Prefabricated housing in Kenya. 2014

Prefabricated housing in Kenya is gradually becoming more and more common as time goes by.


High rise buildings.

High rise commercial projects using Pre Engineered Steel structures are now coming up e.g opposite Nairobi Baptist Church next to City Mortuary, there is an upcoming building with the frame structure made of steel. Also, around Yaya in Hurlingham, there is a high rise structure with the supporting structure made of steel.

Most other high rise buildings in Nairobi are still using reinforced concrete for the structure. Reinforced concrete is concrete mixed with steel.


Pre engineered prefabricated buildings are mainly of a commercial nature.

The cost of pre engineered building frame is around kes 15,000 per m2, same as cost of reinforced concrete building. Commercial buildings have costs per m2 for complete buildings stretching all the way to es 60,000 per m2. This means that the structural component, whether pre engineered steel or reinforced concrete, is only 25% of the overall cost of construction. To make any significant savings, architectural design and  cost  engineering will need to be worked on for other building elements apart form supporting frame structure eg finishes, roof, windows, doors etc.


Residential Buildings.

In Kenya, there are wooden, concrete, form concrete and sandwich steel type of prefabricated buildings.


Wooden prefabs.

The Judiciary recently did prefabs using wood. University of Nairobi also has wooden prefab student accommodation.


Wooden prefab buildings cost around kes 25000 per m2, slightly more expensive than normal stone buildings which can be constructed for same quality at same price.

Foam concrete prefab.

These are cement based wall panels and cost around kes 1800 per m2,  more than the cost of stone walling with plaster which costs around kes 1500 per m2.

Steel sandwich panels.

These are mainly seen around the Chinese contractor offices where they are doing highways eg Thika road, Southern Bypass near Carnivore.

The cost of a house built using these steel sandwich  is same as cost of a stone house.

These are cheap and low costing their country of manufacture, eg China. The cost of import duty, freight and road transport to Nairobi makes them to be same cost as stone houses . In China, these cost around kes 8,000 per m2 for a house. When they reach Kenya, this cost goes to around kes 25,000 per m2, same as for a stone house.


Quality comparison.

Prefab buildings usually have lower quality compared to stone houses. Their ability to keep buildings warm or cold when the weather is harsh is less than for a stone building.

Their ability to give perceived security is less than for stone buildings since intruders can easily remove the panel form the outside.

The ability to readily find labor and replacement material is low compare to stone whereby each hardware shop readily has repairing materials and local fundis have the technical know-how.

Developers who have recently sold buildings constructed using prefab methods have of late had to deal with occupants pressuring them to give them solutions on how to carry out repairs since the technical know-how is scarce and materials not easily and locally available.

Labour costs.

Prefabricated buildings are usually an attempt to reduce labour costs in buildings. In developed countries, labour costs are high. In Australia , for instance, brick layers earn more than doctors. Prefabricated buildings in such countries will therefore bring the cost of construction down considerably.


In Kenya, the labour laws are not strict, hence construction labour is still low. A fundi is paid around kes 1000 per day to build a 15m2 wall, meaning cost per m2 for labour is kes 65. This is very low, hence most people preferring to use manual labour and construct with stone than using prefabricated materials. As the years progress and labour laws become strict, manual labour will become expensive and that’s when there will be a large switch to prefabrication as people look for cheaper ways to build their houses. Currently, labour costs are 20 to 30% of total building costs in Kenya.


In USA, labour costs are on average 50% of material costs.

With such high labour costs, it makes more sense to use prefab methods in USA than in  Kenya for now until labor costs increase considerably as they will in due time.

Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.

Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.

Arch. Francis Gichuhi Kamau. (337 Posts)

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


  7 comments for “Prefabricated housing in Kenya. 2014

  1. Patricia
    March 8, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Dear Eng. Francis,
    Good day!
    I am Patricia from Kirinyaga (Near Kerugoya). I am interested in a prefabricated housing unit of 8m x 5 m. Please furnish me with more details including the total cost of the unit.
    Thanking you in advance for your information.


  2. Frida Manyara
    September 26, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    I would like to know the cost of building a prefabricated house. Three bedrooms bungalow all ensuite.

  3. Reuben Kioko
    October 23, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Dear Mr Gichuhi,

    This is a nice analysis with pertinent observations.

    It has given me worthwhile insight and factors to consider in my future construction projects.

    Thank you!

  4. amos
    April 29, 2016 at 10:45 am

    hi i would like to construct a 3 bedroom fabricated house please send me an estimate cost thaks

  5. faith
    April 30, 2016 at 7:54 am

    hi i need a prefab house 2 bedroom. need to know the total cost

    May 25, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Dear Sir/Madame,
    We are pleased to present to you UPVC Windows from pioneers of PVC Profile
    Extrusion in India. We have been in the business of PVC Profile Extrusion
    Since 1979.

    We are an end to end manufacturer & Supplier of UPVC Windows.
    1) We design & manufacture the Window Profiles in India.
    2) We design & manufacture a lot of Hardware for these Windows.
    3) We fabricate the Windows using the Profiles & Hardware also at our
    4) We also install Windows all over India & Neighbouring Countries.
    For further details, samples, prices contact the undersigned or else you
    may drop us an email.
    We hope you will the product most interesting & favour us with your valued
    orders. We look forward to your valued orders & queries
    Best Regards,

  7. George
    March 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Dear Mr.Gichuhi,

    I have a plot 160×80 in Thika Rd and would like to build a 4 bedroom mastersuit bungalow with a huge living room and dining and an in built Garage using the prefab technology what are the estimates for the house and the plan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *