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Is Dry Construction The Solution To Housing Deficit?

The mass housing sector in Nigeria presently suffers from a housing deficit of over 17 million units and the numbers seem not to be heading for a decline anytime soon. This article is a sequel to last week’s article on “The emergence of dry construction in Nigeria“.

Did you know that the real traditional African construction is dry?

In the days of old, timber and palm fronds were used for the construction of houses, sheds and other structures that can serve as dwellings for humans and animals. It was at a time when the question of housing deficit had not come under radar because civilization still eluded most parts of Africa.

Though this method of construction is still practiced in some remote African villages, it has since gone off radar.

Hence, the emergence of modern dry construction method was a welcome development to the building/construction industry.

When and Why did the need for Dry construction method arise?

If we have to go into the history of dry construction which began with timber and palm fronds, then you may want to conclude that dry construction started from human instincts and subsequently the need for Shelter. However, the real need for dry construction started after the Second World War when most homes were destroyed by war and there was a need for massive re-construction.

Albeit, the man power was lacking because a lot of people had died in the war and many more wounded. People needed a roof over their heads in the fastest possible time.

Invariably, this gave birth to the new form of industrialized construction of building faster. And there came the emergence of dry construction.

That was how dry construction started in Europe and other parts of the world . The emergence of modern dry construction may be slow in Nigeria and may not even completely take over in 5-10 years to come, however it will likely have a mainstay in the building industry if the right steps are taken towards its actualization.

Why would dry construction be preferred over wet construction?

The advantages of dry construction over wet construction are enormous. Imagine building a house that would have taken you 6 months to build in less than 2 months

Ordinarily, dry construction method ought to be a viable solution to the housing deficit experienced in Nigeria. This assertion is based on the limited time it takes to construct a house adopting this method and probably the finance involved if all the materials needed were readily available in the country. With dry construction you can have 4 million housing units – which is a quarter of the housing deficit in the shortest possible time. However, you won’t even get 4 million houses in ten years using wet construction. Even if you have to build 4 million houses concurrently, the resources and manpower to achieve it will be lacking which makes dry construction a definite solution to mass housing.

Though dry construction ordinarily should be less costly than wet construction, at the moment they are at par. The reason being that most of the materials used for dry construction are still being imported. For instance, using steel frames with boards on both sides; these materials are usually imported.

But there is a piece of good news, the Kalsi board which is produced here locally by Nigerite is a new product that should eclipse the importation of these materials. There have been heavy investments in producing those boards here, regardless, the problem is not even half solved yet.

Galvanized steel and frames still have to be imported because no one produces galvanized steel in this country.

That notwithstanding, Nigerite has gone a step further. Instead of importing the profiles used during construction, they import the coils and form the profiles here. This initiative has helped reduce the cost. However, now that the cost of the dollar as against the naira seems to be on the loose, that option may not be so cost effective at the moment.

Again, the cost of importing these materials is high. In addition, the outlay is a little bit high too and then the plasterboards (which are the boards used for the interior) has to be imported. In fact there are no companies producing plasterboards in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The bottlenecks involved in the actualization of dry construction in the country are quite enormous but when you look at the totality of it, suffice to say it’s worth the time and investment.

On the long run, with economies of scale the prices of materials used in dry construction will definitely come cheaper than the regular kind of construction. If we look at the advent of cement in the building industry, it was way more expensive than building with mud. All that has changed now, these days, if you have to build with mud it will be more expensive than building with cement.

Where are you going to source the mud from? Where are you going to get people? These are questions that we arise if mud were to be an option.

Truth be told, you will end up paying everything through your nose. The artisans who deal with mud construction are not even there.Therefore building with mud should be more expensive than building with cement, yet it wasn’t the case when cement became an ingredient of buildings.

Due to the fact that its still not widely accepted yet a viable means of construction, it is expected that massive campaigns, exhibitions and seminars will be organised to promote dry construction.

The bodies and agencies concerned should enlighten the public on dry construction and its importance to the Nigerian mass housing sector so as to solve the housing deficit.

Though people are coming to that consciousness, there is still a lot to be done.

Why do you have to spend so much time building a house when you can do it in the shortest possible time? And the beauty of it is that the house would be neater and more befitting than the regular house

It is therefore the responsibility of all in the built industry to learn and educate others and not leave it to just the manufacturers of the board solution so that it won’t be a one-sided affair. The consultants, the architects and the engineers also have to play their parts.

Perception and the resistance to change are the two main issues facing the switch to dry construction method. My father’s house is still standing and he built it in the 80’s, so why should I build something else…that’s a popular line from the average Nigerian

Change is a difficult thing but gradually it should make its way to the consciousness of all stakeholders concerned.

There is therefore no gainsaying that dry construction may just be the panacea to mass housing deficit in Nigeria.

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