Meet the Firm that provides affordable building solutions using sustainable and renewable materials. Its leader says that green technology can help provide low cost houses to majority of Kenyans in a short period of time.
More than ever before, African countries are facing an enormous challenge of housing their citizens. The situation has been worsened by increasing rural-urban migration in majority of these countries.
A World Bank report of 2013 shows that Urbanization in Africa has largely been translated into rising slum establishments, increasing poverty and inequality.
In a bid to curb the ever mushrooming slums and informal sectors in African, governments and housing stakeholders have suggested the adoption of green technology to build more affordable and suitable houses.
Some organizations have ventured into Alternative Building Technology (ABT) in a bid to offer a more sustainable solution for this burning issue. However, really achieving affordable housing for all in Africa has proved to be a hard nut to crack for many housing stakeholders.
But there is a ray of hope. Richard China President and Chief Executive of International Green Structures (IGS) says that although the housing problem in Africa is acute, the situation is not doom and gloom.
Entry into the Kenyan market
China, who recently addressed a summit in Nairobi on affordable housing in East Africa, says that his company-IGS, seeks to offer affordable houses to people especially in rural areas. In 2014, the company announced its entrance into the Kenyan market with a 527 million investment. But why did IGS decide to venture into Africa particularly to Kenya?
China shares that affordable housing in Kenya is getting worse and there is need to urgently address the issue.
“If you take a drive in several major highways in Nairobi,” says China, “you will notice an array of expensive houses targeting high end buyers”
With low uptake of mortgage in Kenya, the serial entrepreneur foresees a situation where people at the bottom of the economic pyramid are unable to own a house.
International Green Structures is a US based innovation company that leverages on technology to offer cheap houses in a short period of time. The company began constructing several houses in the US but decided to venture into Africa after realizing a dire need of affordable housing on the continent.
Asked how IGS is able to construct cheap houses and in a very short period of time, China responds:
“We convert agricultural residue into durable panels and pair it with our pre-engineered framing system,”
“Our environmentally-sustainable structures can be easily transported from a manufacturing facility and assembled into a house in a matter of days using local labour.”
China says that it is this ability to build a house using IGS materials in 30 days for instance that can enable production of houses en masse. For example, a 50 square metres 2 bedroom house can be completed in 30 days at a cost of approximately Ksh1.3m (USD 12,300).
IGS building material meet national and international building codes and are KEBS certified.
In Kenya, IGS intends to work with wheat and rice farmers in Eldoret. IGS will buy wheat and rice wastes from farmers and use the same to construct affordable houses in the area.
The straw from wheat and rice are up cycled into a Compressed Agricultural Fiber (CAF) Panel. The innovative manufacturing process creates rigid, thermo-set panels whose durability equals or even exceeds brick and mortar. CAF Panels are also incredibly energy efficient with natural thermal and sound attenuating properties. Additionally the material is also fire, water, mold and pest resistant.
Boosting rural economies
It is a green innovation that stands out. Apart from constructing affordable houses, the company prides itself in boosting rural economies.
“We economically empower farmers in rural areas by buying agricultural residues from them,” reveals China.
Keen to avoid repeating mistakes done by players in affordable housing sector, IGS is erecting a state of the art factory in Thika that will be used to process agricultural wastes into building materials. The first phase of the manufacturing facility will cost US$6.2m. However, when complete, the factory will have cost US$14m to construct.
IGS move to construct the first factory in Kenya makes it the first company offering affordable building solutions using sustainable and renewable materials to do so. It is expected that IGS will create jobs to thousands of youths especially when mass production of houses commences.
China notes that part of the reason why Alternative Building Technology has not gained traction across Africa is because the material is imported. After the factory’s construction concludes, IGS hopes to begin mass production of affordable housing in the country, a move that its CEO believes will help tackle the issue of inadequate housing in Kenya and East Africa in general.
Owing to its eco-friendly and economical processes, IGS housing innovation is quickly gaining momentum in Africa and beyond. Vanuatu housing project
In August this year, IGS started building 2000 affordable houses in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam devastated the Pacific Island Chain in March 2015 leaving residents without adequate power, housing, food and water.
The project received a nod from Vanuatu National Housing Corporation after IGS emerged as the only green oriented company that could produce several houses urgently required by residents and at affordable costs.
It is a housing model that can be adopted where there is need for rapid response shelters. For instance, areas that have been hit by hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters can benefit greatly from IGS housing model.
Apart from Kenya and Vanuatu, IGS is also involved in the construction of several houses in Guatemala, Rwanda, Nigeria and Uganda. `
In Kenya, IGS has already showcased what affordable housing can be like. The company constructed 46 m², 2 bedroom house in Industrial area at the Ministry of Public Works premises. Satisfied with the building technology, the government gave IGS green light to venture into the Kenyan market.
IGS solar plans
China says IGS’s ultimate goal is to ensure that houses built by the company are also power sufficient. In this regard, the company has come up with IGS Solar, a model that will connect houses to power tapped from the sun.
“No country can develop or industrialize without sufficient power supply,” notes China
In Africa, China observes, solar power will never fail considering that most countries in the continent receive constant sunlight throughout the year. In a bid to keep up with the spirit of providing water to people, IGS plans to recycle water in their building plan that can be reused.
IGS also intends to partner with sustainable agriculture stakeholders to enable farming in IGS building plan.
“We may not be a complete solution to affordable housing in Africa, but we hope that our efforts will help tackle the issue and consequently receive the support it requires,” China concludes.