Forget bricks and wood - a new building material is being used in Kenya to try and offer more affordable homes to a country where demand outstrips supply four-fold. Sonia Legg reports
A dream home in Nairobi is for many just that - a dream. But this one - complete with all mod cons - is considerably cheaper than most. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROPERTY DEVELOPER, CHARLES MUTURI SAYING: "If you construct using polystyrene you will realize cost savings. You will also be impacting the environment a lot less because you are using pre-manufactured panels, so all in all its good for your pocket and it's good for the environment." The material used for coffee cups is sandwiched between wire mesh, joined together and sprayed with cement. The trapped air bubbles inside the panels make climate control easier. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF FACTORY AT KOTO HOUSING KENYA, HUMPHREY OGUTU SAYING: "It is the same as any other building. You will not be able to see a panel house and distinguish it from a distance because as far as the looks is concerned, the paint is concerned, the cladding that you use is the same as when you are using a stone house." A standard two-bed home costs half that of a brick or timber one, partly because it's so easy to transport and use. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARCHITECT, ALEX NYAGAH SAYING: "When they see the EPL panel they think it is a weak membrane because they say... some of them actually consider it as paper because they say 'this is the one that we usually use to cover radios and TVs, how is it going to build my own house?' So it is all about education." Every year Kenya only manages to build a quarter of the 200,000 homes the country needs. The EPS panel factory - set up by the National Housing Corporation - hopes to help by rolling out 150,000 houses every year. But it has some convincing to do. There are worries about workmanship and how to recycle waste materials. There's also another problem - while the houses are cheaper they're still way too expensive for the majority of poor Kenyans.