Izumi Sakata- a Japanese architect is promoting the construction of “infrastructure-free” homes for people in a Nairobi slum. According to him, “Kenya has ‘people power’ though it’s poor and seeds cultivated in Japan should bear a lot of fruit there.”
His aim is to build homes in areas lacking water supply, sewers, electricity and other infrastructure. A 12-unit apartment building is due to be completed early next year in a suburb of the Kenyan capital, the project’s first major achievement. “As building and maintaining gigantic infrastructure entails enormous costs, the mechanism the modern age has relied on is collapsing,” said Sakata, citing “network-type sewage systems” as a typical example of high-cost infrastructure. Sakata plans to create a “self-contained” home that converts human waste and kitchen garbage into manure, cleans rainwater and groundwater so it is drinkable, and generates electricity using recycled batteries.
The water-free toilet system, the first step toward Sakata’s goal, was developed by a Japanese housing equipment maker for the project. The system separates solid waste from urine and mixes kitchen garbage and sawdust with the former. The mixture is left for several months to ferment, by which time it has developed into high-quality manure because its temperature rises above 50 degrees, killing germs and worms.
Sakata joined the office of leading postwar architect Kunio Maekawa after attending graduate school at Kyoto University. Returning to Japan with a determination to utilize that power, Sakata launched Rainbow Project with Dick O’Lango, 36, a Kenyan architect, aimed at building infrastructure-free homes.
The new apartment building will accept slum residents who can save a certain amount of their daily earnings to pay 20 percent of the construction costs. There will be areas for making manure and growing produce on the premises. While residents will begin moving into the building in stages from early next year, Sakata, who visits Nairobi almost every month, is also planning to build infrastructure-free dwellings for 500 families from the slum within a few years.