Tiny living is becoming popular in developed countries. The ‘tiny homes’ are stylish, affordable and incorporate green energy. In Kenya, the tiny homes are being introduced and they have everything from a staircase, kitchen, bedroom and shower area.
Vincent Kitio, chief of Urban Energy Unit at United Nations Habitat, says the tiny house addresses the triple challenges of affordability, unavailability of space and high cost of electricity by its unique features.
Its first unique feature is its small footprint that addresses the lack of adequate space. The house is only 56 square meters wide, meaning it can comfortably fit in an eighth of an acre thereby conforming to the permitted ideal ground coverage of not more than 60 percent of the plot.
“Conventionally, most houses in urban areas tend to use an entire plot and in the process leaving no space for having green landscape,” says Mr Kitio.
It is also fitted with a rainwater harvesting system, which will soon be a mandatory for all houses in the city, to collect and store water. This will reduce water crisis that Nairobi is facing.
The house is environmentally-conscious as it comes with a renewable energy system through a solar system placed on the roof of the building and is able to generate 2 kilowatt of clean energy that is used for cooking, lighting and power any other home appliances.
It also has a biogas system that receives all wastes from the kitchen and the toilet in the house. The waste is treated in a biogas digester to provide the house with gas for cooking in a small kitchen and organic fertiliser for farming that can be practised through vertical farming incorporated on the wall of the building.
“The home solar system produces enough energy for cooking through a special stove called induction cooking stove, found in most supermarkets in town,” he said.
Another standout feature of the house is its design. The structure is designed along the East-West axis to minimise direct sun to reduce heat gain.
“It has natural lighting principle and so one does not need to have any air conditioning,” he explains.
On space management, the model house is designed to allow for flexibility meaning that one can decide to either go vertical or horizontal depending on space availability as the design does not limit expansion. Mr Kitio explains that all the spaces in the building have been optimised with the staircase providing storage spaces and a mobile bed.
‘It can host a family of five which is conventionally the average African family size. But its addresses wastage of space and unavailability of land,” he said.
A tiny house is entirely built from locally available materials to minimise cost of construction and reduce carbon footprint.
The laminboards used in the walls as well as the floor are made of recyclable and reusable Tetra Parks with low toxic emissions. On durability, the structure is made of steel which can last for 100 years if properly maintained.
He points out that despite all the unique features, the green building is within the affordability bracket of the government’s affordable housing agenda which stipulates that such houses should cost between Sh600,000 and Sh3 million. The house costs between Sh1.8 and Sh2.2 million.
“We have received more than 1,000 visitors who are interested in the design, more so property developers,” he said.
The prototype was showcased during the first UN Habitat Assembly in May.
How the biogas system works
Simon Musali of Amirant Kenya, a company in Nairobi’s Embakasi dealing with agricultural products, explains that the home biogas system works by turning organic waste generated from the house into gas for cooking as well as liquid organic fertiliser.
The waste is put through the system’s inlet and goes directly to the digester where it mixes with water. The waste is acted on by live bacteria contained in cow dung which is first fed into the system to produce gas and fertiliser. It needs to be direct to light which aids in the fermentation of the organic waste.
“One needs to have cow dung, water and sand to set up the system. The first feeding requires 200 kilogrammes of animal manure, 1,000 litres of water put in the digester which has a capacity to hold 1,200 litres of the mixture. It will then take a week to start generating the gas and from there on one will just be adding the organic waste,” explains Mr Musali.
He points out that there is a gas tank, a storage bag for the gas, which can store 700 litres of the gas. The sand is put in special sand bags measuring a kilo each to help in compressing the gas during cooking time to pressure it to flow through a pipe to the gadgets connected in the kitchen with the gas generated able to power the special induction cooking stove for between two and three hours non-stop.
“This system comes from Israel in parts which are then assembled together to make the machine. It costs Sh52,000 and can last for 15 years as it is UV treated and waterproof.”