Why builders are rushing to adopt new technology

National Housing Corporation engineers construct a sample EPS panels house in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE
National Housing Corporation engineers construct a sample EPS panels house in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE
Property developers across the country are finding a new way to deal with the rising building costs that have increasingly denied many Kenyans a chance to own homes.

The builders are now adopting new construction technologies in a bid to cut costs and maximise returns while maintaining quality standards.

Through the use of energy efficient but affordable materials, originating mainly from China and India, property developers have managed to save on the cost and duration of construction.

Prime Ventures is one such company that has embraced sustainable building design in a bid to meet the rising demand for truly affordable housing.

The company is betting on a modern building technology that uses cement-coated expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels instead of conventional stones.

The technology entails building homes by assembling ready-made EPS foam, sandwiched between a wire mesh that is sealed on both sides with concrete.

According to Menelik Makonnen, chief executive of Prime Ventures, EPS technology has been employed in many parts of the world and it has a bright future in Kenya where demand for low cost housing is rising.

A regular two-bedroom house measuring 100 square metres takes about 70 panels each weighing 15kg – meaning a prefab house can be ferried in a truck.

Despite its light weight, a modular house is strong enough to defy natural calamities better than homes build using stones.

According to Mr Makonnen, a posh three-bedroom house in a suburban location will cost Sh2.5 million when built using EPS panels.

Since it is an inert material, EPS does not rot and has no nutritional value to vermin and therefore it does not attract termites, rats and other pests – making the building more durable.

The technology offers other benefits such as thermal insulation, which makes the houses comfy regardless of temperature changes. The houses are sound and bullet proof, and they also have a high resistance to fire and other shocks.

According to Kenrick Miako, a director of Mikooh Exquisite Ltd., which is using EPS panels to build apartments in Rongai, alternative building technology has lowered his costs by 25 per cent while cutting the construction time by half.

“This technology minimises labour costs and construction time. The building requires less reinforcement due to its light weight. You get further savings on the foundation as well,” Mr Miako said, adding that lightweight panels are mainly used to erect walls, stairways, water tanks, floors, roofs and perimeter walls.

“You use bricks only when laying foundation. The expandable polystrene panels then take over from the walls to the slab. This results in superior structures and lends itself well to high quality finishes,” Mr Miako said.

This comes at a time when the local demand for low cost housing far exceeds the supply thanks to speedy urbanization and a growing middle class.

Statistics show that the annual housing supply in the country is 50,000 units against demand of 200,000 units.