BY WANDA SYNERGY

Urban legends are in every sector of our lives and construction is one sector with the most interesting myths and tales.

Most are from misinformation from the wrong sources but mostly are enshrined in our minds because it is natural for homo sapiens to resist change or change a mindset.

So today, we are here to disturb your peace. This will be a little uncomfortable, but worth your while when building a house:

Building a house to save on rent.

This is a an emotional statement and not an economical fact. When building a house because you want to build your house. Build your house because you want that comfort of knowing your residence is your property.

Economically speaking, a house is a liability. It does not give you money. You give it money.

Another scenario, take for example a small family renting a 3 bedroom flat in a ‘not so far’ suburb 60-90 minute return journey to and from the workplace at 30k per month.

The family decides to buy a plot for 1M and use 7M to finish construction. Their new place is now a 4-6 hour return journey to and from the workplace, leaving more room for mpango wa kando as one can always use the excuse of long commuting hours.

If they get tired of commute time and were to try and rent the residence, they would probably get half the rent they were paying in an apartment, leaving them in a bigger dialema. The better economic decision would be to build smaller letting units with the 8M (7+1) and from our research, semi-formal settlements yield 1% per month of the initial investment.

A standalone house in distant suburbs yield 0.3-0.5%. Smaller lettable units also have a superior occupancy rate of above 95% making one more ‘bankable’/ ‘loanable’ since one’s cashflow has a more solid base. Building a house is putting eggs in one basket. Build your house because it fulfils a need that is in the lower pyramid of needs (based on Marslow) and for capital gains.

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Let us have large windows to save on costs.

As said before, windows cost at least 4 times the cost of masonry. Generally, in construction, if you want to know the cost of a material or technique, see the trends in what percentage of construction projects are using it.

Most buildings in Kenya have small windows because the developer is ‘saving’ on costs. When you make windows smaller you are not saving, you are just settling for smaller windows. Our solution; create modest spaces (that will entail making your house smaller), but incorporate larger windows.

Bungalows are cheaper than storeyed structures.

This is not always the case. Bungalows have larger plinths of foundations and more roofing and ceiling material. They also ‘consume’ more land and when using high end roofing, can get very expensive.

Where you have pile foundations (used when you have deep cotton/unstable soils beyond a certain depth), it is very expensive to have a bungalow.

Flat roofs are expensive.

A flat roof is made by reinforced concrete (concrete + steel). This is held by formwork and needs meticulous water proofing which at a gross value is more expensive than medium to low end mabati roofing. However, there are other scenarios that make flat roofs cheaper.

Land is getting scarce and you find lots of land that are small as 40×60.

This basically leaves one with no space to landscape. However, with a flat roof, one can make the top as a garden and this will be a form of reclamation of land. In most places in the Nairobi, Mombasa metropolis, flat roofs are not only cheaper, they have a negative cost (they put money back into your pocket). With high end roofing products for pitched roofs, we have observed no difference in cost.

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I will use my own trees, I can get cement cheaper than everyone else, I will use my truck:

Opportunity cost is the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. When you use your own trees, you could have sold timber at a high price etc. Factor in that as a cost. Construction cost, unlike complex concepts like love, is a very simple quantifiable equation.

Stones are cheap at our place so we can cut half the cost, ISSB cuts construction cost by 40%, I will use EPS panels to save on costs etc.

These are the average costs of walling (excluding plaster) we have observed in the last 12months. The figure consists of costs of materials and labour.
-Ndarugo high quality 1800-2200 per sq metre
-Zero joint Isinya/Gilgil/Naivasha Yellow 2000-3500
-Zero joint Nairobi blue 2700-4000
-ISSB 1300-1600
-EPS 2300-2950
-Concrete panels 2300-2950
-Bricks 2900-5700
-strawbale 1600-2600

That said, we have observed in Buildings (specifically residential), walling as a component of construction cost, ranges from 7%-12% of the total construction cost. Basically, saving on walling is a very small fraction and may not adequately make the drastic reductions of cost propagated by Marketers of alternative technologies.

Consultants are expensive.

This lie is propagated by quacks, but it is human to take a short cut to save on cost. Whereas many will use less money, always remember that construction cost is an equation. You will most definitely get what you have paid for, you will not have cut on costs.

We must put a key on paint for the wall to be stable.

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Keys were en vogue in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the same way we would partake of a mirinda , pepsi or coke during weddings and wash down a soda from the sides of our mouths. It was the rage then, it doesn’t need to be now. Explore many masonry joints. The internet is full of them.

High pitched roofs are more beautiful than low pitched roofs.

We emphasise that one should have little emphasis on roofs. We all see intricate roofs on the internet and whereas some may look good, most contractors lack the expertise but most often the developer lacks the budget/ is unwilling to pay to indulge in such indulgences.

The beauty of a roof is in simplicity, straight lines and good workmanship. Harmony. When you go to your architect, describe your roof, but it should not be at the priority of your list.

If it is, you will miss out on so many other opportunities and possibilities that will be constrained. (PS From our experience of late, avoid attics too.

Unless you are constructing at the apex of mount Kilimanjaro where it snows, you really, technically do not need a high pitched roof).

Finally, we have heard your cry and our good client has allowed us to showcase her design.

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