From ‘Hot House’ to Cool Home

The primary motivator for Kwangu Kwako came through our Co-Founder, Simon, witnessing slum fires while working at Sanergy. However, in solving that issue, we also improved a number of other areas at the same time: security, feeling of permanence, improved self esteem and health.

We did not expect our homes to be cooler than the traditional and predominant mabati (metal sheet and bush pole) homes because our roofs are still made of metal sheets. Early in our journey, in focus group discussions  and in show house viewings (usually held during the peak of the afternoon sun) people commented on how cool our house really was. We realized that at that time of day, most people would not even be inside their mabati houses because they get so hot. These anecdotal views got us wondering about the exact difference between our homes and traditional homes.

So we asked Chris, our Product Design and Manufacturing Manager and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Fellow, to investigate. In his examination, Kwangu Kwako homes were found to be 15-20% (average of 5 degrees Celsius)  cooler than mabati structures during the day and stayed 5-7% degrees Celsius warmer at night. Kwangu Kwako  homes are also less likely to heat beyond 25 degrees Celsius. In fact, not only did we find that our homes remained cooler during the day, they protected better against variations in temperature overall – an implication that will be useful given the unpredictability of climate change. (Chris’s detailed research and methodology can be obtained by request from info@kwangukwako.com of via the blog section of the website www.kwangukwako.com).

The importance of this advantage was reinforced through a recent study*1 led by Johns Hopkins University which examined temperatures in informal settlements in Nairobi. The study*1 found discrepancies between temperatures in the Kenya Meteorological Department’s Headquarters in Dagoretti and sites in Kibera, Mathare and Mukuru slums. In the study, while the average high at the Dagoretti site was 25 °C, the other locations recorded an average of 28, 29 and 31 °C, respectively.

Causes of the discrepancy in temperature are attributable to density in housing and a lack of vegetation in slum areas, in addition to high population density. These conditions create a warmer micro-climate whose conditions are compounded by the growing impact of climate change and overpopulation – problems which are not going to be disappearing anytime in the future.

The study*1 also referenced previous epidemiology research*2 which found “....that heat is related to increased rates of mortality and morbidity in Nairobi’s informal settlements”. Especially among children younger than four and adults over 50. Quite simply, that level of heat can even make daily tasks like studying, cooking or cleaning aggravating, challenging and exhausting.

Though various organizations and agencies are working together to address slum conditions, overpopulation and climate change in the long term, Kwangu Kwako  homes present a solution to address the challenges right now. Why? Because our homes are literally cool!


1* Main study referenced = Scott AA, Misiani H, Okoth J, Jordan A, Gohlke J, Ouma G, et al. (2017) Temperature and heat in informal settlements in Nairobi. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187300. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0187300

2* Egondi T, Kyobutungi C, Kovats S, Muindi K, Ettarh R, RockloÈv J. Time-series  analysis of weather and mortality patterns in Nairobi's informal settlements. Glob Health Action. 2012; 5(19065):23±32. https://doi.org/10.3402/gha.v5i0.19065  PMID: 23195509

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