The company manufactures precast concrete panels and fabricated metal components and uses them to build high-quality housing units
The idea of Kwangu Kwako was conceived as a result of a fire disaster that razed down about 200 houses made of iron sheets and timber in the Mukuru informal settlements sometime in 2015.
The co-founders, Simon Dixon and Winnie Gitau, thought about finding a better replacement for the iron sheet, mud, waste wood and timber buildings that were susceptible to fire. The design work began around October 2015 and took about three months to complete, and in January 2016, the co-founders managed to showcase their first model of the building.
The model was then presented to the public—mostly resident landlords and tenants of Mukuru—which accepted the idea paving the way to its eventual development, not only in Mukuru but also across major towns in Kenya. Today Kwangu Kwako is a registered and certified Kenyan company that focuses on manufacturing precast concrete panels and fabricated metal components and uses them to build high-quality housing units using off-set site modular solutions.
Rentals in Mukuru, like most informal settlements in Kenya, are made of poor quality, old iron sheets and timber. The dilapidated buildings are unsafe for human living as they expose the tenants to unfavorable weather conditions and insecurity, thus denying them privacy and dignity.
Through Kwangu Kwako, the co-founders have created an opportunity for Mukuru residents to own affordable, decent, dignified housing units that suit their social, cultural and economic standards. The company has also helped reduce the menace of unemployment, especially among the youth in Mukuru, as they employ locals to manufacture the materials and build the houses. This way, the project has changed the face of Mukuru without disrupting its social fabric. The company has done more than build houses; it has also given them incomes, thus uplifting their living standards.
The building technology that Kwangu Kwako uses has many advantages. Most importantly, the company uses precast panels built at a factory and then transported to the site. The precast panels are built using cement, sand, a curing agent and a metallic reinforcement, depending on what it is used for. For instance, steel reinforcement is used for the wall panels.
The company uses available spaces within the informal settlements adequately and optimally. The informal settlements are often overcrowded, with little space for a decent structure. The modular designs solve the land shortage problem by making the optimum use of the little available land, especially in informal settlements.
The construction cost is low since it uses precast panels, saving the client from additional water, cement, and sand costs. The precast panels are made locally by labour provided by locals, primarily unskilled locals. This means that most residents of the Mukuru informal settlements can afford houses even on meager incomes.
Kwangu Kwako project is sustainable and environmentally friendly. This is because the panels can be recycled and reused to build other houses in the exact location or elsewhere. This saves homeowners from the additional costs of buying new building materials, including panels, when they relocate or refurbish the Kwangu Kwako-built modular structures.
The technology used by Kwangu Kwako is compatible with other building technologies, old or new, which makes it versatile and adaptable to fit various client needs. Specifically, compatibility contributes to its affordability since one can opt to integrate Kwangu Kwako technology with other forms of buildings to reduce costs. The Kwangu Kwako bed-sitter goes for as low as Sh.250,000, while a one-bedroom house goes for less than Sh400,000.
The company has contributed to improving education by building spacious and well-ventilated classrooms that accommodate more than 300 pupils. Consequently, the company has reduced many health hazards to which pupils learning in mud, iron-sheets and timber classrooms are vulnerable.
Moreover, modular structures have significantly reduced theft cases, which is yet another serious challenge in most informal settlements as they are strong enough to deny thieves and intruders entry. This way, tenants and homeowners living in the structures can go about their businesses without worrying about the security of their property.
Kwangu Kwako offers numerous housing services, including site visits during which they view the available land and provide quotation estimates, recommendations on the suitable infrastructures to use, and address issues relating to getting approvals from relevant authorities, which may be problematic clients.
After the site visit, the Kwangu Kwako officials work with the ideas of the potential property to develop a design for the structure according to the client’s needs. To stay true to its affordability housing solution, Kwangu Kwako has a convenient installment plan to enable individuals who cannot afford the cost in one go to make payments in phases. The company can commence building after an initial fee of 50% of the total cost of the house is paid. At some point, as the construction work continues, often towards the completion of the project, the client can top up 40% and then settle the remaining 10% of the cost upon completion and during handing over of the building.
Kwangu Kwako Limited has built over 100 homes, over ten classrooms, shops, and offices and directly benefited over 900 people. It has also pumped at least $130,000 into the Kenyan economy, thus contributing to the improvement of living standards, education, economic growth, and the development of sustainable cities and communities.
Some of the structures Kwangu Kwako has completed include classrooms at Bensophil School, Kwang’ethe School, Somo Training Room, Sanergy Kinanie office, Kwangu Kwako Show House, and Strathmore Exhibition Shop. The company has built houses in Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu and Kisumu and other towns.
The company hopes to continue living up the affordable housing dream by supplying the market with quality, low-cost housing. It also plans to expand its niche to constructing two-storey building structures.
“Our long-term plan is to get a two-storey solution in the market. We want to remain cheaper, and provide low-cost housing build with precast. We don’t want to be anywhere near the stone. Our value proposition is using precast and other alternative materials to construct quality houses that are affordable. We want to offer an opportunity to the larger mass of the market that would have missed out on the chance to own their own homes,” Gitau says.
In June 2020, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) announced plans to commence upgrade of Lichota Airstrip in Migori County, at an estimated Ksh234million.
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