Slum residents to get better homes

Thursday February 4 2016

Mascon Construction Systems Ltd has announced

Mascon Construction Systems Ltd has announced it will construct 10,000 housing units each in the Mathare and Kibera  slums in Nairobi between July this year and June 2018. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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A Canadian company plans to build 20,000 low-cost apartment blocks for the slum residents of Mathare and Kibera.

Mascon Construction Systems Ltd has announced it will construct 10,000 housing units each in the Mathare and Kibera  slums in Nairobi between July this year and June 2018.

The projects will cost about Sh7.5 billion.

“Kenya has an urgent need for housing supply, especially at the undersupplied low-income level. Alternative building technologies have not yet been fully embraced, yet they are the best solution to catering for mass housing within a short time. Constructing using the traditional method takes a lot of time and ultimately becomes very expensive for the end user,” says Mr John Malone, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

His views are supported by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme’s  2013-2015 report on the country which says: “Kenya has an inadequate supply of affordable and decent housing. There is a low level of urban home ownership, at 16 per cent,

and extensive slums and squatter settlements. It is estimated that out of the 200,000 housing units required annually in urban areas, only 40,000 to 50,000 are produced. In the rural areas, it is estimated that there is a need to improve the quality of more than

300,000 housing units every year. The shortage of housing for low-income households is particularly acute in urban areas, with only about 6,000 units, or 20 per cent of all houses produced, catering for this group.”

Mascon Construction System uses cast-in-place (CIP) technology, in which concrete walls are made using ready-mix concrete, then placed into removable forms and erected on site.  The entire building is constructed on site.

The technology  uses reusable aluminum formwork that is fixed with highly organised construction scheduling procedures.

Developed in the late 1970s, the technology using aluminum forms hav been used in the construction of thousands of residential units for both low- and high-rise buildings, and has proved very successful in the construction of low-cost mass housing

projects in various parts of the world.

It is fast, simple, adaptable and very cost effective, says Mr Malone. “The company is currently concentrating its activities on constructing low-cost housing units in order to take advantage of the inherent efficiencies of load-bearing walls in cast-in-place technology for such construction.”

The technology results in concrete forms for the load-bearing wall that stay in place as a strong and permanent part of the wall assembly, thus very stable for low-cost, high-rise mass housing, says Mr Malone.


 “The technology is cost-effective and this makes it highly suitable for use in mass housing projects. The materials most often used, especially on load-bearing walls in large buildings are concrete, blocks, or bricks. The cast-in-place construction method

results in forming to come up with concrete slabs that eliminate the need for bricks, blocks or heavy plastering.

“Precision in fabricating the Mascon formwork results in accurate and consistent forming of concrete. The quality of the concrete finish is the same, regardless of whether the system is used for low-cost or luxury housing,” says Mr Malone. 

The complex forming is secured with simple pins and wedges, with the only tool required in the erection of the form work being a hammer.

The technology is fast,as one floor can be constructed in four days irrespective of the floor area,” says Mr Malone. “This method also results in cost cutting of between 20 to 40 per cent, compared with the conventional brick-and-mortar technique,” says Mr Chege Kinyanjui, Mascon Kenya’s representative.  Unlike some prefabricated and  pre-cast technology, the cast-in-place technology can withstand high-rise construction and provide structural integrity, especially for low-cost mass housing, and the architect can design intricate designs as per the request, Mr Malone esplains.

 All the concrete aspects that are used in the building, including the walls, floor slabs, columns, beams, stairs, window hoods, balconies and various decorative features are made exactly the way the architect designed them, so there is no need to make any alterations.

It also results in a 15.7 per cent cost saving on the structure of the building since, although more than 50 per cent more concrete is used and there is double the area of formwork needed for the load-bearing walls, this is offset by the reduction in the use of reinforcement steel, the absence of infill walls and the lower cost of finishes to the walls, says Mr Malone.


The foundation costs are also halved as there is no need for ground beams, he offers, adding that  the light aluminum panels can be easily erected by unskilled labour, so no cranes are required.

The technology also enables all concrete to be cast monolithically, thereby eliminating joints,” Mr Malone explains. 

With the technology, all concrete aspects of the building, including the walls, slabs and staircases are poured monolithically, so there are no joints, which carry the risk of leaking of water at the joints.

The result is a rigid, reinforced “box” structure, which is structurally durable and also resistant to meteorological and seismic conditions, adds Mr Malone.

Cast-in-place concrete also eliminates the need for handling and transportation associated with pre-cast concrete, since the panels are cast on site.

“We are planning for a gross floor area of 8,537 metres square, where we will build 500 blocks with five floors per block. Each floor will have eight units, and each block will have 40 units,” says Mr Kinyanjui.

“Each unit will cost less than Sh400,000, but will have  its own toilet, kitchen and balcony. We are liaising with the Kenyan government to look for a donation of land, which might be under public private partnership (PPP).

We are also looking at procuring the land within Mathare and Kibera to put up the units, which we can sell through a long-term mortgage facility through commercial lending institutions such as the Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity bank, the Co-operative Bank of Kenya, Housing Finance and Shelter Afrique,” says Mr Malone.

We are working on the modalities to ensure that  the cost of Sh400,000 will be payable within five to 10 years, and are negotiating with several financial institutions as well as the government to offer a competitive mortgage facility that will be very affordable to the people of Kibera and Mathare. “With assistance from the government and financial institutions, we can offer a unit for as little as Sh1,500 to Sh4,000 a month, for the slum residents to acquire a “livable” house with its own kitchen, toilet and balcony,” Mr Kinyanjui says.

The company also plans to liaise with local construction bodies such as the National Housing Corporation (NHC), the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), especially in Mavoko, where it plans to build 30,000 low-cost houses, and also with local universities to build student hostels. 

The technology has been used in  many in many Asian countries like Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand to build both low- and high-rise buildings, low-cost housing and five-star condominiums. 

The company also wants to build three-bedroom all en suite units in Temeke, in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.