Nakuru County Government has rolled out a training programme to equip the youth with skills on alternative building technology that uses cheaper materials in order to boost the supply of affordable housing.
Governor Susan Kihika said that her administration has set up an Alternative Building Materials Technology Center (ABMTC) at Kagoto polytechnic in Bahati Sub-County to train and equip the youths with skills in the manufacture and use of cheaper building materials.
“The center is equipped with machines designed to help in the manufacture of alternative building materials. The county has acquired high capacity Hydraform Interlocking Brick (HIB) making machines to help train the youth on production of the building blocks,” stated the Governor.
Ms Kihika noted that the use of alternative building materials other than stones could cut the overall cost of construction, reduce the total time taken to put up a building and hence increase home ownership in a country grappling with a shortage of houses.
She indicated that Youth Polytechnics and Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETS), if well-funded, equipped and given grants to conduct research, have the potential to come up with new technological innovations that would see future houses being made in record time with or without use of brick and mortar.
According to her, the real estate market is in the hands of a well-financed few, consigning many to being tenants who live in houses they can hardly put up on their own.
Ms Kihika decried what she described as “the apparent selectiveness in the real estate sector” as many developers only have rich and middle-class income earners in mind when putting up housing units.
“With the cost of land and building materials ever-rising and developers mainly targeting the high-end market, potential homeowners should go the unconventional way when looking for solutions. We want to equip our youth in polytechnics and Technical Vocational and Educational Institutions (TVETS) with skills that will provide practical solutions through innovations.
“The alternative building technology will enable the country to meet its ambitious housing plan provided by the government and as a result solve the housing shortage in different parts of the country,” she stressed.
The governor observed that heavy investments in training of craftsmen in the manufacture and use of alternative building technology will also revolutionize the country’s industrial sector.
In the new technology being propped up by the devolved unit, the bricks are broad compared to quarried ones and are placed one upon another without any need of binding mortar, something that is helping builders cut down on construction costs.
The bricks are designed to be arranged in such a way that there is no room for creating lines of weakness.
At the ABMTC centre, trainees will also be equipped with technical skills on the use of red earth, or any slow draining soil as likely commercial ventures in making building blocks the long-run in event quarrying is exhausted.
“The training is also fashioned to encourage individuals in rural settings to bake mud bricks, dry them in the sun and build houses with sticky clay being used as mortar. Vagaries of weather, like rain, will have little effect. There is also no need to keep pouring water on the outside during the drying process, known in construction lingo as curing,” stated Ms Kihika.
In Hydraform Interlocking Brick (HIB) building technology, the foundation filler could be anything from crushed stones to sand and cement or simply concrete slabs.
Though materials like sand and cement would be greatly halved in usage, one would still need them during the interior plastering process. This casting acts as a binding method for the laid-up bricks.
The Governor said this was cost-effective compared to purchasing materials. The building could be strengthened inside and outside with a screed of plastering for added strength and durability, which gives the house a permanent outlook.
Experts have indicated that there is urgent need to review the 1940 building code that recognizes stone as the only building material and expunge from the law pieces of statutes which he notes are frustrating development of affordable housing units by both the state and the private sector.
They have also expressed concern that land in Kenya is obscenely expensive. A current survey indicates that prices of land in Nairobi are highest in the continent. This has frustrated the provision of housing and basic infrastructure by the government.
By Jane Ngugi