EPS panels are made of polystyrene (the white, flimsy material used in the packaging of electronic goods) and are considered favourable as building materials in terms of safety and affordability.
“Polystyrene is 90 per cent air, so it is very light and also provides great thermal insulation as air is a poor conductor of heat,” said Andrew Saisi, the GM of the firm’s EPS factory in Mavoko near Nairobi.
The panels, according to Mr Saisi, deliver stronger structures compared to conventional stones while slashing construction costs by up to 30 per cent.
A single panel, which measures 1.5m x 3.0m costs Sh5,000 at the factory, translating to a cost of Sh1,111 per square metre + transport charges + cost of concrete plasterwork.
A standard two-bedroom house build using prefabricated building materials is estimated to cost about Sh750, 000 before finishing – nearly half the cost when using conventional stones and bricks.
Such a house requires about 70 panels each weighing 15 kilogrammes – meaning the entire building can be carried in a single lorry load.
NHC last year announced plans to build 2,000 houses (at least 50 units per county) worth Sh1 billion in this financial year, using the prefab building technology.
The state-owned firm said the use of prefabricated building materials in Kenya has been gaining ground for the past few years and the technology could bridge the demand-supply gap in the housing market.
Kenya’s annual housing demand is estimated at 200,000 units a year, against a supply of a paltry 40,000 units annually.