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Cost of building materials poses a significant threat to affordable housing in Nigeria

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By Mimidoo Patrick

 The rising cost of building materials is one of the threats for Nigeria’s dream of achieving affordable housing for all citizens in the country.

Building materials is known to be an important factor in building and construction globally.

Without building material, a building can never be achieved as 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 material 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.

Experts in the building industry said 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 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.

The outbreak of COVID-19 that had led to many nations closing their border also contributed to the high costs of building materials as most of these materials are imported.

Again, the hope of better days ahead for would-be homeowners and developers in the construction sector, may have been dashed following another rounds of increase in prices of cement and iron rods in the country.

According to Olawuyi, the sky rocketed price has made many of the buyers to stop buying the product even as sales plummeted.

He observed that if government could demonstrate enough ‘strong political will’ to revive the Ajaokuta mill and other factories, then, developers, prospective homeowners and contractors might have cause to smile.

For Mr. Kunle Adeniyi, a dealer in iron rods and other building materials, he alleged that the ugly trend could be blamed on the manufacturers who have decided to create artificial scarcity by in

“The manufacturers decided to create artificial scarcity so that they could make more money. They have association and they told them to stop production for certain numbers of days to create more demand than supply. That is the strategy they are using to create scarcity in the market so that when people are looking for available product, they can buy at any price when demand is more than the supply”.

Adeniyi noted that governments that is concerned about its people wouldn’t allow foreigners to come in and dictate price and take advantage of the people and let them get away with it. He asked the government to put in place a kind of control that will regulate activities of the manufacturers as people are left without any option than to pay exorbitantly for the product.

“The purchasing power of the people has been affected following the increase because the number of tonnage per trailer that will sale monthly, has reduced drastically. When people are supposed to buy like two or three trailers, the money, which they have budgeted, can’t even buy one trailer. People are now buying irons that are considered no useable, iron has become rot, are now back into the market. We believe that this will in turn reduce the quality of construction which people are doing and this could cause collapse”.

He added, “I think the government should look into the reason why prices are going up every day. Prices rose from N165, 000, 170,000, and 190,000 and even beyond N220, 000.00”.

Disturbed by the rising cost of building materials, the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) has called for collaborative research and production of alternative building materials.

NIOB President, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, made the call when he led a delegation to Lafarge Plc recently in Lagos to explore ways for standard, safe and durable buildings in the country.

Awobodu explained that NIOB has a large reservoir of research resources, consisting of research works on locally available materials.

According to him, some of the areas of research include the use of pozollana, rice husk ash, and corncob ash as a partial replacement in cement. He observed that beyond publicizing the research efforts, the utilization of those research outputs in the

On his part, the Chairman, Association of Builders in Academia, Prof. Martin Dada, said using alternative materials would promote profitability and sustainability in the industry.

He noted that the issue of reuse of items recovered from demolished or deconstructed buildings under some circumstances would promote sustainability and reduction of carbon footprint or carbon emissions.

He acknowledged that a major challenge to be tackled centres on the introduction of new and good products as well as getting stakeholders buy-in and managing perceptions of members of the society to take advantage of such products.

El Dokani called for public enlightenment in the specification and use of such new products.

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