While most Nigerians are used to conventional building method of one sandcrete block at a time, findings revealed that adopting modern building technology, with short time delivery and large-scale production is needed to bridge the nation’s housing deficit. Dayo Ayeyemi reports
Currently, Nigeria reportedly has housing deficit of over 17 million units with many people living in deplorable conditions.
While demand for houses has outnumbered supply, many home seekers could do anything just to own their very own houses.
But this could change drastically if the country adopts modern building technology such as prefab, modular and formworks systems for mass housing.
At the moment, Nigerians are used to traditional method like sandcrete, which is very slow, time-wasting and lack economy of scale for mass housing provision.
However, hope for timely delivery of houses on a large scale in the country was kindled when a property development firm, EchoStone Nigeria Limited, delivered a two-bedroom flat in 14 days recently.
The two-bedroom flat, which is located at the premises of the Lagos State Vocational Education Centre in Agidingbi, Ikeja-Lagos, was built with formwork technology.
The technology, which allows for rapid construction, will be deployed in the state beginning with 250 units of two-bedroom detached bungalows in Idale Housing Scheme in Badagry Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State.
Besides, the firm planned to construct 2,000 housing units in three LGAS including Ayobo in Alimosho and Imota in Ikorodu.
The initiative has proven to stakeholders that modern building technology is, indeed, the needed solution in tackling housing deficit being experienced in the country.
In other climes, prefab and other modern building technologies have been used to solve their housing shortfall challenges.
Prefabricated homes are buildings built in components (example panels), modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes).
They do not differ much from a traditional structure and if one is not told, the difference is almost negligible.
They are homes that are pre-built and assembled in factories into manageable pieces before they are transported to the building site.
Due to the speed of building this type of houses, the concept is witnessing a huge demand in this present age. This mode of construction can be used for homes, schools, market stalls, offices and is especially adaptable for places of high urbanisation i.e. where space is at a premium.
Formwork is the term used for the process of creating a temporary mould into which concrete is poured and formed.
Traditional formwork is fabricated using timber, but it can also be constructed from steel, glass fibre reinforced plastics and other materials.
On the possibility of adopting modern building technology to deliver mass housing in Nigeria, New Telegraph discovered that a number of developers are not ready to change from traditional sandcrete method due to huge capital investment associated with prefab/formwork technology.
In a telephone chat with the President, Real Estate Developers’ Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Mr. Ugochukwu Chime, at the weekend, he said there were elements involved in prefab houses, which include materials, finance and availability of data.
He pointed out that the materials involved in prefab houses were cheaper in term of delivery, but that the cost of start-up was very high.
According to him, any developer that might want to deploy prefab technology would need about 2,000 to 3,000 housing units for a start in order to break- even, adding that anything short of the figure amounts to a waste.
“On a larger scale, prefab technology is cheaper on the long run,” he said.
He added that difficulty in maintenance also made prefab system of building not attractive to most Nigerians.
He said: “Unlike the conventional sandcrete building where you can easily carry out maintenance and break any wall if you notice any fault, it is difficult to carry out such maintenance on prefab houses.”
For Nigerian government and developers to fully embrace prefab/formwork building technology, the REDAN boss stated that availability of data would be essential.
“You need to know the need of the people, type of houses and the locations, as demand for housing in Lagos is not the same with Benue State,” he said.
First Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, stated that cheaper alternative, lack of finance, low awareness and storage had made it difficult for most Nigerians to fully adopt prefab technology.
According to him, fund has remained a major problem of affordable housing production, noting that most developers do not have the wherewithal to install prefab technology.
“For this reason, cheaper alternative is the conventional way. Sandcrete block has made prefab less attractive to most developers,” Awobodu said, adding that a few developers that adopted the latter in the past could not go ahead due to high cost.
“So people have cheap alternative means of achieving their housing project,” he said.
However, he pointed out that prefab construction was chaper if the housing units involved are huge.
“For mass housing numbering 5,000 to 10,000 units, adopting prefab/formworks system makes it cheaper when compared with conventional sandcrete, bricks and mortal,” Awobodu said.
Whichever way it goes, experts at www.optiven.co.ke, listed some 10 reasons why prefab is better than the traditional method.
According to them, prefab/formwork method takes very short duration of time to finish the building work and settle in, adding that the method also enables improved quality.
“Given that most of the pieces are molded off site, prefab offers more flexible ways of being more creative with regard to building quality,” the experts said.
They explained that prefab did not require many working hands to assemble at site, adding that this reduced costs, improved profitability when compared with traditional methods of construction.
“Prefabs slash down on costs and by extension proving to be more cost-effective,” they said.
Besides, prefabs improve health and safety, Improved site efficiency and meet sustainability targets.
They said: “Too much excavation of stone quarries and sand harvesting may cause serious depletion of environment. Prefabs may just as well be the solution to this problem.”
They added that prefabs minimized material shortages and reduced site waste since site work was very limited, saying that “ most of the work has already been done in a controlled.
They advised that “since prefabs saves on both cost and time of construction, this could be adopted by social housing developers to come up with as many units as possible within a short time frame and hence cut on the housing deficit.”
Impressed by Echostone technology, Commissioner for Housing in Lagos State, Mr. Gbolahan Lawal, hinted that government was already discussing with the developer to work out modality for deploying the technology in constructing compact storey buildings in the state.
EchoStone’s Global Chief Executive Officer/co-founder, Mr. Anthony Recchia, stressed the need for industrialisation of housing.
He said that rapid urbanisation and population explosion in Lagos required radical construction technology to bridge the housing deficit of over three million in the state.
Co-Founder and President, Business Development, Mr. Ander Lindquist, said the firm looked forward to building more houses both in the state and the country.
Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) Managing Director, Mr. Kehinde Ogundimu, said that EchoStone technology is a much needed solution to the housing deficit in Lagos State in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
Families Home Fund Managing Director, Mr. Femi Adewole, declared that the body would engage Messrs EchoStone Nigeria, in the provision of 100,000 housing units in four years for Lagos residents, with the memorandum already in the pipeline.
Housing shortfall in Nigeria will never be solved if developers and home builders continue to build in the traditional way of one block at a time.