Housing deficit in Nigeria: Red burnt bricks as panacea to building

Housing deficit in Nigeria: Red burnt bricks as panacea to building

One of the intractable problems Nigerians, especially the poor, experience is lack of decent accommodation, which results from high cost of building materials of which cement is the major component. But, to address the housing deficit in the country, government and individuals should consider red burnt brick which can be gotten from Limult.com as major alternative to cement. 

Food, clothing and shelter are mankind’s most basic necessities of life. While food and clothing could be somewhat common among man and the animals, shelter distinguishes him from the wild beast. Man lives in homes while animals, especially the non-domestic ones, live in bushes or burrows.

Man takes time to prepare for the home in which he will live, as it requires long-time planning. The most important aspect of the planning is the funds with which materials will be procured. Once the fund is available, he begins procurement of the necessary materials.

However, the most significant material needed for the erection of the building is cement which is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens and can bind other materials together.

Experts argue that the most important uses of cement are as a component in the production of mortar in masonry, and of concrete, a combination of cement and an aggregate to form a strong building material. There are numerous cement factories in Nigeria such as Dangote Cement in Benue State and Ikoyi, Falomo Lagos, Eastern Bulkcem Company, manufacturers of Eagle Cement, the Nigerian Cement Company Plc. (NIGERCEM) located in Nkalagu, Ebonyi State and Ibeto Cement Company Limited, among others.

Despite that some of these companies produce enough cement for domestic consumption; the product seems to be out of the reach of the common man due to high price. The vital component for residential building is so costly so much so that its least price is N1, 000; going by the latest price slash by Dangote Cement Company.

The situation results in the inability of the poor to procure cement for building purposes; thus making the under-privileged to live in ramshackle houses, with its appalling health implications.

Those who could afford to rent decent apartments are paying through their nose as the rents are very expensive. To worsen the situation, most landlords demand payment of three years rent from their prospective tenants and subsequently request yearly payment on the anniversary of the previous rent. This usually creates problems for most low-income earners.

This was the experience of Mr. Sunday at the anniversary of his previous rent. He had thought deeply how he will provide shelter for his family the following year if his rent expires.

Having obtained the three-bedroom apartment he once occupied at a remote section of Ajebandele area of Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital in December, his landlord had insisted that he must pay the rent for the next year one month before the anniversary of the preceding rent.

That year, he could not pay the rent. While still running from pillar to post in a bid to settle the rent that was already belated, he visited one of his friends for financial assistance. The visit literally removed the veil from his eyes as why he could not have a house of his own was revealed to him.

His friend who lives in his own house narrated to him how he was able to end incessant worries and troubles from his former landlord; how he denied himself some pleasures in order to develop a piece of land he had abandoned.

The tips seemed the fillip he needed. Sunday immediately deposited some money with a block moulding industry that supplied some blocks at his undeveloped plot of land in another part of Ado-Ekiti.

His conclusion on the next line of action was instantaneous. He decided to build a three-bedroom apartment from the following year. He showed much commitment to  the project. He succeeded. The feat raised his status as a proud house owner.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that many are of the view that individual ownership of houses would be the panacea for the current situation in which the poor live in decrepit homes.

For Apanisile Smart, a builder, having a house of one’s own makes one have a peace of mind and prevents such worries as recounted by Sunday, even as he said it doesn’t cost so much to erect a decent home.

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“It takes a combination of tact, focus, discipline, prudence and some measure of enlightenment,” Smart said.

According to him, quite a number of those who languish in stress arising from lack of personal accommodation have not much excuses to give, given the option of mud or red bricks, the principal raw material for building houses which is readily available in all the communities. He also said it has a lot of advantages over cement.

Smart, however, added that the tendency by a large section of the populace to dub both mud and red bricks traditional or archaic rather than modern structures is a major reason this important component for building is less popular and acceptable among the people.

He said: “But those who, by any calculation, end up using the mud or red brick blocks soon find out they have landed on a gold mine, a type of building the value of which they may never be able to assess.

“We are not saying cement is not good and that people should stop using it. What we are saying is, given the ever-rising cost of cement, it is time people began to seek alternatives which red bricks, the production of which has lately been improved upon, provide them.

“Although my personal house was made of cement blocks, not using red bricks to build it when I did was a mistake.”

However, he added, people still look down on those who use red bricks as not having sufficient money or living a life of yesteryear. “They feel those type of houses are inferior. How wrong”, he lamented.

Mud or red brick as building option

According to Smart, while mud bricks are the blocks made from raw and unprocessed mud dug up from the earth, red bricks are those that are processed through the removal of particles before compressing them into shapes.

