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The Implications of rising cost of building materials in Nigeria

In recent times there has been a dramatic increase in the costs of building materials in Nigeria, and this development threatens the performance of the construction industry. This article assesses the implications of the recent rising cost in building materials.

Building materials have been playing an important role in the construction industry—they are those materials put together in erecting or constructing structures. In fact, no field of engineering is conceivable without their use.

Building materials contribute immensely to the quality and cost of housing, from what is used in the foundation to the materials for roofing and finishes, while the building materials industry is an important contributor to the national economy of any nation as its output governs both the rate and the quality of construction work.

Additionally, building materials constitute the largest single input in housing construction with about 60% of the total housing expenditure used for the purchase of building materials. On the other hand the cost of building materials constitute about 65 percent of the construction cost.

Invariably, building materials form the main factors that restrict the supply of housing. Having said that, it has been observed that one main barrier to the realization of effective housing in Nigeria as revealed in successive government efforts has been the cost of housing in the country.

In the early periods, shelter in Nigeria was easily affordable as building materials were sourced from the immediate environment at affordable costs. Technology also was readily available with commensurate simple techniques. But contact with the outside world through inter-regional and international training of professionals in foreign countries as occasioned by colonization, brought changes to taste and hence outlook to house forms. These changes rendered the undeveloped local building materials inadequate while there was an increased demand for exotic ones.

The modern building industry lays much emphasis on sophisticated building materials and techniques that are expensive and energy consuming. Though, housing delivery efforts have evidently been inhibited by prohibitive costs of building materials, this problem cannot be reasonably and reliably overcome by merely resorting to the use of locally available materials without due considerations to the applicable initiative, the cost of processing and sustainability of the local materials.

One of the most important components of a sustainable building is the material efficiency. Correct selection of building materials can be performed by taking into account their complete life span and by choosing products with  minimal environmental impacts. The major factor that greatly affects the selection of building materials are their costs and social requirements such as thermal comfort, good mechanical properties (strength and durability), aesthetic characteristics and an ability to construct quickly. Ideally, the combination of all environmental, economic and social factors can give a clear description of a material, and thus helps in a decision making process regarding the cost of the materials suitable for buildings.

Nigerians would continue to pay more for accommodation in major cities until the cost of building materials is subsidized. Many completed housing estates across the country have remained unoccupied because of the high rental and sale prices attached to them as against the meager income of the average Nigerian worker. More so, it is worse now due to the economic recession.

The cost of building materials poses a significant threat to both the construction industry and people aspiring to own houses; for example, a bag of cement, which was valued at Ν1,350.00 in 2006, went as high as Ν1,850.00 in 2009 depicting about 37% increment; it was Ν2,000.00 in 2015 during peak season (field survey 2015), then in 2016 the price fluctuated between N1,800 – 2,000. As of today Friday 24th February 2017, cement is being sold at N2,300.

The continuous slump in the value of the naira is another contributing factor to the rising cost of building materials.

Increase in the prices of building materials has multiplier effects on housing development, many projects are not completed on time due to the cost of materials which have been on the increase. Besides timely completion, high prices of building materials form a crucial constraint to improving housing conditions in Nigeria (United Nations Centre for Human Settlement [UNCHS], 1993).

Researchers in the building sector have indicated that between 50 to 60 per cent of the total construction input goes into building materials. As a result, there is an urgent need to address the high cost of these products which is said to have slowed down the growth of the building and construction sector in Nigeria.

Bottom line: Rising cost of building materials threatens access to affordable housing

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