Property developers embrace new technology to cut costs
Property developers are embracing alternative technologies to cut costs and maximise the returns while still maintaining quality standards.
This is in response to the rising costs of construction and finance which have made housing unaffordable to many people.
Among the new technologies being applied is the expandable polystyrene system (EPS), which could replace the traditional brick-and-mortar process.
The technology is popular in Italy, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Iran, Jamaica, Panama, Romania, Venezuela and South Africa, and is being introduced in Kenya by the National Housing Corporation among other firms.
An inert material, expandable polystyrene does not rot. It has no nutritional benefits to vermin and thus does not attract pests such as rats and termites, making the building more durable.
Mr Kenrick Miako, a director of Mikooh Exquisite Ltd, a real estate company, has used the new technology to put up four-storey apartments, La Casa, at Ole Kasasi area in Rongai.
The houses are about eight kilometres from Galleria Mall on the road to Masai Lodge and Nazarene University.
Mr Miako says alternative building materials helped lower the costs by about 25 per cent, besides slashing the construction time by half.
“This technology minimises labour costs and construction periods. The building requires less reinforcement due to is light weight. You get further savings on the foundation as well,” he said, adding that it took less than six months for the 20 one-and-two-bedroom units to take shape.
The National Housing Corporation has been very supportive in the projects.It supplies the technology and provides quality assurance and technical support.Houses built using this technology are said to be stronger and more durable than those constructed conventionally.
Lightweight panels are used to erect the walls, stairwells, floors, roofs, septic and water tanks as well as the perimeter walls.
“You use bricks only when laying the foundation. The expandable polystyrene panels then take over — from the walls to the slab. This is the future of building technology in Kenya. It results in superior structures and lends itself well to high quality finishes,” he said.
Piping for electricity and water, as well as installation of ducts for services such as Internet, are done concurrently with the main construction.
The cost factor enables developers put up units that are of high standards yet affordable to middle class workers.
Today’s home buyers and investors are much more discerning, insisting on value for money, stylish designs and exquisite finishes. Part of the money saved is passed on to buyers through good yet affordable finishes.
At La Casa apartments, a one-bedroom unit is selling at Sh4.3 million, a standard two-bedroom apartment with a closed kitchen at Sh5.45 million, and a two-bedroom master en-suite unit with an open-plan kitchen at Sh5.65 million.
The technology offers other benefits like thermal insulation, making the houses comfortable irrespective of temperature changes. The houses are also sound and bullet proof, with higher resistance to fire, earth tremors and other external shocks.
The managing director of NHC, Mr Andrew Saisi, told the Sunday Nation that research shows expandable polystyrene has attributes that surpass brick-and-mortar technology. They include consistent quality and high construction speed.
He said they are working with local contractors and artisans to acquaint them with the new skills.