Chinese construction giant China Wu Yi has injected Sh10 billion to set up an industrial park with a precast production base to supply local demand for the technology.
The firm has partnered with German’s Ebawe Anlagetechnik GmbH, a subsidiary of the Progress Group, for supply of precast concrete element production line.
Ebawe will develop custom-designed precast concrete components including roof slabs, beams, columns and wall panels. The global precast construction market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.10 per cent to Sh17.7 trillion globally by 2021, with Kenya among countries in Africa expected to record growth.
India is biggest market for precast technology. Growth of the industry is energised by a rise in urban population, increased industrialisation and large-scale investments in the industrial and infrastructure sectors.
Adoption of the technology in Kenya is also a significant departure from the conventional brick-and-mortar system, which is currently the façade of the domestic industry.
An increase in construction activities has fostered constructors’ inclination toward sustainable construction methods and techniques, creating opportunities for the precast construction market.
China Wu Yi Kenya deputy general manager Yihua Lin, says deployment of the technology in Kenya will bring down the cost of construction by 15 per cent. “Precast are affordable.
They will enable more Kenyans to build homes, especially given the housing deficit in the country against a growing population,” he said during a media tour of the facility at Athi River, Machakos county.
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Lin said installation and commissioning work will be completed by end of next month, with production of precast elements expected in July this year. “Our concrete production capacity will reach 50,000 cubic metres per year in July next year…it will be able to provide 500,000 to 600,000 square metres of precast building materials,” he said.
The company will then be able to complete a construction villa structure with a 500 square metres area in seven days, complete with all building features.
Kenya is undergoing rapid urbanisation, creating a huge demand for affordable housing which cannot be met through conventional construction, hence the modernisation of construction industry.
Precast technology is said to be versatile and suitable for all types of construction — be they highrise, lowrise, villas, commercial projects or parking lots.
The advantages in adopting this technology are structural stability, speedy and quality construction, flexibility, wastage control and less manpower requirement. It is a modular building system based on ready-made, factory-manufactured components and intelligent connections, which are installed.
Prefabricated (precast) also address concern developers have had trying to get skilled labourers as it cuts down on the need for large workforce. Buildings constructed using precast technologies are also more robust as construction is done in a controlled factory environment, environmental factors such as bad weather eliminated.
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According to the Project Vendor, when a house catches fire, collapsing roofs often pull the walls down into a building. “To avoid this problem, continuous panels — unlike masonry or concrete block walls — are firmly anchored into the ground in precast. As a result, they will not break apart. On the safety front too these buildings are at much more advantageous position.
The precast wall panels extend into a building’s footings, which helps these buildings cope with interior fire, water damage and accidental impact,” said Infrastructures director at Project Vendor, Kumar Bharat.
He likened the technology to construction of a vehicle where parts of the vehicle are assembled to create the final product. “In this technology, majority of structural components of buildings are standardised and produced in plants in a location away from the building site and then transported to the site for assembly,” he said.
The components are manufactured by industrial methods based on mass production in order to build a large number of buildings in a short time at low cost.
China Wu Yi has constructed Nairobi University Towers using similar technology. Another Chinese firm with a plant in Kitengela, Boleyn Magic Wall Panel Limited (BMWP), is producing precast concrete products.