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Thermal comfort in straw houses

Updated Thursday, May 9th 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3

“We are doing projects for all classes of people, ranging from small shamba houses to large luxurious homes. For these, we do extra finish works and interior finishes, which come at an extra cost, in the process diverging from the affordable housing concept that the buildings are solely based on,” says Kinyua.

Kuza Nyumba Construction is not only confined in the Central and Eastern regions as the construction firm has been contracted to put up various homes in Machakos and outside Nairobi over the coming months.

The technology has been used successfully in the US and Europe for over 100 years, with buildings from the 1890s still standing and in good condition.

“Straw bale technology is a housing technology that has been overlooked in Kenya. The problem is that many people have this perception that they cannot build houses with straw bale,” says Peter Kamau in his thesis. “They consider it a poor man’s house.”

Another problem with straw bale housing arises from its approval. Straw bale building codes are not part of Kenya’s building codes, so it may take a bit more work and time to get building plans of straw bale houses approved. 

In his research, Kamau came across a straw bale building in Athi River, which was in a bad shape. He advises that straw bale is an organic material, which is fragile and so should be handled by construction experts lest the perception that straw bale is ‘not strong’ enough keeps going around.

“Care needs to be taken during its construction to ensure humidity, which is the greatest threat, does not penetrate through the straws,” says Kinyua.

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