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  • Cecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Earth Architecture and Regenerative Landscaping


If you want to build a skyscraper, you definitely need to use cement. However, if you want to live modern while enjoying natural skyscrapers (also called mountains) then you can build using masonry clay and compressed soil.

A large part of successful eco-design is the ability to create an affordable yet architecturally appealing home or building. Interlocking compressed blocks allow for curved shapes that are difficult or very expensive to create with masonry blocks. The savings can go towards improving the esthetic design of building. 

As an example:

INTERLOCKING STABILIZED SOIL BLOCKS CONSTRUCTION COSTS SAVINGS IN KENYA (2011)

https://www.a4architect.com/2011/10/interlocking-stabilized-soil-blocks-construction-costs-savings-in-kenya/

If the masonry stone is replaced with interlocking stabilized soil block, this 49m2 house will cost KES 796,000, representing a savings of KES 57,000.

Going back to the basics (2018)

https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/dn2/Going-back-to-the-basics/957860-4296124-b7u7c6/index.html

Building rammed earth homes (2013)

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/mobile/amp/article/2000097088/building-rammed-earth-homes

You can sample what living in an earth home feels like by visiting the Kasigau Base Camp run by the Malewa Trust. With enough advance notice, you can participate in making compressed soil bricks. Building a community becomes more than just a construction activity, building a community turns into a learning activity about caring for the Earth and designing spaces with individual personality. 

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/mobile/amp/article/2000111105/the-sh25-building-blocks-making-home-ownership-a-reality

https://www.facebook.com/malewatrust.kenya

Makuti roofing is both visually appealing and climate friendly. One can sit inside a rooftop loft space at 2pm and feel perfectly cool with no fan or air-conditioning. Average lifespan of a well built makuti roof is 7 years before the need for repair. 

http://blog.wildlifeworks.com/2011/10/18/traditional-roofing-in-kenya/

The challenge to makuti roofs in modern times are the availability of labour and the refusal by insurance companies. 

http://buildinwatamu.com/index.php/our-services/category/makuti

However, if we are serious about increasing climate friendly buildings while simultaneously increasing jobs, thatched roofed earth homes can achieve both.

Fire retardant spray and the use of ceramics is one solution to the roof fire risk. Additional research can lead to more techniques. 

Examples:

UK

http://www.thatchco.com/thatchpg/fireprf.htm

South Africa 

https://buildingafrica.co.za/index.php/roofing/features/238-fire-proofing-a-thatched-roof

India

http://www.csir.res.in/ruralsectors/fire-retardant-thatch-roofing

Most importantly, the buildings can be built with materials that are grown in the community. Practicing Regenerative Landscaping and design. Instead of just trying to plant trees, regenerative design focuses on the study of indigenous vegetation. The goal is to design human landscapes in a way that enables the indigenous vegetation to regrow itself quickly. Even with limited rainfall, regrowth can occur within 5 years. 

https://permaculturenews.org/2016/09/30/regenerative-landscape-design-conceptual-design-80-hectare-site/

The question we need to ask ourselves, if we truly believe we that as humans we have superior intellect, can we develop regeneration benchmarks that are faster than 5 years while we are simultaneously making full use of a plot of land? 

Right now we have the basic concepts, elements and skills and we are practising in rural areas but this is not enough. Let us encourage the proliferation of communities of practice to see how we can fully integrate earth buildings and regenerative landscaping into the design of modern Kenyan cities. 

http://eartharchitecture.org/?cat=2


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