Dickson Lutaaya (not real name) decided early that when time came for him to build a personal home, it would not include a garage. He came to this resolution painfully.
Lutaaya was lucky to get employed immediately after university in early 2002. In a matter of months, he had bought his first car. It was a white Corolla Kibina in faultless mechanical condition.
To make sure his prized machine was safe and secure, Lutaaya had hunted for a house with a garage until he found one in Kikaaya near Kisaasi. Over and above the garage, the house was secured by a high perimeter fence. The rent was astronomical but he was willing to stop at nothing in order to give his first real ‘asset’ paramount security.
For several months, it was restful nights for Lutaaya, devoid of worry, followed by exciting mornings, laced with adrenaline. The 25-year-old had planned his finances well and was slowly getting used to the good life. Until one day, when he woke up only to find his car had been vandalised beyond recognition.
Lutaaya stood in that garage in a stupor, eyes swimming in tears, wondering what kind of malevolent ghost had done this to his car.
He had been too stunned to see the hole in the wall of the garage where the thief had passed to access the car. When he remembered that he was not even halfway through paying the car loan, he crumbled like a house of cards and lay prostrate on the floor.
Lutaaya wept. He was at loss of how to go forward and wished he had considered insurance. “The months that followed, I moved from that expensive house and rented a one-bedroom house closer to my workplace, somewhere in Mulago. I figured that if I was going to get out of this debt, I needed to cut my rent down to the bare minimum. I didn’t want to see that shell of a car, so I sold it as soon as possible. I had to forget driving a personal car for as long as possible. It took me two years to finish paying that car loan. I decided then that if I ever built a house, I would not waste money on a garage,” Lutaaya says. And that is exactly what he did in 2006.
While Lutaaya’s is one of several such stories, surely not every car owner became a victim of that garage-attack car vandalism. Yet over the last 20 years or so, less than a handful of homes have been built with a car garage.
Almost everyone who has undertaken a home-building project since the early 2000s decided they didn’t need a garage. One wonders why.
False sense of security
Many people, like Lutaaya, woke up to the realisation that the garage had only offered a false sense of security. At least now they could keep listening and checking for any tampering at night.
“Around 2002, car alarms attained a new status with car owners for two reasons: the first one being that cars with central locking became common, and the second being that home garages were no longer safe. All of the sudden they were selling out because of the high demand. My money is on the latter reason,” says Kamya Ssemyalo, a car mechanic specialising in car electrics.
Those who did not buy the car alarm because either the car was too old to operate the alarm, or some other reason, chose to employ a guard dog to warn them if thieves ever breached the perimeter fence.
Obviously all these security measures would achieve better results if they were employed in tandem. Yet, at about the same time, people started deleting the home garage from the blue print. This they did in full awareness of all the other benefits that a garage comes with, you know, like the fact that car paint is better preserved if the car ‘sleeps’ in the garage.
Fashion and aesthetics
This particular reason has nothing to do with rationale whatsoever. The garage first became common in home designs in the early 90s. The house design of the time was more or less an elongated rectangular structure with a terraced roof.
It was a simple design as simple could get. The roof over the garage was built to be a metre or two lower than the roof over the rest of the house, giving the house a sort of double roof.
Larger houses even came in a triple roof. Two smaller roofs; one on the left and the other on the right, leaving the centre section raised, to create an imposing image. Any other thing would be missing on this design but not the garage. Whether in Kyamakanda or Kyebando, the design came with a garage.
“While this design was all the rage across the country, many people who built it didn’t even own a car. The garage was aspirational in nature at that time. The prevailing national psych was that not long afterwards one would be able to afford a car. The country was simply taking off steadily,” says Frank Semambo, a home owner in Lubowa. When Semambo built his garage in the early 90s, he did not have a car.
Other than aspirational reasons, an even bigger reason was behind the garage. Fashion. It was simply the trend. And as trends go, sometimes their popularity is hard to explain. But the garage was a way of saying it without saying it, that you had made in life. A house without a garage simply didn’t cut it.
If you are feeling nostalgic right now, you are not alone. This design was simply the ish.
Patrick Tumusiime, a Rukungiri-based mason says he has not built a home with a garage in the last 17 years. “People suspected that having the car in the same house they slept was causing them health problems. From what I gather from my clients, the fumes from the car would permeate the whole house as people slept and caused such sicknesses as cancer, stroke and heart disease,” says Tumusiime.
Dr Ibrahim Bukenya, the proprietor of the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre says such fears are not that unfounded actually.
“Car fumes are largely carbon monoxide. The presence of carbon monoxide in a closed space like a home at night reduces the amount of oxygen available for occupants. Low amounts of oxygen can result in a stroke,” Dr Bukenya says.
The doctor says that not everyone who has a car garage at home is about to fall over with a non-communicable disease. “Many people I know take the precaution to open the garage long enough (after parking the car) for the fumes to clear. I keep my car in the garage at home without a fear that it may make me sick. I take the precaution,” he says.
Better use of space
Tumusiime adds that to some people, a garage is not the best use of space in a house. “I have seen some people turn the garage into an extra bedroom after the family has grown bigger. Twice have I been called upon to remodel the home garage into an extra bedroom,” he says.
In an era where the prices of land have skyrocketed, few people want to waste space building a car garage on the home when they could put it to better use.
Like another bedroom or a space to rent out. Many people chose the carport; a shed in the compound, far away from the house. But most people just pack the car (armed with an alarm) outside. It remains to be seen if the garage will ever make its way back to the home blue print.
What is a carport?
A carport is a covered structure used to offer limited protection to vehicles, primarily cars, from rain and frost. The structure can either be free standing or attached to a wall. Unlike most structures, a carport does not have four walls, and usually has one or two. Carports offer less protection than garages but allow for more ventilation. In particular, a carport prevents frost on the windshield. A “mobile” and/or “enclosed” carport has the same purpose as a standard carport.
However, it may be removed/relocated and is typically framed with tubular steel and may have canvas or vinyl type covering which encloses the complete frame, including walls. It may have an accessible front entry or open entryway not typically attached to any structure or fastened in place by permanent means put held in place by stakes.
It is differentiated from a tent by its main purpose: to house vehicles and/or motorised equipment.