12/01/2014, 00.00
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Izumi Sakata, a Japanese architect who builds affordable housing for the poor in Nairobi

The architect, 59, will soon inaugurate a new residential building in a suburb of the Kenyan capital. The complex will not be connected to the water supply or power grid because its units will be self-contained, recycling waste and generating their own electricity.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Izumi Sakata's dream is to build infrastructure-free homes that would convert human waste and kitchen garbage into manure and generate electricity using the sun and the wind.

The starting point for the 59-year-old Japanese architect is a 12-unit residential building in a suburb of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. For him, "Seeds cultivated in Japan should bear a lot of fruit" in Africa.

The complex, which is due to be completed early next year, will be unconnected to the water supply and sewage system. Its units will cover each a 22-square-metre area incorporating a kitchen as well as a bathroom with a water-free toilet system.

"As building and maintaining gigantic infrastructure entail enormous costs, the mechanism the modern age has relied on is collapsing," Sakata said. This is especially true at present as the human population and megacities expand. Hence, a different concept was needed for sustainable housing at a reduced cost.

The first step toward Sakata's goal came when a Japanese housing equipment maker developed a water-free toilet system. The latter separates solid waste from urine and mixes kitchen garbage and sawdust with the former. The mixture ferments for several months before turning into high-quality manure.

Such self-contained homes also contain a tank that cleans rainwater and groundwater to make it drinkable. Power will be generated by using wind rechargeable batteries.

Sakata explained that the new building would not be unreasonably expensive. Residents will be able to save their income over a five-year period to pay for a fifth of the overall costs.

Mary Adhiambo, a 51-year-old homemaker, is waiting to be one of the first residents. In accordance with Sakata's request, as a token of residents' commitment and good will, she will pay 20 per cent of construction costs, for which she has been saving for the past 15 years, ever since the prospect of a "real" home emerged.

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