Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition

Bungalows, Maisonette, Mansions, Villas, Palaces, Townhouses, Low rise, Mid-rise and High-rise are called housing-typologies, or types-of-houses. Housing-typologies is the form or “type” that houses come in or that you find them in. Office/Commercial buildings normally come in Low-rise, Mid-rise and High-rise; because they are often located in urban areas (CBD) where land is expensive and people try to maximize the use of land. Residential buildings tend to be located in areas where land is less-expensive and away from the city centers, and they come in various forms or typologies, that is, Bungalows, Maisonette, Mansions, Villas, Palaces, Townhouses etc.

A Kenyan Understanding

Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | Bungalow | Pinned Directory Kenya
A typical Bungalow

BUNGALOWS are one-level or ground-floor only buildings. However, some may have crawl spaces or cellar units or basements on their foundation levels. Bungalows normally occupy land from 1/8 acre to 1 acre.

Bungalows can be a poor or rich man’s house depending in the land-coverage. Bungalows on a 1/8th acre or less are normally for the lower-class individuals, because land is often expensive, especially in urban centers and the funds available for construction are often limited. Therefore, only small structures are possible with these kinds of people.

Bungalows that occupy more than ¼ acre are likely to belong to the middle class and those that occupy over ½ acre and beyond are likely to belong to very wealthy people. The argument on land-costs could apply, but also, people with more funds for construction and plenty of land do pay little attention on the economics of the same, and would not mind building expansive bungalows, sometimes even 3000 sft. or more.

Bungalows can be found in low/medium and high density areas: Low-density settlement range from 1-to-4 housing unit-per-acre, medium-density settlement will range from 8-to-16 units per acre and high-density settlement will be 24-to-32 units per acre. A density of 64 units or more per acre is a very high-density-development.

Low-density areas are the places like Lavington, Karen, Runda or Muthaiga, and Medium-Density areas are places like Westland, Kileleshwa, and High-Density areas include places like Nairobi West and Nairobi East. Low-density areas in Kisumu may include places like Milimian Estate, Tom Mboya Estate, and Riat Estate, while Medium-density zones may include places like, Kibuye Market region and its surrounding.

Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | Mansion | Pinned Directory Kenya
A typical Kenyans Mansion

MANSIONS: These are typical residential houses for wealthy individual in a society, normally located a distance away from the busy city regions, in quiet and serene environment. Normally, they would be like 2-to-3 levels and very large; probably 4-or-5 bedrooms and beyond. They typically occupy land from ¼-to-1 acre and even beyond. Mansions are typically Low Density Settlement.

Mansions are exclusively for the wealthy people, as they are lavish; often 2-or  more stories and occupy large plots, often ½-acre and beyond. Example of Mansions in Kenya may include wealthy or so called “leafy suburbs” like Muthaiga, Karen, and Runda Estate in Nairobi, or Milimani Estate in Kisumu.

MAISONETTE: These are two-level structures, normally found in urban settings in

Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | maisonette | Pinned Directory Kenya
A typical Kenyans Maisonette

middle income communities. The land they occupy is typically about 1/8th-to-¼ acre.  A maisonette is essentially a small version of a mansion, or in other words, a poor man’s version of a mansion as some people may call them.


These are for the emerging middle class that is doing very well and are getting ahead on the property-ladder. They have moved from rental-property into new homes and so on, by buying a small plot of land and building two-level buildings to accommodate 3-or-more bedrooms.

TOWNHOUSES: These are houses typically in an urban-setting that are built such that they attach each other or share a wall, typically called a party-wall. They can be two houses joined together, also called Duplexes,  or three-houses, also called Triplexes, or four-houses, also called Quadruple, five, six,.. houses etc., also called row housings.

Townhouses emeHousing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | Townhouses | Pinned Directory Kenyarged due to the need to land use pressure against human-population-growth, where the limited land is to be used by as many people as possible, especially in home-ownership.

Townhouses are for the working class in urban areas because of the economics of land and income. These structures will have a very small plinth area, but extend upwards, two-to-three stories. They normally cover an area of 1/16th-of an acre or less. Townhouses are normally located in medium to high density zones.

VILLAS: These are generally houses located very far in the country side for retreat purposes or leisure activities. These are very wealthy/business people or politicians, who use these homes or residences temporarily to retract away from the pressures of life that they experience elsewhere or seek some escape to reality and that kind of adventure.

Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | villa | Pinned Directory Kenya
Typical Villa Architecture

They are normally in remote areas, far-away-from-humanity, very-well serviced with amenities like swimming-pools, sauna, gazebos, internet-access, gym-facilities, conference-room, etc. The type of architecture can range from very simple to very extravagant types, with little concerns to immediate buildings-security-features. Security is looked at in at a macroscopic-level rather than microscopic-level. Therefore, you are likely to have very large floor-to-ceiling glass-doors and windows etc. Example of Villas in Kenya includes the Malindi-Resort areas owned by the Italian Moguls.

PALACES: These are residential places for very important people in a society. They are typically of the classical type of architecture. In Kenya for example,

Housing Typology: A Kenyan Definition | Raila Palace | Pinned Directory Kenya
An Example of a “Palatial Home” in Kenya.

houses that have elements of the British type of architecture, like Victorian, Beaux, Georgian, Victorian, Neoclassical or Greek Revival, are likely to be “Palaces.” Examples of Palaces in Kenya may include the White House, The Vice-President-Official Residence and Raila Odinga’s home in Kisumu.

A Kenyan understanding or perspective of housing typology is very interesting and revealing. It is essentially looking at housing typology as a social-class element. Housing typology, in fact, is a scale of understanding human social and economic development. That is why architecture is a reflection of human and society progress.



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