab houses to low and middle income Kenyans in a bid to meet the housing demand.

One of the firms is Mabati Rolling Mills which entered the low-cost housing market in 2012.  The roofing materials maker is currently supplying ready-made steel houses at low prices.

The National Housing Corporation started the construction of a new prefabricated factory in Movoko, off Mombasa Road in mid 2012 with a capacity to produce at least 3,000 housing panels annually.

Insulating material

According to the then managing director James Ruitha, the Sh700 million factory was to produce expanded polystyrene panels to be used in the construction of low cost houses.

NHC estimates then were that the factory would produce an initial 3,000 housing panels made of insulating materials such as cement or concrete sandwiched between two wooden skins.

“The factory will facilitate faster and more efficient construction of houses for the lower end market, which has been affected by high cost of decent housing,” said Ruitha when he toured the factory.

The Naivasha based Economic Housing Group has been serving Kenya’s growing prefabricated industry with an ability to put together a two-bedroom house, complete with furniture, within a day.

During the commissioning of Jamii Bora first phase in Kaputei, Kajiado in 2010, Ingrid Munro, the founder of Bora revealed that they were using structural insulated panels (SIPs) and that when completed, the housing investment would see each unit cost Sh4.9 million instead of the Sh10 million needed if it were constructed using conventional building materials.

The SIPs are made by sandwiching a core of rigid foam plastic insulation between two structural skins of oriented strand board. The panels can be used as floors, walls, and roofs for residential and light commercial buildings.

“The Kenya Bureau of Standards has certified the panels and we had no problem getting insurance firms on board as the products have a 50-year guarantee,” said National Cooperatives Housing Union chairman Francis Kamande, who commissioned the Bora project.

Elsek Construction of Turkey, through Elsek and Elsek Construction Kenya, brought in fibre cement and galvanising steel construction into the Kenyan market.

The new technology uses walls made of fibre cement boards, which are bullet proof up to 9mm and fire proof up to 800 degrees Celsius.

The walls are made of cement, stone and glue chemical for strength and windows are double glass or glazing for high insulation. The company also specialises in light steel construction technology.