Because of the short time it takes to put up the structure you can save 10-15 percent of the labor cost.
Koto Housing Kenya is a local construction firm that uses EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) technology, originally from Malaysia, to build affordable housing for Kenyans within a shorter time than traditional housing. This is the sure bridge to your dream home.
The only franchise of the prefabricated technology in Africa, the growing inquiries about the solution from the rest of the continent is something Koto Housing prides itself of.
“This is a true confirmation that Koto has revolutionized the housing solution,” says Beth Kimani, Head of Corporate and Business Support at Koto Housing Kenya.
“Our directors felt that there was need to fill the gap for affordable housing locally and that in essence informed our decision to go and borrow a leaf on this technology from Malaysia,” she explains.
How Does Koto Work?
Koto cleverly executes a quick built solution of permanent structure within the shortest time possible. A house construction projects starts like a traditional building but since the wall panels are light, the foundation is not dug several meters deep as is normally the case with traditional construction.
“We use raft foundation (where the house rests on a large base-raft), which prevents the house from cracking due to shifting of the ground,” explains the Business Support Manager.
“Speed is our biggest selling point.”
For instance a three bedroomed house can be done in 21 days with a standard bungalow taking up to a month, from foundation to the actual furnishing.
For the time that they have been operational here in Kenya, they have realized that there is a growing number of clients who prefer them to supply the building panels as well as do the actual construction. “This is because of our understanding of the technology and our expertise. As such we use local manpower for construction. We also train contractors about the technology and they usually come in handy when in need of extra manpower during construction” emphasizes Ms. Kimani.
Despite the head office being in Mlolongo area of Machakos County, they have been able to build residential houses even in the countryside. Should a client need a house constructed in a certain locality, explains Ms. Kimani, the firm uses its local contractor in that county. “We then send our project manager to oversee the construction.”
In as much as Koto housing sounds as new revolution in the housing altogether, the concept is not a new technology. It is only new in Africa. Malaysia has been using Koto since 1975 and is equally extensively used in Europe because of its insulation capability in extreme cold countries.
With only around four companies in Kenya using EPS technology, Koto imports the raw materials, and manufactures the final product here.
“Kenyans are very sentimental about home ownership. It’s like everybody wants to own a home. That means that we target everybody,” she states.
Despite the desire to own a home, as is with new things and need to change attitudes to gain acceptance, the uptake of housing revolution is slow due to perception of the people. “We are still trying to break into the market and convince people that Koto can work amazingly,” she points.
The firm however received a major boost when it was contracted by the government to put up 200 housing units for the police. With that, both home owners and developers started believing in the solutions.
The government is the biggest spender and biggest influencer. Once people see government embracing something it gives it credibility.
“We did 200 housing units for the police in a record six months” points Ms. Kimani.
The construction panels which come in different sizes can be cut to fit. “But we discourage cutting so as to minimize on the wastage. When a client has his own design we try to rationalize it and work with the panel sizes. Our panels vary in size, with the largest being 1.8m x 2.4m. You simply put one on top of the other and they interlock,” she comments.
As it stands, it is an easy product to use, and fits nearly any design except round walls which the firm trying to figure out.
The solution is comparatively lower costed, compared to traditional housing due to shorter time it takes to put up the structure and sees one saving 10-15 percent of the labor cost. “Traditionally, it takes at least three months to build a house, while it only takes one month with Koto technology. With that you can cut cost on the wages for the two months labor because you won’t have to double the manpower to do the construction in one month.”
The cost of finishes like the tiles, roofing, paints is however still the same.
“We have exciting home package offers for our clients with Simba being our cheapest range. A normal two bedroomed house is at approximately Kshs 1.9 million for people who want a simple house.
“We will continue creating awareness and looking for support from stakeholders to break the perception barrier. Breaking the perception barrier is important for our desire to revolutionize housing. We plan to be here for a very long time. ”