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Lack of standardisation in design hindering low-cost housing

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The Federal Government in 1991 promulgated the national housing policy. Photo: PEXELS

To ensure quicker, sustainable solutions to the housing needs of Nigerians, the Federal Government in 1991 promulgated the national housing policy.

The policy adopted in 2015 focuses on, among other things creating and expanding economic opportunity for Nigerian artisans, builders, and tradesmen.

It, also recommends housing finance, cooperatives, use of local building materials, infrastructural development, policy implementation and review as possible solutions to the housing problem in Nigeria.

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The Guardian learned that one of the main trusts of the policy unveiled recently by Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola is standardization of designs and housing inputs.

This involved standardizing of designs, windows, and fittings through local capacity.

The policy focuses on, among other things creating and expanding economic opportunity for Nigerian artisans, builders, and tradesmen.

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However, due to poor implementation, corruption, bureaucracy and policy somersault, millions of Nigerians are still homeless while many others are living in indecent houses.

Over the years, the deficit quantum of housing in Nigeria has remained stagnated between 17 to 20 million, depending on where you are getting the figure. This could be more because the majority of housing available lacked critical adequate housing indicators.

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Currently, about 108 million Nigerians are estimated to be homeless, based on an average family of six people per housing unit, which has robbed her teeming population the comfort that a good house brings.

Also, the home ownership rate in the country is put off 25 per cent, lower than that of Indonesia (84 per cent), Kenya (73 per cent), and South Africa (56 per cent).

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For instance, while the needy continue to have less access to housing the less needy have greater chances of accessing housing.

The shortage of housing is one of the factors responsible for the poor environmental quality across Nigeria.

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But experts said the standardisation policy would be the game-changer in the housing delivery and addressed the deficits if applied judiciously by all stakeholders.

They argued that standardization is normal when you have to do cost-effective mass housing.

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According to them, a good economy of scale is achieved in a repetitive process. Lack of standardisation, the expert said, increases costs in the production process and on-site.

Past President, Nigerian Institute of Architect, Tonye Braide said standardization would positively drive the National Housing Policy and make houses more affordable.

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Standardization, he stressed, is normal when you have to do cost-effective mass housing. A good economy of scale is achieved in a repetitive process.

‘Factory produced unit comes in fixed sizes. Similarly, the openings to receive the components must be to standard dimensional control allowing only for tolerance’.

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He said: “if we are talking about affordable houses, standardization brings up and organised production system in housing delivery and bring down the price of the houses.

‘Go to Algeria, where they built a lot of houses all the houses are the same. China is doing the same standardization. We should employ Econobox design. It fits it. It is better than living under the bridge then as the man’s position improves”, he said.

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According to him, lack of standardization increases costs in the production process and on-site.

“For mass housing, the solution is to have everything on a standardized template. From design, a room should be dimensioned to fit the number of tiles that will be needed. Using standard dimensions can save up to 20per cent of the construction costs”, he added.

For an Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Lagos, Anthony Kayode Adebayo, standardisation in building designs can only be attained when there are concerted efforts of policy makers to make that as a national issue.

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“You go all over the world and look at it critically, if you can use United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore as an example, you would need to sit down as a nation and formulate standardisation policy.”

The immediate past Head of Department of Architecture observed that the ultimate aim of standardisation should be to improve efficiency, robust economy and improve ways of doing things especially in building production.

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He stressed, however, that standardisation shouldn’t suggest the same model of doing things.

“For example, it doesn’t suggest that all Nigerians should be using the same cloth whereas we can’t have a mass production of a shirt. But for any nation to be able to achieve standardisation, it needs to sit down and formulate that policy and ones it becomes a policy, then all of us would fall in line.

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“Until we do that, what authorities are expecting us to do is for everybody to do his or her things whereas individual companies could formulate their own standard policy but that might not work in the overall general interest and efficiency of the economy”.

On how the lack of standardisation in design input hinders the national housing policy, Adebayo said, “When you talk about government and housing, the mind goes to first to what is normally refers to as public housing if it’s meant for the majority of the people. The individual housing providers which are not embracing any standard, one architect design this or that, we don’t have an industry that produces standard products which could have to improve economy and mass production of samples for buildings. You, therefore, see buildings going down We didn’t do all these things. Ours has always been makeshift attitude towards everything and so we are not getting results and it has been difficult. We really heavily on the traditional way of doing things and that is where we are”. He added.

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On his part, the Lagos Chairman, Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Adeyinka Ogunseye, identified enforcement as the main challenge of standardization of design and inputs in Nigeria.

Legislation, he said, is key in ensuring standardization.

He called for enforcement as done in advanced country because it is cheaper to have standardized materials and specifications.

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According to the First Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Architects, Enyi Ben-Eboh, standardisation in design plays a major role in mass housing construction to bring down the cost of housing as low as possible.

Ben-Eboh said, “But when you are dealing with individual owners who just wants a design, and who don’t want their designs to look like other persons’ designs, the more you can make one design different from the others, the more the client thinks his or her own is unique.

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Most of the components in standardisation for mass housing are designed in such a way that we don’t have wastages. There is what is called modular design where you design according to a set grade so that when you are assembling them, they come with minimal wastage and that comes to lowering the cost.”

He emphasised that if Nigeria is really thinking of making any headway in mass housing construction, the country must begin to standardise its building input, design, and other components.

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He further said, “The national housing policy sets standards for housing delivery, if there is a deliberate attempt at the stage of policy to ensure that at the design stage, buildings are prepared according to standardization, then people would be forced to design in order to meet those standards.”

For instance, we have a building code and other documents that tend to specify standards, which have not been tailored towards meeting the policy. So until we begin to get right the specifics that if we are constructing 10,000 housing for a start, the component must be in conformity with certain standards, which have been established by some regulatory bodies.”

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