Topic for Debate
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Prefabricated low income housing has been relatively successful in the 1st world countries, but how would this strategy fair in developing countries?
Although industrialized building methods are initially very expensive (Factories and Machinery etc.) and is not labour intensive, being unattractive for 3rd world countries. However, have we considered that low cost housing projects are flushed with money from numerous organizations, private and public alike? A large proportion of construction workforce in 3rd world countries are unskilled and produce poor quality buildings, especially the low cost houses. Prefab housing poses little room for error and poor quality, as its erection is a simple process, as long as its manufacturing is steadfast.
Providing shelter for the poor is not an issue of customization or aesthetic appeal but rather effective, quality construction and a decent living space. Industrialized construction methods would probably interest corporate investment if there is government interest. At this age industrialized construction methods would be most feasible for low income housing. So indirectly this could make low income housing developments an interesting investment prospective, pumping more funds into building houses for the poor. Industrialized construction may become more technological advanced making building faster and cheaper.

This is my topic for my Dissertation (Research Project) South Africa being my focus.
I would be most interested to read your comments.

Thank-you for your time
Stefan Mathias Conrads
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
the idea of 'squatter' implies the non-legitimacy of one's abode. but this is not what we would immediately think of. instead, we conjure images of dilapidated houses with so much children running around; we think of narrow alleys lined with filthy canals; we think of crime, drugs, and other sorts of illegal activities. such images immediately discourage the thought of investing over such places. the irony is, it is this 'investment' that is much needed.

if legitimacy in record is not possible just yet, perhaps one can achieve a form of 'legitimacy' in perception. and to do that is to eliminate our negative images about squatter dwellings.

Stefan, perhaps your low-cost prefab structures can be instrumental in dispeling such images, albeit one step at a time. it can probably start addressing the shabbiness and the disorderly manner which squatter areas have become.

i'm not a fan of letting government take on this as a flagship program, but it must participate to provide security for other parties willing to help, the necessary paper work to give the project its legal identity, and participative presence in the affairs of the communities.
Jofer Magsi
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
hello stefan;

its interesting topic for a thesis. here m from sri lanka one of the so - called developing country according to the statistics. sri lanka huge demand on housing for low income housing. projects are mostly concerning quantitative aspects than quantitative, which is critical in the contemporary.

i have seen low income housing project of grameen housing project of Dr. mohommad yunus of Bangladesh. there you can find information on the management system of project.
here we already started a same kind of project. I'll try to send more in coming week.
Rang' Soysa
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Stefan, Much better to introduce urban plans which allow for the growth and evelopment of areas. If you look at the maps of ancient Greek (and Roman) cities. The major twin needs are (a) an adequate transport network and (b) blocks of land divided up into units upon which people can (and did) build anything they wanted or needed.

If you have the layout of an urban area planned, then it does not matter what is initially built because there will always be space for upgrading the buldings on the land units.

If you think about it, allowing a squattter camp to be developed simply creates squalid cramped and disease- ridden urban areas which are only fit for bulldozing and starting from scratch.
Frank John Snelling
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
The 'low-cost' can be a good incentive for manufacturing companies to provide lodging camps for workers, especially those coming from far off areas. Even at minimum wages, potential savings may be gained from transportation and house rents, which can be particularly high within urban areas.
Benito Castiglione
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
I appreciate the responses.

The main issue is the inadequacy of low income houses around the globe. The term �Inadequate� in the housing context means the insufficient supply and quality of the houses. The developing, especially the emerging market countries (India, China, Brazil etc.), have the highest levels of inadequate housing, this is due to urbanisation. Solving the housing crisis is not simply supplying the need but rather demoting urbanisation and promoting rural development.
Stefan Mathias Conrads
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
"Solving the housing crisis is not simply supplying the need but rather demoting urbanisation and promoting rural development."

There's a paradox here in that while promoting rural development, you could actually be transforming it towards urbanization. That's because the developments therein would be a reason for people to gather to such areas.

Also, I think we have two issues here: that of housing and that of macro-economic development. Are you trying to address the latter with the former?
Jofer Magsi
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Thank-you for your response
The statement to promote rural development in order to demote urbanisation is indeed a paradox but is still true. People are drawn to urban areas for better job opportunities instead they find themselves jobless and homeless, and because of this large shanty towns or squatter camps develop in and around urban areas. Developing a rural area into a small urban area will provide job opportunities in this area, which will lessen the volumes of migration to large urban areas. Urbanisation is not a problem it is human nature, the problem is to accommodate the population influx caused by urbanisation. The issue addressed is of inadequate low income housing around the world, mass urbanisation being the major cause of the housing crisis. So far no developing country can provide the quantity of houses needed in the urban areas. My point is that greater governmental and corporate social efforts should be directed towards uplifting rural hamlets into small urban villages rather than to further develop existing cities and initiating housing projects which all further drives urbanisation. In my view, this is a case where the dog chases its own tail. Rural development is more economically sustainable (both macro and micro), spreads the housing demand, a stronger fight against poverty and might be more environmentally friendly as well. However it might not be in the favour of the political parties and the super-corporate�s of the first world, whose motives might not be entirely what they seem.
So to answer Jofers question; the issue I am addressing is that of inadequate housing which is mainly supported by a paradox in reality�ironic isn�t it.
Stefan Mathias Conrads
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
as you noted that the rural development is environment friendly than the urban. Than I think you should look over how the houses in village get built. who built houses in villages? mostly the occupant themselves only with help of a master builder or some relatives in construction, when you are in favour of prefabricated house, you are incouraging industrial growth. while contraty to that the village case is. i think you should check the validity of prefabrication strategy against promotion of locally available skills and technology.
Charmy Sony
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Hello Stefan,
(Sorry, I have not been able to read other responses in this discussion; so may be slightly out of context.)

