Understanding the dynamics of prefabricated housing

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One of the factors responsible for the huge housing deficit in Nigeria is that houses are not being delivered fast enough in tandem with population growth, especially in major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc. A probable solution to this problem is to adopt the use of prefab technology in housing delivery in the country. The prefab technology will make it possible to produce houses en masse across the country very fast.

Prefab

A  prefabricated building is a type of  building  that consists of several factory-built components or units, which are manufactured off-site in advance, usually in standard sections that can be easily shipped, and are assembled on-site to complete the unit.

The process is different from the more conventional construction practice of transporting the basic materials to the construction site where all assembly is carried out. For instance, the conventional method of building a house is to transport bricks, timber, cement, sand, steel  and construction aggregate, etc. to the site, and to construct the house on site from these materials

In prefabricated construction, only the foundations  are constructed in this way, while sections of walls, floors and roof  are prefabricated (assembled) in a factory (possibly with window and door frames included), transported to the site, lifted into place by a crane  and bolted  together.

The word ‘prefab’ is an amalgamation of panelised and modular building systems, and can mean either one. ‘Prefabricated’ may refer to buildings built in components (e.g. panels), modules (modules homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes), and may also be used to refer to mobile homes, i.e., houses on wheels.

Although similar, the methods and design of the three vary widely. The prefab house requires much less labour compared to conventional houses. Examples of prefab buildings include: Portable cabins or Portakabins); Modular homes; Manufactured homes; and Mobile homes.

Appeal

Prefab buildings are aesthetically appealing, durable, and have a short lead time. That means the time between when the order is placed and when the prefabricated buildings are delivered is short because prefab buildings are quick built factory manufactured homes.

Using this technology, various home types have been constructed with less money and in less time when compared to conventional building systems. Although this technology is not very popular in Nigeria, there are a number of prefab building companies in the country.

When building with conventional techniques, the building site is prepared before building can commence. This is not the case with the prefabricated building technology as off-site fabrication process can take place in the factory while the building site is being prepared and this saves building time.

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