Could you have told us a little over six years ago that container homes would one day stand shoulder to shoulder with the mainstream real estate we could have responded with three icy words, “in your dreams.” This is especially since even us we grew up in the conventional brick and mortar homes so it could be understood that that’s our best idea of a home.
Fast forward to December 2020 just when we were turning 18 months leading in acceleration of decent affordable alternative accommodation to Kenyans from all walks mostly in off grid setups using recycled shipping containers, we get a first of a kind inquiry that soon turns out to be a historical moment, one which has forever raised the bar in low cost hospitality solutions.
Our clients – an obviously well-traveled, well-informed young couple – disclose they have been following our journey online for some time and are in the market for a trendy off grid secret rendezvous to be used by the family as an escape from the noisy Nairobi during weekends or holidays at a serene location just an hour away from the city. The couple adds that they already have a permanent home in an upmarket Nairobi estate but they own an undeveloped land in the city outskirts, the proposed site.
We quickly get down to work analyzing the unique sets of requirements that would later form the scope of the proposed works beginning with the fact besides serenity, peace and calm the site lies within a 100% remote set up without a single power connection within 10 km radius, no water supply or even sewer systems neither are there any conditioned roads to or from the site. The terrain also has multiple contours that while offering scenic views of the surrounding abundant nature like the Nairobi National Park, pose a serious logistical nightmare for the delivery of the house once constructed.
The couple then tell us that since they haven’t completely decided whether they would have to develop a more permanent structure on the property in future or dispose it all together, they don’t think the conventional construction model of brick and mortar would be suitable at the moment. There’s also the fact the unit would only be used for temporary short stays requiring us to give it a functional feel but with a hybrid design where only one section – bathroom – is partitioned, the remaining spaces; kitchenet, lounge area and bedroom all remain open.
During a brief site reconnaissance with the client our technical support carefully notes the key highlights of the proposed works in particular clearing of access areas, the construction of longer-than-usual pillars on which to rest the house, construction of a biodigester, integration of domestic solar energy, drilling of a borehole, construction of a water tower as well as carrying out landscaping works.
The team also ascertains the project as viable after analyzing topography as well as gradient of the land setting the stage for our designers to come up with suitable layouts and BoQ then set project timelines. It’s agreed the project would take no more than 45 days from design, construction to delivery.
Works commence by around mid-Dec 2020, scope being 1no. recycled 40ft shipping container converted into an open spacious one-bedroom, a large sitting lounge, spacious open plan kitchen, wash basin and a partitioned washroom consisting a toilet and shower cubicle made out of sliding glass. All round are large French windows punctuated by a grand twin door for adequate natural light and cross ventilation.
All electrical supplies are to come from Green Planet, cabinetry from PG Bison a renown wooden boards manufacturer and our cabinets specialist for over five years, floor laminates are provided by Saj Ceramics a leading flooring solutions provider with close to 20 years’ experience serving real estate developments in Kenya and the region.
With Ngong hills as the proposed project site, a high altitude semi-rural setting with temperatures known to drop to as low as 5 degrees during cold months of May till August the risk of extreme cold weather-associated health complications cannot be underestimated. To avert the this, we incorporate best in class insulation technologies that would significantly impact the home environment to maintain the room temperature 365 days a year. This means the house would now be warm enough to keep occupants as comfortable as desired.
Exactly five weeks later we deliver the project in accordance with client specifications, on time and budget. It’s then that we learn the couple already changed their mind on the usage of the house fully opening it up to the public on an Airbnb basis and only using it occasionally. The idea is an instant hit with bookings lined up throughout February, March and April Easter holidays as social media is painted with now famous Red House.
Our reliable and dependable professionalism once again endear us to the couple, their friends, relatives as well as hundreds of curious onlookers who throng the site to witness innovation and disruption cut through the long-standing barriers to decent affordable alternative accommodation solutions right before their eyes.
The couple’s choice of cherry red exterior coating and white-framed window and door frames particularly play a pivotal role in placing the house and its ecstatic youthful owners on the world stage as true agents of change in the delivery of innovative and relevant solutions to the housing menace that has dogged the country for half a century. So much so that they recommend us for an interview with a leading media house.