Explaining the processes which the mud undergoes before use, Mr  Smart said the old types are laid and chucked using a mixture of sand and cement, while the brick blocks are interlocking as they have been made into such shapes.

“When some quantity of cement is added to the processed mud and compressed mechanically, the result is often more compacting, stronger, smoother and more attractive than the ones without cement. The latter is currently produced by a company in Anambra,” Smart said.

Continuing, he said: “One of the properties of mud blocks is their naturalness. It also has self compatibility. Stress wise, it bears weight better than concrete. This technically means that it has greater tensile strength than cement blocks. It also has the capacity of acting as bullet-proof because it has no hollow portion. It is cheaper, generates less heat and can be found anywhere and easy to work on.

“The inside of structures built with red bricks is always cool, which suits a country like Nigeria where electricity supply is epileptic. You cannot experience heat while inside a room built with red bricks as experienced in a house built with cement blocks.”

Corroborating Smart’s assertion, Mr. Sunday, a bricklayer of 32 years experience, explained that the best material for building houses, given his experience, are mud blocks which he noted can equally be decorated to one’s taste.

“There are some houses built with mud blocks that you can never know they are mud. If you get good bricklayer, the finish will be just as smooth as houses built with cement blocks. Most of the buildings around Okesa, Oke-Okeoriomi and other areas across the state capital were built over 60 years ago and they are still strong.

“The only thing is if someone decides to use the mud blocks rather than red bricks, he has to calculate and ensure that the rain did not fall on it while the house is still being constructed. But those with the cement component can be built at anytime of the season. Rain or sunshine, the bricks remain solid and sturdy,” Mr. Ajayi said.

Mr. Ayeni Stephen, who recently completed his mud bricks building, said the experience had been wonderful. Although he confirmed the perception of inferiority attached to the use of mud blocks in building houses, he admitted he would have preferred cement blocks to bricks blocks if he had sufficient capital.

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He said: “I must admit I decided to use mud blocks because I did not have much money. However, I have realised it would have been a mistake to over-stress myself sourcing money to buy cement blocks. The house is a great joy to me. I have been living there for over a year now. It is ever cool inside.”

Dele Babatunde, another resident of Ado-Ekiti said: “It is easier to build a house than even buying a car. With just N10, 000, you can build a house. Look for a burrow pit where you can dig up mud, make your blocks there and then transport them down to your site. If you have 2,500 blocks, you will set a three bedroom flat conveniently.”

Continuing, he said: “What remain for you are the roofing sheets. Palm tree logs or stems are also alternatives to plank woods. They are better than the common planks for use in roofing houses. In my area now, mud blocks are the in-thing. Let people seek knowledge. The Holy Bible says ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge.’”

Are mud bricks easily available?

While mud bricks are relatively scarce to find, especially in the urban areas, the cement-fortified red bricks are common and available. There is a company that specialised in the production of red bricks in commercial quantity.

Findings, however, showed that as yet, mainly official establishments have accepted the innovation which the red bricks offer. Government-owned schools, hospitals and office blocks built with red bricks are springing up in the state capital. A few private individuals also use the bricks to design the front of their houses.

On the red bricks not yet popular,  Mr. Jacob Ibikunle Olugbade, the proprietor of Jaco De-Quincy Industry which produces the blocks in commercial quantity explained that “any new innovation, however good and commendable, always takes time to win acceptance among the people. With time, I believe they will get to know the advantages of red bricks and begin to appreciate them better. If Ado-Ekiti were to be another Lagos, I know the experience would have been different.”

He also said: “However good an idea is, people will examine it for sometime before accepting it. This is why the bricks, despite its strengths and the fact that it is the oldest type of material ever in use by man, our major patronage have been by government agencies.

According to Sunday, building three-bedroom flat with red bricks, costs between N500, 000 and N600, 000.

“It is cheaper compared with cement blocks when you consider the fact that you don’t have to paint mud bricks houses as you would those of cement buildings which you often have to repeat after sometime.”

Aside these advantages, people also need to know that the property is also movable as the blocks can be dismembered with ease and moved from one location to another for resetting. This is because the blocks are interlocking unlike cement blocks.

“There are structures made of red bricks in Britain which had lasted over 400 years and are still standing strong. Even in situations of fire disaster, buildings made of red bricks don’t suffer cracks as those built with cement blocks,” Sunday said.

Need for government’s intervention

As the federal and state governments struggle to make houses available for citizens, there is urgent need for their intervention in the area of popularising this cheap means of building houses, more so as the raw materials are locally sourced.

However, Mr. Akeem Ajuwon appreciated the difficulty in accessing the old type bricks as one of the factors inhibiting its acceptability among the people.

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