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State pushes alternative technology to build houses

By Dominic Omondi | March 4th 2021
House built using the Koto Housing technology.

Alternative technologies have been identified as key to helping Kenya achieve its goal of building half a million affordable houses by 2022.

One such technology is the expanded polystyrene (EPS) technology, which involves construction of houses by assembling ready-made foam sandwiched between a galvanised steel wire mesh plastered on both sides with concrete.

The National Housing Corporation (NHC) opened the country’s first EPS factory in Mlolongo in 2012, and has embarked on a campaign to promote the technology as it seeks new markets for its construction materials.

The government is expected to develop 8,200 houses in a pilot project at Mavoko with some of the houses to be built using EPS.

Vision 2030 Secretariat Director General Kenneth Mwige said during a recent visit to the factory that use of the technology would end the perennial housing scarcity.

He lauded NHC’s efforts towards the delivery of affordable housing as envisaged under the Vision 2030 Social Pillar.

NHC Managing Director Andrew Saisi said with EPS, they would reduce cost of construction materials by up to 30 per cent and labour by half, expenses that have made housing expensive in Kenya.

Withstand shock

EPS, which is used a lot in Europe, South America and Asia also reduces the construction time.

In addition, said Mr Saisi, the houses can withstand a lot of shock from earthquakes better than those built using brick and stone.

The EPS foam is 90 per cent air, meaning it is light and has outstanding thermal insulation due to the fact that air is a poor conductor of heat.

“In conventional construction, reinforced concrete columns provide support at intervals and the corners only. But with EPS technology, the steel mesh provides reinforcement throughout the structure,” said Saisi.

But there are also disadvantages with EPS. Being a relatively new building technology, there is inadequate skilled labour available for maintenance post-construction when there is a fault to the built structure.

The government is keen on delivering 500,000 housing units by 2022 in major cities across the country.

This, according to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, will provide decent homes, create an additional 350,000 jobs, provide market for manufacturers and suppliers and raise contribution of real estate and construction sector to 14 per cent of gross domestic product.

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