With increase in cost of imported building materials due to the high exchange rate and inflation, there are calls to explore local alternatives and standardise existing materials to ensure affordable housing.
Findings show that Nigeria is blessed with abundant deposits of basic building materials, which if explored could be the solution to some imported components. The materials include clay, laterite, stone, lime, agro-industrial waste, wood/timber, glass and sand in their natural state.
The Guardian gathered that clay and bricks stand out among others for building of walls. Brick and laterite forms are good for building walls over hollow concrete block.
According to experts, clay walls do not require plastering or painting and don’t absorb water, hence, preventing fungi. In terms of roofing, timber coconut palm, pale and stake when well treated can be used as roof trusses. Timbers are best used when treated, seasoned and painted for ceiling boards.
For substructure/foundation of buildings, earth laterite when well treated and stabilised with cement, bitumen, limes, reeds, can be used to achieve desirable strip foundation.
Also, building floors can be achieved with the use of laterite reinforced with bamboo or coconut palm, which is as good as concrete slab.
Pozzolana, an ancient cementitious material is being considered as alternative for cement in construction. The material is affordable and useful as building component. Pozzolana materials include volcanic ash, power station fly ash, burnt clays ash from some burnt plant materials and siliceous earths. When mixed with cements, it activates the cementing properties to reduce cost of concrete made from composite materials often referred to as blended cement.
Studies point to the reality that the use of rice husks, corn cob ash could serve as partial replacement for cement as well as the use of plastics in the production of building materials, especially eco-crete blocks.
Despite the availability of these materials, homeowners still depend on imported building materials and technologies. While considerable research is conducted in some countries on local building materials, only few of these research initiatives are carried out in Nigeria on existing local building materials for cheaper housing.
Most developers in the country stray away from traditional use of materials rather they use conventional imported building materials for high-income homes.
The Guardian learnt the costs of imported materials are costly when converted to the value of local currency at such ridiculous exchange rates. It is estimated that the cost of building materials alone could take up to 70 per cent for a standard low-cost housing production.
Investigations further revealed that building materials account for the single largest input and expenditures for housing construction in most cities. This strong disposition towards foreign buildings materials, according to experts prevents standardisation and the use of readily available local building materials for cost effective and environmentally friendly construction.
A former official of the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), Razaq Lawal, told The Guardian that the institute was able to develop building materials like Pozzolana, mardotile roofing, and other varieties of machines but mass-producing it for the housing industry, has been a big challenge.
Lawal explained that the product reduces cost of efficiency of mortar and concrete, reduces heat of hydration and reduction on effects of alkali aggregate reactivity.
He disclosed that the first pozzolana plant in Nigeria has been commissioned and ready for investors to show interest for low-cost cement.
The Managing Director, Bolyn Constructions Company Limited, who doubles as the president, Building Material Producers Association of Nigeria (BUMPAN), Mr. Rufus Akinrolabu, said while there is abundance of the local building materials in the country, demand for foreign goods and building materials has made those resources to be neglected.
Akinrolabu said: “Many Nigerians prefer to show off by spending heavily on imported building components rather than use the local available building materials and technology.
“Necessity should be our mother of invention. When there was no importation and technology, people were building houses using laterite or mould/clay sand. To them, laterite was not good except for filling their foundations.
“Laterite is still available in abundance, with a little cement; we can make laterite bricks and build walls of houses, which often turn out very good. If you have a good foundation and you roof it properly, plasters the internal and external surface, the building will last,” he said.
However, he said most Nigerians believed that such housing strategy is archaic, that there is civilization and modernisation. So, they shun such housing style because it’s not fashionable to them.
Technology, he stated, has improved in the mould for bricks production, which is now different from what it used to be, yet Nigerians don’t patronise them.
He said to reduce housing deficits, propective homeowners who want to own a house should reconsider their taste and go for an affordable methodology that consumes lesser quantities of cement.
Akinrolabu stated that Nigeria was slipping away under a lot of social-economic issues and overwhelmed, adding that the Federal Government must think of how to promote local building materials.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu, said if Nigeria were able to get standard local materials, the prices of building materials would come down.
He listed alternative building materials, which the institute has discovered as clay materials, ash from volcanic, pozzolana cement, resources from trees and others.
Awobodu said while the institute has some researchers; how to transform and develop the resources through research work to commercial level needs equipment and funding.
He urged building materials’ manufacturers to patronise Nigerian researchers. “There are sufficient policies for promoting local content but the nation’s socio-economic problems are creating impediments in the yearning to be self-sufficient in building materials locally,” he said.
To him, with the problem of electricity, some companies folded up and relocated to Ghana because of power, adding that the country has rolling mills yet the price of steel reinforcement keeps increasing.
“We all know the importance of Ajaokuta steel, if it were working effectively, there wouldn’t be need of importing from foreign companies”, he said.
He stated that the institute was working on standard alternative building materials, which would be made public when finalised. However, Awobodu said it requires funding supports.
Awobudu said there was need to look inward and explore natural resources building materials that are affordable. He also said foreign manufacturers must establish their firms in Nigeria so that the cost of haulage and shipping would be removed for Nigeria to have abundance.
A past chairman, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) Lagos chapter, Mr. Akere Ayuba, said professionals need to do more orientation and create awareness for people on the viability of using alternative local building materials.
Ayuba said: “Local building materials will reduce cost of building but if I have not seen something in use, how do I encourage others to use it. The most important thing for the people to note is that once we adopt the local materials and people see that the building are standing the test of time, everybody we embrace it.
“Developed countries don’t build the way we do; most of them use seasoned woods. But have we been able to season our woods well enough to build houses that won’t be affected by weather. How much of creativity have we put into it so that it would look appealing to users.”