Retail Architecture: Construction: Real estate development: House Plans: Interior design: Landscaping:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Points to Check before buying a plot.

Points to Check before buying a plot.

1. Encumbrances. Check with the Ministry of Lands if there are any Caveats put on the plot.

2. Ascertain ownership.
Check with the Ministry of Lands who is the registered owner of the land. Its also prudent to check with the neighbors to get the physical appearance and current contacts of the owner.
In Kenya, there has been incidences where people steal the identity of the real land owner and sell to unsuspecting customers. By confirming the owner from the neighbors, this will reduce such a risk.

3. Ability to appreciate in Value.
Most land appreciates in value. The prospect of new infrastructure will play a big role in increasing the value of the land.
Currently, land in Juja, Thika, Kenya is appreciating very fast due to the construction of Thika road into a several-lane highway and construction of a by-pass on the behind side of Juja. There is also the fact that Wilson airport is planning to relocate to this area.
Land in Kitengela, Athi River and Syokimau is also appreciating very fast with the completion of Mombasa road Highway.

4. Check with the Meteorological department.
Check to see if the land sits on a wetland. Some land can be actually on a dried up seasonal river , lake or swamp. If you are not careful, once the rains start, the whole plot gets submerged or the building gets swept by the river floods.
Areas such as Runda and Membley estate, Thika road are prone to such plots. With a good structural design, the building can be raised with collumns to a level above the flood water level.

5. Check the soil type.
If you are planning to build a house, foundations with black cotton soil are more expensive since all the soil has to be excavated from the site. This is due to the fact that black cotton soil expands when it rains hence pushing the floor slab and foundation up. It then shrinks when it dries hence pulling the floor slab down.This expansion and contraction results in structural cracks.

If the black cotton soil is more than 1.5 meters deep, it becomes too expensive to excavate it. A good solution is to use the suspended foundation where collumns are sunk and footed at stable ground. The collumns are raised till just above ground level then the ground floor suspended on the columns. This reduces the excavation to only at the collumns.

Red soil is more stable so foundations can be laid on stable excavated ground 1.5 meters deep.

Areas with volcanic soils such as Nakuru will require a different type of foundation called a raft foundation for high-rise construction. Once the soil is excavated, a concrete slab is laid on the bottom and collumns emanate from there. This creates a very stable foundation to support the building.

Frank Gichuhi

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Ergonomic design for Furniture

Space needed for a piece of furniture is calculated from the design and shape of the furniture. The architect studies the piece of furniture, designs,how it will be placed inside the room and draws it in plan, and elevation.
Architects have studied ergonomics in detail so they easily know the average dimensions of a human being and the average dimensions of furniture.

For example, a working table is 900mm high. These dimensions have come up after architects have done a lot of research over hundreds of years and have come up with time-saver standards for most dimensions.

Different furniture has different space requirements. A lounge chair will require a different space from a working chair.

In a working chair, the person sitting on the chair will have to be mostly upright on his back as he performs the task on his desk. His desk will correspond with the chair and will be in the level of 900mm height which is the most comfortable for a person in the upright sitting position.

After in depth study of ergonomics, furniture is designed according to the uses.

The size varies slightly according to continents-Asians are much smaller than Europeans and Africans so their furniture is slightly smaller than ours her in Kenya.

Invite an architect to study your space requirements and the use of the furniture so that he can come up with the best egonomic and aesthetic design for your furniture requirements.
Design software such as ArchiCAD has an inbuilt furniture space calculator that has derived the information from the architectural ergonomic research.

Frank Gichuhi
Nairobi, Kenya.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can your furniture cause cancer?

Manufactured boards are boards made from wood products such as ply wood, chip board and Medium Desity Fibre[MDF] board.

They usually come in a standard size of 4 feet by 8 feet.

Due to the scarcity of wood products, MDF boards have become common and are a good replacement to plywood, chipboard and blockboard.

MD boards are made by glueing wood fibres under intense heat and pressure.

The strength of the board is measured by the screwing strength of the section in Newtons. The average screwing strength is around 750-1000N.

The glue used is fomaldehyde based .
Research shows that formaldehyde causes various side effects to humans.


This has resulted to the grading of MDF in terms of formaldehyde level, E0 being the lowest and E4 the highest. Most MDF boards on sale in Kenya and around the world contain EI and E2 formaldehyde levels .

MDF boards are sold with or without the laminate. The laminate can be on one side or both sides. The laminate is finished smooth to various natural wood finishes such as peach, oak, teak and mahogany.

The strength of the MDF is directly proportional to its thickness, density and internal glue bond.
Most MDF is manufactured in thickness of between 8 mm to 20mm. The mdf laminate skins are usually 2mm thick.

For furniture use which is not structural i.e does not support alot of weight such as wardrobe door, 12mm MDF both sides veneered is recommended. For Furniture that supports heavy weights such as tables, doors, 16 to 20mm MDF boards thicknesses are recommended. Once your architect has information of the design and preferred uses for the boards, he will be in a position to advise you accordingly.
The thickness is also important if the MDF board is going to be grooved. If a groove is to be engraved, MDF of 12 mm and above is recommended.

