There are 47 million Kenyans. On average, four to five of these Kenyans live together as a family, meaning Kenya needs to have approximately 10 million decent houses to accommodate everyone. However, the number of decent houses in the country are roughly 7 million (including the rural semi-permanent, mud and grass thatched structures), creating a deficit of 3 million houses that needs to be constructed. After these 3 million houses are constructed, the country will still need to erect about 2 million new houses per year so as to accommodate the ever growing population. It is this realization that pushed President Uhuru Kenyatta to include housing in its Big 4 Agenda, where he intended to construct 1 million houses by 2022, but later halved the figure in the face of limited resources. Hold onto that for a moment.
The outbreak of Coronavirus in China has brought to the forefront the ability of humans to construct buildings in hours; where an hospital that was scheduled to be built to completion by May 2020 was rushed into completion in a record 24 hours – and the hospital is a gigantic 1000 beds capacity. The hospital in Wuhan city which is the epicentre of the coronavirus saw 500 workers, electricians and police working around the clock to transform an empty building into a working hospital complete with running water, electricity and the Internet within the same 48 hours. Actually after the 48 hours, coronavirus patients were already being admitted for treatment.
This groundbreaking achievement led people to also read the news about an office building in Dubai that was constructed in a record 48 hours. The difference between the Dubai building and the hospital in China is the 3D printing technology – where a house is constructed from grounds up using a massive 3D printer. The 3D printer that was used to print the office building in Dubai for instance was of the size of 6 metres in height, 36 metres in length and 12 metres in width.
A 3D printed office building takes us the story of 3D printed houses currently ongoing in Mexico, where according to News reports published in mid 2019, an entire 3D printed neighbrohood was to be constructed in 24 hours. The news reports read something like this, “Somewhere in Latin America, a small community of 50 farmers and weavers will be getting new, 3D-printed homes. They’ll be built in a 24-hour period by the San Francisco-based design firm Fuseproject, which is working in conjunction with the housing non-profit New Story and ICON, a construction technologies company”.
Going back to China, the country has mastered a technology already being tested in Kajiado County, Kitengela, where a whole story building can be built in record days. With that technology, an entire city can be constructed in one year. Instead of 3D Printing, the Chinese fabricate parts of the building in a factory, then “from there the modules—complete with preinstalled ducts and plumbing for electricity, water, and other infrastructure—are shipped to the site and assembled like Legos.” Wired highlighted the story of the man who came up with the technology in the article, Meet the Man Who Built a 30-Story Building in 15 Days.
With these modern trends of construction already a reality, President Uhuru needed not to halve his initial promise of 1 million houses in 5 years, but instead he could have doubled them. What the President ought to have done is to identify an area either in Eastern or North Eastern region, have either Icon or the Chinese construct an entire city meant for 5 million people (1 million houses), then figure out who to move to that city. Preferably, this city would replace Nairobi as the Commercial City – so that Nairobi remains solely an Administrative city. Then with technologies such as 3D printed houses gaining ground, ensuring erection of 200 thousand new houses every year wouldn’t be a problem.
So yes, Uhuru can deliver his promised 1 million houses by the end of 2020, but is he willing to embrace the new technologies?