15 June 2017

Uganda: The Ideal House Plan for a Hilly Area

Photo: Daily Monitor
Building on a hill is expensive because of the cutting and filling. The foundation often has to go deeper up to the rocky part so that the house stands on a firm ground. Photo courtesy of Paul Tiboti, an architect and civil engineer.
opinion

Despite the costs that it may come with, building in a hilly place is an exciting venture. Although it comes with a number of technicalities, the end result will be a beautiful house with a view to behold. It is a growing trend among those who want to build apartments, guest houses and rest homes.

Suitable house plan

When Dan Katumba, a businessman decided to put his land in the highlands of Kigezi to use, he opted for rental apartments (flats) ahead of bungalows. Most engineers he consulted emphasised the good use of building materials.

"Because of this, my apartments have stood the test of time despite the hilly land they sit on. Even when the weather changes, they still stand strong," says Katumba.

"Most houses can be built on a hill as long as one employs professional engineers," advises Paul Tiboti, a civil engineer.

In this case it is important that the design team work together. "You need a surveyor to look at how adulating the hill is, an architect to come up with the plan, a structural engineer to ensure the house is strong and a geotechnical engineer to fulfill the plan," advises Tiboti.

What to consider

Before signing any contracts, look out for some of the likely short comings so that you prepare ahead of time.

Ibrahim Kawadwa built his house on a hill and before long the foundation had become so weak, the floor started developing cracks. He was advised that the gradient of the plot he had bought required cutting and re-filling.

"Depending on the gradient of your piece of land, there is a high probability that you will need to cut into the hillside in order to create a flat platform that will serve as the foundation of your home. You may also need a series of stilts to form the other end of the base. This will require retaining walls and a lot of soil displacement to avoid cracks in the house," advises Tiboti.

Daniel Wekasa regrets building his house along the slopes of Budhuda. He says when the landslides ravaged the area, his house was completely destroyed causing him losses worth millions of shillings. Steven Wasukira, a resident of the same area says he built a tower of drainages and grew trees around his house to act as natural windbreakers.

"Although my house suffered some minor damage, my family and I did not lose much because of the precautions I had taken while building the house," Wasukira says.

According to Samson Egessa, a civil engineer, extra caution should be taken when building a house on a hill.

"It will require additional retaining walls. If the sewage system is situated uphill, you may need to have a pump installed, while if it's at the foot of a slope it might be necessary to have a drop manhole in place to slow the passage of water," Egessa advises.

He says you should hire experienced engineers on the design team for guidance, structural engineers will need to pay attention to seismic design even though the structure is not in an earthquake prone area.

Ensuring a strong house

"Alot of attention has to be put on the foundation and the design. These are crucial when it comes to houses on raised ground. A strong foundation will ensure that your house is not brought down easily," says Tiboti.

He adds that where a normal house would be built with normal bars, here one needs bigger bars which unfortunately will also increase the cost. He, however, says that the cost will be worth it once your dream home is completed.

The kind of houses suitable

Any plan is suitable for a house on top of a hill. However, if you are building rentals, consider the element of comfort for your tenants. Would they be able to make their way home without much difficulty?

"Building a guest house, hotel or family home on a hill seems to be on trend today because these areas are characterised by tranquility. This is because most are located far from the noisy and busy cities," says Egessa.

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