Thermal Comfort Comparative Analysis of Houses in Kitui

Kitui is a town in Kenya, 180 km East of Nairobi and 105 km East of Machakos, and is the headquarters of Kitui County. The local people are mostly of the Akamba ethnicity with a notable population of the Swahili. Kitui Town has different house typologies varying from the Akamba traditional houses, Swahili houses to the contemporary houses and buildings all of which have different design approaches, yet existing in the same savanna climate in which Kitui Town lies resulting to different human thermal comfort levels within these structures.

The growing need for shelter has resulted to putting up of contemporary houses that have little regards to no climatic context considerations at all. This study sought to examine the thermal comfort levels in the house typologies in Kitui Township Area and analyse the bioclimatic design strategies utilised in these house typologies to provide for human thermal comfort and ultimately establish the most appropriate bioclimatic design strategies for human thermal comfort to be used in design of contemporary buildings.

The author used the case study method in this study. The data needed for this study was collected through photographs, sketches & measured drawings, scienti c studies using data loggers, interviews, administration of questionnaires and literature review. The author found that the Akamba traditional house had better thermal performance compared to one of the contemporary houses as the latter was double banked, the entire block oriented along the north-south axis and having the fenestrations on the east and west façades, the internal walls not allowing for ventilation as permanent vents had not been provided for and its outdoor spaces being hard landscaped.

The author concluded that in order to achieve human thermal comfort, the following design approaches have to be applied to minimise heat gains and maximise on natural cooling: having moderately dense & compact site planning; have courtyards & single banked rooms; use servant spaces as thermal buffer spaces; use heavy structures & locally available materials; orient buildings along the east-west axis & optimise on wind; have openings on north & south façades; and providing well landscaped outdoor spaces.

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