Frank Gichuhi
Nairobi, Kenya.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to build a small Apartment on your Backyard and the construction costs estimates

How do you build a small one room apartment to go in a backyard and what are the construction costs?


For the backyard, you can have your architect design the apartment space so that it fits within the backyard and conforms to the local authority requirements. If its in Nairobi, Kenya for example, it should conform to Nairobi city council building bye laws.
Your architect can advice on the best materials to use for the house. The house can be prefabricated in steel structure with SIP[structural insulated panel] infill or masonry walling. If is for rent, masonry walling is better since its long lasting and does not require regular maintenance. SIP steel structure has advantages in that its cheaper and faster to erect the house.

Online consultancy

You can email me the dimensions[length and width] of the backyard and a few digital images of the backyard. From here, i will design your apartment and email it to you or post it on www.prismafrica.blogspot.com for you to download.
Once you receive the house plans, you can then look for a builder near you to carry out the exact construction.
To add another extra room to your house, you will need to consult your architect to come up with house plans for the additional room. The additional room has to be planned such that it conforms to the local authority bye laws. In Nairobi, Kenya, it should conform to Nairobi city council bye laws.
You can email us the dimensions of the existing house, dimensions of the existing compound then we work on the design of the extension which we can post on our website www.prismafrica.blogspot.com for you to download.

Construction costs are estimated per square meter of built up area. The rate per square meter depends on the region that you intend to build. In Nairobi, Kenya for example, the rate is approximately KES 20,000 to 25,000 per square meter for a middle income class finish.
An average bedroom is 12m2 in area =12x20,000=KES 240,000-estimated cost of construction. Architect's fees is 6% of the cost of construction.
Contact us for any further information.

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How to repair Leaking and Flooding Basements

  1. Now that the El Nino rains are here with us in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, many basements will begin leaking and solutions for this must be taken into consideration. Invite your architect to have a look at the basement and recommend the best solution.

    You will require this chemical:ISONEM MD 27 (Semi-flexible waterproofing compound).

    It is a semi-flexible waterproofing compound containing cement and acrylic binders. This cement based compound provides a waterproof coating, and transforms concrete, brick, etc. surfaces into new surfaces. If you are in Kenya,Uganda, Tanzania,Rwanda, You can contact www.prismafrica.blogspot.com in Nairobi for advice and sale of this.
  2. Step 2
    Once its applied, it forms a semi-flexible layer and bridges the cracks.
    Its very useful for renovation of old surfaces on foundations and walls subject to sea water tanks, basements, damp locations, on places for which waterproofing and protection is desired against salt water, on concrete surfaces for protection against carbonization and chlorine, on concrete piers and screeds near sea .
  3. Step 3
    It forms a carbonization-resistant cover, withstands pressure up to 7 bars Exhibits perfect adhesion capabilities, is semi elastic, and unaffected by pedestrian traffic Breathes freely and is unaffected by carbon dioxide and chlorine ions, does not get affected by sunlight and UV Is ecological, has no adverse effects to human health

    Packaging : 25Kg craft bag (powder) + 5 Kg can (liquid) Consumption : 2 kg/m2

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to read Architectural Plans

  1. Once you receive the floor plan from your architect, you will see dimensions on the outer wall of the house plan. In Kenya, we use metric system whereby all dimensions are in milli meters. Other countries use dimensions in feet and inches. A very easy way to convert feet to millimeters is to use the conversion tool on your mobile phone or use a tape measure and check out the dimension in meters then turn the tape measure on the opposite side that is in feet and inches then check the corresponding dimension.

  2. Step 2

    The outer dimension shows the start and end of the building.
    The middle dimension shows the room sizes.
    The inner dimension shows the openings i.e doors and window sizes. The Local Authority in Kenya specifies how the architect should dimension the floor plans before submitting the plans to the council for approvals.

  3. Step 3

    Spot heights are dimensions showing the floor to ceiling height. They are usually shown on the architectural floor plan with a circle divided into 2 parts with a dimension next to it.

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How to design a House

  1. After installing archicad software, go to the wall tool on the left side of the screen.Click on the wall tool and pull the cursor to the required length of the wall. Continue with the process for all the other rooms. Remember that rooms that relate to each other should be net to each other such as the kitchen should be next to the dining room, the bathroom should be net to the bedrooms.

  2. Step 2

    once you are through with the floor plan, go to the SECTIONS tool. Click on the sections tool and pull the cursor along the outside wall pointing to the inside. Right click and click on the show section/elevation window. You will see the elevation/section of the house.

  3. Step 3

    click on the roof tool and place roof along the wall.
    Click on the 3d image tool and view the complete house. You can create an animation of the house by setting the cameras on the 3d image tool.