In Kenya, Prefabricated Structural Insulated Panels are slowly gaining popularity within the construction industry.
These panels are mainly used as walls, floor and roof slabs.
The main components of these panels are styrofoam sandwiched in between wire mesh which is then plastered on both sides.
The cement-sand plaster is sprayed on to the panel using a spray gun.
Internationally, this is the way most countries are going in constructing of walls and slabs since the cost is lower.
For Kenya, cost of importation of the styrofoam and wire mesh pushes the panels to roughly same cost as using machine cut stones.
This means as long as machine cut stones remain at the current prices of between kes 50 to kes 60 per piece, this prefab method will be at equal cost with stone walling.
In the long run, as time goes by, the cost of stone will rise due to environmental degradation of quarry mine areas around Juja and depletion of suitable lands to mine stone . At this point, stone walling will be more expensive, paving way for more use of prefabricated wall panels in Kenya.
Structural-wise, these prefabricated panels are not designed to carry vertical load of storeyed construction. Use of Reinforced concrete beams, columns and slabs will still be utilised for load-bearing.
Architect Francis Gichuhi Kamau.