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Fresh concerns over alternative building materials



Fresh concerns over alternative building materials

Real estate professionals are suggesting the use of local and alternative building materials to arrest the rising cost of construction in Nigeria, DAYO AYEYEMI reports


Nigeria is blessed with many natural resources such as land, sharp sand, laterite, granite, iron ore and wood of various types, yet it still depend largely on foreign materials for housing construction after five decades of independence.

Except sand, granite and wood, most of the finishing materials such as tiles, glass, roofing sheet, doors, sanitary wares, locks, lightings and pipes, including labour are being imported into the country.

Over dependence on foreign materials by government and home builders, housing experts say is one of the major factors responsible for high cost of houses in the country, aside from high cost of land and money.

Worried by the high price tags on housing units, experts comprising developers, builders, architects, town planners and manufacturers are currently canvassing the use of alternative local building materials to arrest the trend.

They noted that despite the manufacturing of different types of machines for local brick’s production, roofing sheets and research on alternative cement by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI), lack of patronage has weighed on the agency of government.
Some of these materials include sun-dried bricks (adobe), cement stabilised bricks/blocks, interlocking laterite blocks, burnt clay blocks, clay roofing tiles and NBRRI brick/block making machines.

As at now, Nigeria has over 17 million housing deficit and would require 740, 000 units built annually in the next 20 years to bridge the gap.
Speaking with the New Telegraph in Lagos, first Vice President of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said that apart from public apathy, lack of awareness on affordable and alternative building materials have not helped matters.

According to Awobodu, if NIBRRI has researched into alternative cement for housing, it should be publicised and made available in the building materials’ market for public use.

“If the alternative building materials are affordable and available, nobody will jettison them. They should make them available in the market,” he said.
The first vice president said that when materials are produced locally, there is tendency the cost would reduce.

Besides, he stated that excavation of laterite had caused environmental degradation in some locations in Ogun State, noting that negative consequences of mining laterite were huge.
“In locations where laterite is in excess, I will appreciate,” he said.
Awobodu maintained that the nation had not done well in the use of alternative building materials, urging for more research and development (R&D) in this area.
He noted that no manufacturing company would embark on mass production of materials that has not been researched and tested.
Former President of NIOB, Chucks Omeife, urged the Federal Government to push policy that will encourage mass use of local and alternative building materials for affordable housing.
If government rolls out the policy, he said, it would enable local building contractors to get more jobs rather than giving them out to foreign companies.
“Indigenous firms should have first right of receiver, but here, multinationals are the ones getting the contracts, use local professionals and repatriate their funds,” he said.
Omeife warned that unless the local production of building materials is encouraged by government and other stakeholders through deliberate policy, housing industry would not grow.
He noted that there have been some locally produced materials in the market, but that they are not adequately patronised, pointing out that with the use of cement stablised bricks and hydro foam, cost of houses could be reduced.
Omeife said: “There should be deliberate policy to encourage Nigerians to produce and use these materials.”
Also , stakeholders, who were present during the Lagos Architects Forum (LAF), urged architects to mount pressure on government to formulate policies and invest in affordable housing estates, which will house the lower income earners with good layouts.
Besides, the stakeholders tasked government to encourage and promote local materials industry for mass production of affordable houses.

NIBRRI efforts
The Director-General, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI), Professor Danladi Matawal, said recently that the institute’s Pozzolana Pilot Plant for cement production at Ota in Ogun was ready for commercialisation.
Pozzolans are broad class of siliceous and aluminous materials, blended cement produced with gypsum – both natural and artificial materials used as supplementary for conventional cement.
He said that the establishment of the Pozzolana pilot plant was a means of giving Nigerians an alternative to the conventional ordinary Portland cement.
Matawal , at Lagos Housing Fair recently, said using locally-sourced building materials would not only save money for builders, but could be more environmentally-suited to a particular locality.
In his paper titled: “High Costs of Building Construction: The Need for Alternative and Sustainable Building Materials for Housing Development,” observed that by using local building materials, a builder could save as much as 30 per cent cost than using foreign materials.
He noted that in response to the challenge, some individuals and organisations have ventured into the development of locally-sourced materials and technologies for construction purposes, but that unfortunately, the impact of such ventures has not been felt in the country due to harsh environment and non-acceptability of the technologies developed.
Matawal classified locally-sourced building materials into three: conventional building materials, traditional building materials and alternative building materials.

Last line
Government should show the lead by rolling out policy and, at the same time, patronise local and alternative building materials in its mass housing projects across the states of the federation.

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