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Using green technology to offer affordable housing

Besides the ever rising housing costs and the static mortgage figures, perhaps the most stubborn of the constants in Kenya’s real estate figures is the housing deficit. With a supply of 45,000 units annually against a demand of 250,000, it is easy to deduce why home ownership will remain a far off dream for most citizens.

However, alternative technologies have been launching a spirited campaign, chipping away at the seemingly insurmountable rock. About a year after KOTO Housing ltd launched a half a billion plant to manufacture Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) forms that help cut construction time and costs by more than half.

Multinational company, International Green Structures (IGS) has also announced that it will be completing, in January of 2016, the setting up of a Sh600million plant in Thika to create building forms from wheat and rice agricultural waste that currently gets burnt.

“Every 3,000 structures built will create 1,391 jobs, in a holistic solution that creates new income streams for farmers, and uses world class technology to create low cost homes,” said Richard China, President and CEO of IGS, LLC USA, presenting a case study to the Affordable Housing East Africa 2015 Conference in Nairobi.

Mr China said 46 million East Africans living in urban slums, as well as the region’s two million IDP’s and a million refugees, were victims of a housing crisis that the country will now have the appropriate technology to address. His case study of the economic impact of using rice and wheat waste to make high impact construction panels lays out the benefits for every 3,000 houses built of an extra Sh110 million in income to farmers, Sh77 million in local transport, Sh2.64 billion in additional local manufacturing, and Sh13.3 billion in construction earnings.

“The sum is 1,391 additional jobs, earning Sh27.5 billion in wages, creating Sh4.5 billion in socially responsible investments, and Sh19.2 billion worth of lifetime benefits in job training, as well as 3,000 new homes,” said Mr China. According to the 2009 economic survey, at least 300,000 people earn their living from rice production alone.

However, despite producing almost 80 per cent of rice in Kenya, Mwea was ranked among the poorest constituencies in Kenya, with 44 per cent of its population living on less than Sh1,239 a month, according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistic 2013 report.

Nyando constituency, which hosts the Ahero rice irrigation scheme has a poverty rate of 63 per cent, while 65.9 per cent of Budalangi constituency’s 66,723 population, where the Bunyala rice irrigation scheme is located, is extremely poor.  “In an assessment of the total construction potential from wheat and rice waste in 16 countries in and around eastern Africa, Kenya came up fifth, with a potential to generate enough waste to construct nearly 90,000 square metres of housing a year, enough living space for more than 3,000 people,” said Mr China.

In developing IGS structures, wheat or rice wastes are cured, dried and broken into small pieces before being put in a conveyer belt where they are subjected to extreme heat and pressure to form a rigid compound known as Compressed Agriculture Fiber (CAF). This is then cut into project-specific lengths to assemble in a pre-engineered metal framing system. According to data, houses will cost between Sh851,400 and two million, taking less than 45 days to construct.

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