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Flat or pitched? Why your roof style matters

By Aby Agina | May 6th 2021
A modern house under construction in Funyula (PHOTO: FILE)

Kenya’s real estate sector has been booming for the past few years - thanks to a fast-growing economy coupled with a rapidly expanding middle-class.

Covid-19 also hit the sector hard last year - affecting mortgage repayments with data from the World Bank showing the country faces a housing deficit of 200,000 units annually.

However, less than 50,000 units are built annually due to the high cost of land and building materials. “More and more Kenyans are keen on going beyond just buying land to now developing these assets further to build their dream homes,” explains Optiven Group Chief Executive, George Wachiurii.

Mr Wachiurii says the emergence of new satellite towns has seen a spike in the construction activity owing to investment in infrastructures such as roads and auxiliary amenities like schools, hospitals.

Although land prices have remained stagnant last year due to the effects of Covid-19, there is the optimism of a rebound in the real estate sector.

According to property firm HassConsult, the easing of Covid-19 containment measures has stirred up prices. Fredrick Odhiambo, an architect, says there has been a surge in home design enquiries.

“Kenyans are resilient. Ever since the pandemic struck, a sizeable number of the middle-class have been inquiring about home designs in droves - a sign of a societal class out to kick-start their home-ownership aspirations.”

The biggest headache for aspiring homeowners, he notes is the design. “We have an array of designs currently in the market with clients coming up with modern architectural tastes,” says Dinah Jaoko, an architect.

The decision on the design needs an understanding of the area, climate as well as budget. “The two common house designs are flat and pitched roof orientation. Both types are ideal for the climatic conditions in Kenya,” notes Odhiambo who has been practising for over 15 years.

“A flat roof symbolises modernity. A sign of now. On the flip side, a pitched roof represents rich traditional architecture. The beauty is that we have new designs that one can play with,” adds Odhiambo. But what are some of the cons and pros of the flat-roofed house versus pitched roofs?

Flat Roof

Architects argue that a flat roof gives one more livable space compared to a pitched one. It also hands the home a unique space where one can use it as a lounge, gym area to even set up a corridor to host solar panels.

The demerit of a flat roof is leakage if the angle line is not achieved. A leaking roof can be an eyesore and costly.

Arch Dinah Jaoko opines that “provided the contractor gets the four degrees angle gradient slope, water drainage will be efficiently achieved. If this is not done well, it will lead to leaks which are mainly resolved through thorough waterproofing with countless bags of cement.”

According to Odhiambo, flat or pitched roofs are dependent on the detailing done by the structural engineer or contractor overseeing the project.

He says flat roof costs are slightly cheaper but one must factor in the cost of steel and cement. “The price of concrete is stable. There is more appetite for a flat roof. Before most Kenyans were misinformed and the general perception is that they leak,” he observed.

Jaoko notes that a leaking flat roof is as a result of poor workmanship. Flat roofs also offer aesthetic appeal which makes the house stand out.

Pitched Roof

Pitched roofs are popular as they have been widely adopted globally owing to their simplicity and the signature status they command. The angling of the roof allows for excellent aeration.

Although pitched roofs may tend to be costlier due to the high cost of timber, they are easy to maintain as they drain water efficiently and can be re-used.

Pitched roof also has longer lifespan since it doesn’t require regular maintenance compared to flat roofs.

“You can’t have an interplay of traditional and modern. One must pick either. The philosophy of the house determines quite a lot and the emotional attachment a client will have with their house,” explains Odhiambo.

A pitched roof can only be used as a livable space if you have an attic - a room found at the top of a house under the roof - also known as a sky parlour.

Experts say pitched roofs tend to affect the foundation of the house thus require greater depth to avoid caving in. Pitched roofs are also not achievable for buildings with multiple levels or complex plans.

Residential houses in a Rockingham Suburb - Western Australia


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