Lukenya University is constructing its buildings using the hydraform interlocking blocks, a technology that is less costly than the traditional building methods.
In a bid to minimize its construction cost, Lukenya University has started constructing its new building with hydra interlocking blocks. Most African countries are embracing the hydra block technology for the purpose of construction.
Due to their low cost construction process, the hydraform blocks have become very popular. It is estimated that only 30% of a structure constructed with then interlocking blocks would be made up of mortar.
Although there are several other materials that might be used to save on costs, hydraform blocks are probably the cheapest, and they are readily available.
Challenges in building universities and schools in Kenya
In the recent past, there has been an unprecedented demand for education as more and more students continue to seek university education every year. Unfortunately, the number of universities in the country cannot match with the number of students that are leaving high school every year. Building new universities or even expanding existing ones is exorbitantly costly. To address the high cost of expanding or constructing new universities, there are emerging methods which involve the use of low-cost building materials. Lukenya University located in Makueni County is leading the way in this front. Currently, with more than 400 students, the university has embraced green building techniques to align itself with nature.
Making Hydraform interlocking blocks
The hydraform interlocking blocks are made out of soil, cement and water. In order to form a high-quality interlocking block, the soil block is hydraulically compressed. The soil that comes from the building site can still be put to use to manufacture the building blocks.
Reducing building costs in Kenya using Hydraform interlocking blocks
According to Ms. Kasanga Sylvia, the director at Sycum Solution, the architectural firm designing Lukenya University, the hydraform interlocking blocks are very economical as they save plaster and mortar cost.
Ms. Kasanga says that while using these blocks, one does not need to use mortar to bond the blocks together. She explains that the blocks have groove joints and tongue that help to form interlocking masonry walls.
Another advantage of these hydraform blocks according to Ms. Kasanga is that they do not form big holes on the interlocking wall. This can prove advantageous especially when it comes to plastering the wall.
The hydra blocks, according to Mr. Kasanga have excellent thermal properties. Makueni being a hot area, they needed to use a material that they are sure would be able to withstand the weather changes in the region.
Unlike the use of burnt bricks, using hydraform interlocking bricks does not require cutting of trees. This, therefore, makes them environmentally friendly. Walls build with hydraform blocks have a beautiful appearance.
Impact of Lukenya University in Makeuni County
To the people of Makueni County, Lukenya University is considered to be a blessing. Not only has it brought University education closer to the local community, but Lukenya University has also been a source of great empowerment. Established back in 2015, the university is expected to be constructed in phases.
Ms. Kasanga explained that the University is an ongoing project and its construction would continue as the number of students continues to increase. She said that if things were to go as they had been planned, then the university would be fully fledged with several classes and office blocks.
She explains that “In the final stages of construction, Lukenya University will have a big modern library, a graduation square, an amphitheatre and a media centre among others…” having this developments, Ms Kasanga anticipates that the university will be in position to host more than 6000 students.
Since stabilized soil blocks have an interlocking nature, unskilled labor can be used in construction. This would, therefore, create jobs and empower rural communities. This is exactly what Lukenya University did to its surrounding communities. The construction of the University has benefitted many young people since they have been trained on how they can make and use the hydraform interlocking blocks.
In its bid to entirely go green, the university plans to harness sunlight in the region so as to produce electricity. In regards to this, the university’s management is in talks with an international solar company to strike a deal that would see the institution sourcing power from solar panels.
Challenges of building with stones in Makueni County
Although the design plan has totally embraced the use of soil blocks, it was however not the initial material for construction. Ms. Kasanga said that stones were the initial materials that were meant for construction. She explained that the move was however not sustainable and that it posed a number of challenges.
The biggest problem was the fact that there is no quarry in Kibwezi. Poor road infrastructure in the area was also identified as a challenge for using stones. According to Ms. Kasanga, there were literary no roads when construction of the institution began. Other than poor roads and lack of a query, the other main challenge was that the area did have any artisans. For the construction of the institution to happen, workers had to be imported from other regions to Kibwezi.
Compared to other materials used for construction, the one thing that stood out was the availability of soil blocks. Ms. Kasanga said that soil blocks were chosen after they had done an extensive study of other materials. Sylvia asserts that she does not think that there is anything else that can beat soil blocks in term of thermal properties and cost.
The institution has a hydraform machine that can make at least 1000 blocks every day.
Promoting the hydraform interlocking blocks in Kenya
The Kenyan government introduced hydraform machines as an initiative that was aimed to help its people to build affordable housing particularly that the country experiences a shortage of houses. Under this initiative, each county was given one or two hydraform machines. The initiative is however being used in rural areas as it is rare to see such a machine in urban areas.
In Kenya, the issue of affordable housing has for many years been controversial. With most of these houses going for more than Ksh 1 million, questions are raised on their affordability considering that most Kenyans do not earn more than Ksh30000 each month. But the hydraform interlocking blocks could change this if the county and national governments creates enough awareness to the public.