Affordable Housing: With bricks one can reduce building cost by 40%

Affordable Housing: With bricks one can reduce building cost by 40%

Successive Nigerian governments have paid lip-service to the need for alternative sources of building materials in view of the escalating cost of the conventional or imported ones.

In 1991 for instance, the Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria AHCN, championed the use of locally sourced building materials when in collaboration with the Akwa-Ibom state government, it built an estate at Uyo with local materials. But that initiative was not followed up. Similarly, efforts by the Nigerian Building and Roads Research Institute NBRRI to popularise the use of local alternatives to the conventional building materials have met a brick wall, apparently because of our penchant to regard anything locally made as inferior. But with the high cost of land, funds, materials and labour almost making affordable housing a mirage, the need to resort to homegrown building materials has again taken the front burner. One of the materials that readily comes to mind is burnt bricks which experts posit, could be cost effective especially in building houses for the lower income and vulnerable groups. Making a case for alternative sources of building materials, no painting, no mortar. “With it, we have been able to reduce the cost of construction by about 40 percent,” he said. “In look, it is similar to our own mud or brick but not in process. The brick has to be burnt while the hydraform is hydraulic system, compression,” he said. But an Architect, Mr. BonsObiadi gave an insight on why most architects who are the building materials specifiers, find it difficult to recommend bricks to their clients. He stated that although red bricks are fine in outlook, their main problem is with the artisans or bricklayers who claim it is stressful to lay bricks and the fact that they do not have exact standards of workmanship.

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According to him, you need to find the right kind of bricklayers because most masons do not know how to lay bricklayers can lay bricks. Obiadi who noted that mud or brick was used in the past before civilization changed it to sandcrete blocks, said: “It is generally believed that bricks are difficult to lay, maintain and takes longer time to build. Building with sandcrete blocks, it is cheaper both in terms of material and labour. Truly speaking, I don’t like bricks because when water leaks through bricks, they get whitish and look ugly. Blocks don’t behave that way”. Continuing, he said: “Yes bricks look good and beautiful at first but fall apart after a while due to our poor labour skills and use of weak material like bonding cement mortar. Efforts to popularize the use of bricks failed because the manufacturers did not market the products well and did not spend money training workers for their products. However, more or less, our attitude to bricks has a lot to do with their deficiencies”. Despite Obiadi’s views, it is believed that the ideal building material should come from the environment and replaced after use. Such materials, according to experts, require little or no processing and all the energy inputs would be directly, or indirectly, from the sun. The ideal material should also be very affordable. Mud bricks are made by mixing earth with water, placing the mixture into moulds and drying the bricks in the open air. Straw or other fibres that are strong in tension are often added to the bricks to help reduce cracking. According to them, the most effective use of mud bricks in building healthy and environmentally responsible housing, comes from understanding their merits and accepting their limitations. Although the use of earth construction is well established in energy efficient housing and is one of the oldest known building materials, much about its properties and potentials still remain undeveloped and poorly researched. However, with thick enough walls, mud brick can create load bearing structures to several floors high. The appearance of mud bricks reflects the material they are made from.

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They are thus earthy, with colour determined by colour of clays and sands in the mix.

Advantages of building with burnt bricks from

  • Cost is greatly reduced because the cost of bricks is cheaper than that of cement.
  • Raw materials are readily available
  • They are a beauty to behold
  • With thick enough walls, they can be used to do several floors 
  •  It is bulletproof.
    It is more environmentally friendly than sandcrete blocks.
     It is the most appropriate for our climate and environment.
  •  It is sound proof.
     It is unique.
    It is made from natural materials.

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