The first thing that strikes a first-time visitor to Sandalwood Waterfront in Karen is the cool, fresh air.
Soon, other things start fighting for attention: the gigantic well-guarded gates and the tiled footpaths that usher one into a picturesque landscape on which sit a dozen lovely houses.
The most outstanding features on the 28-acres, however, are the three artificial lakes.
Estate Manager Moses Odwori says the housing complex has successfully adopted a rainwater harvesting technology.
The corrugated iron sheet roofing is designed to allow easy flow of rainwater to the gutters.
Drains in the estate have been strategically placed to ensure water flowing from the gutters and run-off from nearby roads finds its way into the lake.
Attractive wooden bridges link homes across the water.
“The greatest challenge the architects faced while designing the complex was the slope. They came up with the water front idea, initially meant to counter the anticipated drainage hitch,” said Odwori.
The architects brought soil from elsewhere which they used to raise the ground level a few metres above the artificial lakes, actually dams.
The lakes were soon transformed into a source of water for irrigating grass, flowers and kitchen gardens.
“The landscape is irrigated at 1am every day. The irrigation pump is automatic and is usually operated at the switch board,” he said.
Each of the three water features is divided into chambers resembling dams, which hold the water in place so it does not break the banks.
Water in the 1.2 metre-deep lakes is circulated by pumping to preserve the life in them. Odwori explained that fish in the lakes are useful because they eat mosquitoes and their eggs.
“Residents here do not face the mosquito menace that is common in other neighbourhoods,” he said.
All the five-bedroomed houses have big windows that let in natural light and face one of the three lakes, thus the name Sandalwood Waterfront.
Sewerage treatment is also done ‘in-house’. Karen neighbourhood faces a major sewerage connection problem which Odwori links to its initial swampy nature.