Flat-roofed houses, a coastal forte, are now found in Kenya’s mainland

The construction site in Ruai, where the construction company largely makes use of iBuild. PHOTO| BRIAN OKINDA

What you need to know:

  • The two contractors say they jointly have four other similar projects underway in Kamulu and Ruai, on the outskirts of Nairobi, indicating how investors are now embracing this model of house roof construction.

When Joshua Mogere was ready to build a house, he knew he wanted a roof that would be different from common ones he had seen when he was shopping around for a roof design.

He had in mind the kind of roofs popular in the coastal region, but was not sure if they were ideal for mainland Kenya, where he intended to construct his family home.

Flat-roofed houses, according to construction experts, have always been a preserve of the coastal region, where most of the house architecture is synonymous with the predominance of Arab culture.

According to Ephantus King’ori, one of the two directors of Abib Jaus, a construction company that specialises in designing and building flat-roofed houses, many of the coastal homeowners prefer flat roofs because they afford them a panoramic view, particularly that of the ocean, from the deck on top of their house.

When Mr Mogere approached Mr King’ori for advice on the roofing design, Mr King’ori presented the coastal roof design to him. As the name suggests, flat roofs tend to be even, with no pitch. They, however, have a slight pitch to allow for water run-off and drainage, controlling rainwater from pooling on the roof. This design is characteristic of Egyptian, Persian and Arabian architecture styles.


There may be no ocean breeze to enjoy in Kenya’s mainland, but with minimal modifications, flat roofs can be converted for other uses.

According to Duncan Ndung’u, also a property developer, the pitch of a flat roof should be gentle, a factor that allows the surface to be used as a terrace, a rooftop living room or lounge, patio, gazebo, or partly enclosed to create a penthouse or even a mini-garden. “Some investors add an additional waterproofing component and mount a swimming pool on top of their flat-roofed houses,” he adds.

Flat-roofed houses, says Mr King’ori, form the perfect setting for minimalism, modernity and an even avant-garde design. House cooling and heating systems, he adds, can be placed on the flat roofs, keeping them out of sight, while at the same time providing a conducive format for installing solar panels, for supplementing energy supply in the house, making the home more energy-efficient.


“This kind of roofing is also durable, does not require frequent replacing of worn-out or broken roofing tiles, needs no inordinate paintwork, is less predisposed to destruction by wind and saves on the cost of buying trusses, and the ceiling board,” notes Mr Ndung’u.

He adds that besides being burglarproof, the roof also tends to absorb heat and hence regulates the temperature intensity of the house, especially on hot days.

The symmetric geometries of a flat roof also make the home stand out, especially in settings where few or no people have similar architecturally designed buildings.

Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber, modified bitumen, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), and built-up roofing (BUR), are the widely used means of constructing flat roofs, with the BUR being the most common in the country, according to construction experts.

That said, despite being a great roofing idea, flat roofs have their downsides.

It is not ideal for places that receive a lot of rainfall throughout the year. This is because with time, depending on the quality of the material used, the roof can get saturated, leading to leakages. This drawback, Mr King’ori says, can be overcome by investing in high-quality building materials.


Mr King’ori used iBuild, an online construction platform to source for experts to work in his projects.

“When building such houses, professionalism is key and there is no room for mistakes in the course of the construction process, so one must engage tried and tested workers. IBuild being a construction company registered by the National Construction Authority, I promptly received offers from construction workers the moment I posted my forthcoming project on the platform. I found the people I was looking for, vetted them, and ended up with those who fitted the bill,” he says.


The two contractors say they jointly have four other similar projects underway in Kamulu and Ruai, on the outskirts of Nairobi, indicating how investors are now embracing this model of house roof construction.

“We also manage these sites through the iBuild platform, and do not necessarily have to be at a particular site, for the job to be going on,” Mr Ndung’u says, adding that the platform has eased their construction process, since they are now able to easily find construction jobs, hire the workers they need, monitor the progress of the construction and receive payments for the job levels and milestones they complete.