Demystifying Myths about Imported vs Local Construction materials.
Local construction materials have over time proven to be more superior to imported materials. Most of the old bungalows in Upper Hill and Kilimani in Nairobi City were built 60 to 70 years ago by the colonial government. They have stood the test of time without any visible sighs of cracks and other failures.
This is so because most of the materials used in their construction is local.
These old houses have utilized hand dressed masonry stone walling. Use of steel reinforced concrete above the door and window openings is very minimal. This is replaced by arched masonry and long cantilevered masonry stones.
The exteriors have been finished through manual chiseling of the exterior stones into various patterns. This requires little or no maintenance as opposed to the new exterior imported materials such as cement and polymer based wall coatings.
A good example is Maki apartments along Ngong road. They have utilized natural clay bricks as the external finish. Over the years, the beauty and style has stood the test of time and has not faded.
Most of these old houses have used clay roof tiles. These are locally manufactured. They get better and better with age. They don’t fade and their rain water can be harvested for human consumption. Currently , clay tiles cost kes 600 per m2. The stone coated steel tiles cost kes 2000 per m2. These tiles contain lead based paint which fades over time. Their rain water cannot be consumed by humans due to the chance of lead chips poisoning . Stone coating is a factory imitation of clay roof. Stone coated roof tiles cost 3 times more than the real thing. These are imported while clay roofs are local. Due to the hype in marketing, people tend to buy the expensive tiles not knowing that there are other options which are more superior and much cheaper.
A good example is the elegant Ngong racecourse Nairobi Business Park. Notice the use of clay roof tiles which get better with age.
Other locally produced roof materials are slate stones. Though it’s not common to see people using slate stone/Mazeras as roof, these usually make very aesthetically appealing roofs at a fraction of the cost of stone coated steel roofing tiles.
Wardrobes and cabinets.
Locally produced block boards do not contain formaldehyde, a compound contained in the glue that is used in manufacture of MDF boards. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
The locally manufactured block board lasts longer and can endure moisture far much better than the imported MDF boards.
Locally produced clay and concrete floor tiles are cheaper, longer lasting and more stylish than the imported ceramic tiles.
Most classy joints in Nairobi such as the Savannah coffee house along Loita Street have utilized locally produced Mazeras tiles to come up with a very stylish floor finish. Such a floor finish costs less and looks far much better than imported floor finishes such as HDF wood plastic floors .
Kenyans should embrace locally produced material and use creativity to try out different combinations and patterns . Locally produced materials outlast the imported ones and cost less. They also help in creating employment and reducing capital flight.
Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.