light gauge steel


prefab eps house

* why is the use of pre-fab panels rising in kenya?

This is because with the onset of the internet and other faster methods of transmitting informtion, Kenyans can easily access information on new technologies faster.
This way, Kenyans who are budget-sensitive and need a faster method of construction can have their needs met.

Construction methods such as DIAMOND HOUSE technology that can reduce costs by 32% come in handy in solving housing issues in Kenya.

* what are the common ingridients to make these panels available locally?

There are several types of Panels:

Steel Structural Insulated Panels [SIP]. These arew imported from China.
See more detailed info on this here

Wooden Panels: These are manufactured by this company in Kenya

Cement fibre panels Structural Insulated Panels. These are made from a cloth-like board coated with cement plaster. This company manufactures them in Kenya

Reinforced concrete Panel. These were being manufactured by Ecohomes kenya

* could this be the soution to houising problems in kenya?

This is definitely a solution to the housing crisis. I have tried for several years to introduce Prefabricated Housing solutions to Kenya mainly through Steel SIP Panels.

The major problem is that the Steel SIP Panels are cheap to buy in China.
A 60m2 2 bedroomed house costs kes 600,000 to buy in China. Add 150,000 freight to Mombasa. From Mombasa is where the costs rise up tremendously.
There is import duty of 10% plus 16 % VAT plus 25% KEBS plus the transport from Mombasa to Nairobi by rail or road is expensive[KES 80,000 APPROX].

By the time the house reaches Nairobi, it costs approx. KES 1 million. A similar stone house will cost KES 1.1 Million using the average Nairobi rates of construction.

The savings is too minimal to deserve all this hustle hence people choose the traditional methods of construction.

For the locally manufactured panels[Wood and Cement board] the ingredients[wood and cement are already expensive here in Kenya].

This makes the total cost to be similar or slightly higher than using stones to build. The last time i inquired prices for the wooden and cement board prices [last year] the price was slightly higher than constructing using the normal traditional stone methods.


The government can zero-rate import duty and VAT and revive the Railway line.


Another drawback i have encountered in my attempts to introduce these is the fact that the security situation in the country is very bad. Potential customers fel psychologically unsafe in a house made of panels.
People want to live in stone houses with steel doors and windows.

As long as the security situation remains the same, people will shun panelized housing unless its situated in a gated community.

You can imagine building a panelized house in a suburb such as Kitengela. If things in Kenya penetrate steel windows, you can imagine how they can have a field day in panelized housing.

In Western countries where the security from violent robbery/break-ins is guaranteed, panelized housing s very common.

* on average,by what percentage does the use of these material lower the cost of construction?

Panelized housing can be compared to a low-to-middle class house. These are the kinds of houses found in Ruai, Juja e.t.c with no-frills-attached type of construction. These houses cost an average of KES 18000 per square meter to construct i.e an average 90m2 3 bedroomed house will cost KES 18000 X 90m2 floor area= KES 1.6 million.

The average panelized housing of such quality will cost approx. KES 1.4 Million using imported steel SIP panels and slightly higher[approx. 1.7 million} using wood or cement fibre board panels.

If transport [railway] is sorted out and VAT and import duty exempted, then we can look at a 50% reduction on the cost of construction using Steel SIP Panels.

For cement board panels, the main manufacturers of cement in Kenya-Bamburi, East African Portland and Athi River mining have one factor on common-La Farge -a French multinational as part of the shareholders.

The current global FOB price per ton of cement is around USD 70 [KES5600] per ton [Source:] .

A 50 kg bag will cost KES 280 in China. Add freight and import duty e.t.c .This will bring the cost to approximately KES 560 to get to Nairobi if the Government lowers import duty and revamps the railway system.

Currently, the average cement price per 50kg bag in Nairobi is KES 750.

Therefore, if the Government reduces import duty on cement and improves on the railway transport system, we can see cement prices dropping to international ranges of KES 500 per 50kg bag.

Once this is possible, the cement fibre board panelized housing prices should drop by the same margin of 30% from KES 1.7 Million to KES 1.1 Million for a 90m2 floor area sized 3 bed-roomed house..

* are there any quality issues rising from the use panels?

Steel SIP Panel manufacturers usually give an average of 10 years guarantee depending on the thickness of the steel panel and the location. Steel panels near the salty seas will rust faster hence lower longevity.

A stone house has a lifespan of 50 years if well-constructed and maintained and planning regulations remain the same.As the population increases, Local Authority planning regulations take effect and on average, after 50 years, there will be a need to re-plan the area again and re-build as appropriate hence the 50 year average.

Such is seen in areas such as Lavington and Hurlingham whereby the old colonial stone houses have been demolished to pave way for high-rise structures.

Structurally, the prefabricated buildings are designed to withstand the climatic conditions of their locations. In areas where the weather is severe such as the Southern part of U.S.A where there are hurricanes, the structural design is more reinforced to withstand this as specified and certified by the Local Authority during application for approval to construct.

* comparing to other countries, do you forsee a time when use of panels would surpass the use of the conventional stones and cement etc

Once issues such as transport[railway] ,Statutory fees[import Duty, VAT] and security are addressed, definitely the Prefabricated houses will be cheaper and safer to live in than the traditional stone houses.

Frank Gichuhi B.Arch. U.o.N M.A.A.K[A] Registered Architect.

