In Nairobi’s Spring Valley, a developer has built smart homes that are ideal in the post-Covid future. In these homes, there is no need to keep touching nobs of appliances, cutting out the possibility of transferring the coronavirus and germs from one location to another or hiring a security officer to man the gate.
Bonke Omwayi, the managing director of Step-Villas Real Estate Consultants, a developer of smart homes in Kenya says the houses are similar to conventional homes only that they have some added digital features which make them more convenient to live in as one can shut windows, doors, and gates remotely using a smart device.
In a smart house, a software is embedded in windows, curtains, doors, CCTV or air heating devices.
This is then connected to smartphones, laptops, or iPad, and the internet, which provides a link between the access devices and home applications.
Bonke says smart homes could not have come at a better time as Covid-19 forces people to keep safe distances as well as minimise contacts.
In smart homes, one may do away with house helps, gatekeepers, and even pet handlers, Bonke says.
“One of the main advantages of a smart home concept is that it allows one to control home from a distance irrespective of the location. So, for instance, one does not require a physical guard,” he adds.
Diana Gachuhi, a director of Signature Africa Property Consult, says that although most buildings in Kenya are not smart ready, using technology can help relay data through motion sensors, access cards, and monitors.
“In some buildings, the management cannot tell how many people have accessed the building in a day,” she says.
Bonke says the demand for Spring Valley units and Alinah Villas is slowly rising and soon such homes will be a commonplace, especially as staying at home makes people desire better spaces.
However, Diana says not many developers and home buyers appreciate the use of technology. She is optimistic that the concept will be adopted faster in cities like Nairobi and Mombasa where Internet connectivity has deepened.
“Kenyans adapt fast to global trends. If they see something that works in one building, they will embrace it. Creating this awareness of smart building technology is very crucial and then demand will pick up,” says Diana.
On the flip side though, smart homes are costly to build and require specially trained skilled manpower to install the various smart devices in the home, availability of internet facilities as well as software developers involved also adding to the costs.
Peter Karuga, a business development manager at VAAL Real Estate, says that affordability of such homes will suppress take up as not many Kenyans can afford to buy a fully furnished smart home that costs Sh200 million per unit.
“The demand is there but the uptake and affordability are what hinders its development. One has to have reliable power, Internet connectivity while maintenance of the same is also a cost to the homeowners,” says Peter.