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Types and styles of construction in Kenya

As the construction industry embraces modern architecture and builders experiment with new styles and plans, there is a growing difference between the building types and styles used today and those built just a few decades ago.

Certain building styles are widespread in Kenya and are considered the de facto standard. As a result, most buildings have similar designs and shapes that contribute to the building’s limitations in terms of flexibility and ease of use.

Traditional building styles in Kenya

Until recently, buildings in Kenya have had common features in their construction that are determined by

  • Workforce skills
  • Accessibility and affordability of building materials.

Developers are beginning to work outside of their comfort zones to use varied building plans and building materials, resulting in innovative architectural forms and looks.

Buildings in rural Kenya

Temporary and semi-permanent structures

Building types and styles in rural Kenya are significantly influenced by the region and the traditional culture of the people living in a specific rural area. For example:

  • The Maasai and Samburu tribes build temporary huts called ‘Manyattas’ to match their pastoral lifestyle. These are made from branches tied with dried tree bark or rope to make thatched walls.
  • The Kalenjin tribe builds semi-permanent huts using branches and poles held together with nails. Mud or clay is plastered over the twigs to make the walls and floor, while the roof is made of tall grass or reeds.
  • The inhabitants of the coast, such as the Mijikenda, build houses with coconut leaves, popularly known as Makuti houses.
  • The Kikuyu, on the other hand, use wood for the walls and iron sheets for the roof.

standing structures

Temporary structures are dying and being replaced by permanent houses made of stone and mortar.

For those who cannot afford stones and mortar, bricks are made by mixing clay with sand, straw, stone, concrete, and lime, then shaped into blocks that are air-dried with a fire or dried in a kiln. Bricks are used for walls and floors.

Interestingly, bricks are finding their way into urban areas as developers look to build affordable housing for city dwellers.

The few permanent buildings in rural areas have similar styles due to the building materials used and the lack of sufficient skills on the part of the local workforce. Most of these houses have:

  • L, T, U and I shaped designs
  • Several bedrooms and a living room (living room)
  • Bathrooms and kitchens are often built in separate locations from the main house.

Commercial buildings are simply built as empty corridors without regard to design and style.

Traditional Building Styles and Types in Urban Kenya

The styles, designs, architecture and types of buildings in urban Kenya are more expressive and most were built with stones and mortar for walls, cement or tile floors and iron sheets or tiles for roofing.

1. Flats and apartments

They are the most common type of building among urban dwellers.

  • They accommodate a large number of tenants and are relatively affordable.
  • Less sophisticated in terms of design and style.
  • They range from single rooms, dorms, and one-bedroom stand-alone houses to two- and three-bedroom stand-alone houses.

It is rare to find apartments and flats with more than 3 bedrooms.

2. Duplex

With a more sophisticated design and based on the personal style of the owner, there is a growing demand for duplexes in Kenya to suit the growing middle class. As a result, companies are developing large-scale duplex projects in an attempt to capitalize on the new real estate market.

3. Cabins

  • Mostly built by upper middle class and class A and AB
  • Highly sophisticated in terms of design, style and type.

complex purchases

They are the most versatile in terms of design, type and space, and the materials used range from glass and metal to stone and mortar, plastic, brick and a combination of wood and stone, etc.

  • They include skyscrapers and apartment buildings.
  • Their layouts and use of space are determined by the function of the building, with shopping malls and entertainment venues being more open in terms of architecture and design.

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