Developers urged to use alternative building technology

The government is keen on using new building techniques such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels to solve Kenya’s housing crisis.

Public Works Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa said using such alternative technology was time-efficient and more eco-friendly.

“We have companies manufacturing EPS, it's cleaner and takes less time to complete. For example, where a facility of brick and mortar takes one year they can halve that with new technology,” he said Monday during a forum to empower local contractors.

Participants at the workshop led by the National Construction Authority (NCA) discussed various sub-sectors in the construction industry including housing and roads.

“Housing in this country is limited and the government is devoted to ensuring we’ve adequate technology to be used,” the PS added.

The use of polystyrene is gaining traction in Kenya’s housing sector. The panels for construction are made of light cellular plastic.

In house construction, polystyrene foam is sandwiched between two slabs of steel wire mesh, which are afterwards sprayed with cement to strengthen the walls.

Kihalangwa said the government was determined to ensure that local contractors got 30 per cent of mega projects, but wanted this “properly defined”.

“It’s not only about 30 per cent, we want it properly defined so that our local contractors are not only given those small things,” he said.

He said the technology transfer was the important thing. “At the end of the day, in another few years, we want that work to be fully done by our local contractors.”

Kihalangwa further added that NCA needed to be tougher in weeding out rogue contractors.

“If you don’t have teeth you can’t bite … there must be proper sanctions. You (NCA) have a big responsibility because we have buildings that have structurally failed,” he said.

NCA Chairman David Gaitho said agencies in the public sector were the laxest in compliance.