Francis Gichuhi (692 Posts)

Architect Francis Gichuhi . B.Arch. University of Nairobi. Registered Architect, Kenya. Member, Architectural Association of Kenya. Contacts. email Telephone +254721410684



  1. Innocent Kwambai
    December 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Thank you for the informative article on SIPs.
    I am always keen in new development in construction and constructions technologies.
    Of interest is the SIP and other cost saving measures that may make housing affordable to the common man.
    I’ve just ventured into real estate with a long term objective of making housing affordable. I’m currently building hostels in Eld. and used hydraform brick making machine, which I made considerable saving on the walling part.
    Kindly advise on how we can reduce the usage of timber in building especially when doing the slaps.

  2. Nixon Manase
    December 30, 2010 at 5:56 am

    good work.

  3. Mr.Ambrose Muhu
    January 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

    could you please drop your contacts via the above email address.thanks in advance

  4. Grace Kamau
    May 2, 2011 at 5:59 am

    I would like to construct a renatal house in an up market area hopfully a pre fab. Your info left me feeling as if it is cheapper just to build a stone house. My budjet is 500,ooo.oo would it be possible to do a three bedroomed house?


  5. June 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I would like to know how much it would cost me to construct a four bedroom house.How can i contact you

    • frank
      August 8, 2011 at 5:26 am

      call me on 0721410684

    June 28, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I desperately want to own my own home. All the research I have done shows that I need to have a minimum of 1.8million to have a small home, even for the prefarbs.
    I want an open plan home to minimize on the cost still this seems to be beyond my reach.
    I will have to do piece work in bits to archive this with the high interests on loans but is it advisable and cost effective in the long run. PLEASE ADVICE

  7. frank
    June 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    @ Jacinta. A house at less than 1.8m is possible. Google for Haiti House plan by to find out more info on this. Also google for Swissknife house design by

    July 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

    1.What is the average cost of construction per square feet in for example mombasa.
    2. What percentage is the professional fees,developers’profit,interest on capital

  9. Enock Miyoro
    July 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

    How safe is it to construct a two floor house (maisonnete) with machine cut stones from Thika?

    • frank
      July 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      thika machine cut stones are ok. you should be careful to check that the individual stones are strong. A simple check is to lift the stone shoulder-high and throw it against another on the ground. If it splits, its weak. The weak stones are form the upper parts of a quarry so make sure your stones come from the deeper parts of the quarry.
      Also, stronger stones have some glitter on them.

  10. frank
    August 8, 2011 at 6:50 am

    @ Onguko. The cost of construction per square meter is roughly the same all over Kenya. The cost of labour slightly affects from region to region since in mombasa labour is cheap compared to nairobi.

  11. Grace
    October 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks for the information. I would like to construct a three bedroomed house-bungalow, big seating room,spacious kitchen, and three toilets and bathrooms in nairobi environs. How much would it cost.

  12. Esther Gitonga
    November 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I would like to know how much it would cost to construct a three bedroom using prefabricated matrial(bricks) in Nyeri and who can do the work for me.

  13. November 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

    hi frank, i would like to build a house at utawala. i had read your advert and some photos on daily nation last year December whereby a 3 bedrm massionate costs 2.6m inclusive of all costs. pliz clarify this for me becoz this is the amount am prepared with.

  14. November 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Hey frank, the house should be of medium cost. master ensuite, 3 bedrooms with a bathroom and a toilet, spacious kitchen with inbuilt cupboards, spacious living room and dinning, parking bay for 1 car. m prepared with 2.6m. pliz advice how the payment is done. is it in full or how?

  15. Daniel
    November 24, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Hi I would like kindly if possible tell me how much it would cost me to construct a four bed roomed Masonite using your materials here in Nairobi

  16. Andre Mungai
    January 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Very enlightening piece, I am doing initial research on costs, methods and options available for building house in rural area. Will look no further when the time to engage an architect comes, just a ‘small problem of raising the funds remains now’.

    April 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Frank,
    I love your piece on the prefab housing. would like to consult with you on the same, am looking at getting prefarably a 4 bedroom modern style type of house but I wouldn’t know which option to go for among the four kind of panels that you’ve mentioned. I dont want the traditional kind of houses, would like something classy yet cost effective and above all in less time.I dont mind taking risks considering how new the concept is here in Kenya is. Kindly advise.

  18. Shaz
    August 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Hey. Im looking at constructing a clssroom to a needy community would like advice on the same.

  19. allan
    October 31, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    whats the cost of building a 4 by 8 m room

  20. helen
    January 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Want a four bedroom all ensuite. How much

  21. Joann
    August 18, 2015 at 7:38 am

    Cost effective customised project planning solutions tailored to your needs in the resources , buildings and construction industries.

    September 1, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I wanted to know how i can continue constructing my two bedroomed house as i have run out of cash…..

  23. cate
    March 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

    thanks alot for the information.Have a 2 bedroom house which i would like to change to masionnate much would it cost en do you have the people to come and do the building?

    December 10, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Am interested in these but the out wall alone, his much would it cost?

  25. Franklin
    February 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I need a quotation for a library for a school of size 20ft by 40ft to be constructed at a school in Changamwe Mombasa.
    kindly reply with the quotation including the cost for the foundation.

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