This is a tricky situation.
As you have rightly said, prefabrication became popular (and perhaps, started) in west so as to minimize the on-site labor and time required for construction.
Today while it seems to be the era of 'affordable is profitable' in rich economies like, say, USA; homebuilders in developing world including China are apprehensive about getting into this business.
There are two major factors to this phenomenon that I can clearly identify:

1. The whole concept of 'affordable' dwelling' is very different in the developed and developing/ under-developed nations. Some of the 'affordable' 'apartments' in, Say Californea are known to have amenities that even the upper middle class in the third world countries can not afford to have. On the other hand, in the poorer nations, 'affordable' would only mean bare minimum 'shelter'. The developers hardly have any 'incentive' to get into this business; and thus hardly any 'market' forces have made significant efforts to involve in this segment. Clearly, the 'marketability' of the 'affordable' in developed countries is maintained. Moreover, they are 'incentivized' with tax credits etc than being 'forced'.
On the other hand, in China, the government has started forcing the homebuilders to build a certain percentage of 'affordable' in their projects; further increasing their aversion towards exploring the �profitability� in affordable housing.

2. In poor countries 'affordability' is achieved by 'minimalism' with respect to everything including some very basic utilities and amenities. The apartments for low income people in China built by what is called 'Housing Bureau' lack private bathooms and kitchen!
In developed countries, 'affordability' is achieved by 'institutionalization' of the overall construction process and optimization of supply-chain. These processes have some costs in themselves that poor countries can not afford.

In summary, 'affordable' housing is not being �enforced� organically; and is simply being 'forced' in the countries that you are targeting in your research. The governments could rather try to work on innovative technological and business ideas to regulate the overall concept.

Perhaps the JNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission) in India is one of the better ways of addressing the issue.
P Das
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Let us also consider that the "affordable" solutions we may have now could turn out to be the very cause of future problems that are difficult to eliminate. Plastic is an affordable material but with increasing accounts of its detrimental effects to the environment. Easy do-it-yourself housing structures may encourage the proliferation of informal settlers. Affordable housing is important but 'affordability' should go with a comprehensive housing program.
Jofer Magsi
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Taking steps to solve housing problems, seems to me to be
A - Social context. How people live and work.
B - Family makeup. How each member of a family interacts.
C - Enviromental Factors. How that family and structure effect the enviroment.

The ABC are all different for each country, each area, each enviroment.

Before we go into constructing prefab or traditional buildings, we need to understand what is really needed
Jason Godfrey
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Stefan, this is a very interesting idea! How can I contact you? I just want to discuss with some aspects of your idea...
All the best
Martin Siemens
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Got it. Appreciate your information! But could you tell me more about it? Such as date.
Jardonhu Hu
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
Prefabrication of low income mass housing strategy is an important topic for discussion,and the contributors have really started well in their line of thought.
This is my contribution, since affordability is the watch word for this scheme to be viable, it is pertinent the researcher considers sourcing of locally available building materials which has to be technologically modernized to improve its quality and efficiency then reduces cost of importing building materials, as such low income earners stand great chance of affording the cost of the said houses, it also create a potential market for private investors through public private partnership{PPP}.
Nkemakonam. Okofu
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
So long as everyone remembers that this is a continual and cyclical urban process because today`s "Low Income Housing Development" will gradually upgrade itself to become middle class homes. Therefore the most important issue for urban planners is to make sure the functional infrastructure can handle such change.
Frank John Snelling
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
It is important you consider these design strategies in your research, towards achieving Low Cost Housing.
Nkemakonam. Okofu
Prefabricated low income housing strategy
It is important you consider these design strategies in your research, towards achieving Low Cost Housing.Low Cost Housing.
Low Cost Housing is a new concept which deals with effective budgeting and following of techniques which help in reducing the cost construction through the use of locally available materials along with improved skills and technology without sacrificing the strength, performance and life of the structure. There is huge misconception that low cost housing is suitable for only sub standard works and they are constructed by utilizing cheap building materials of low quality.The fact is that Low cost housing is done by proper management of resources.Economy is also achieved by postponing finishing works or implementing them in phases.

Building Cost
The building construction cost can be divided into two parts namely:
Building material cost : 65 to 70 %
Labour cost : 65 to 70 %
Now in low cost housing, building material cost is less because we make use of the locally available materials and also the labour cost can be reduced by properly making the time schedule of our work. Cost of reduction is achieved by selection of more efficient material or by an improved design.

Areas from where cost can be reduced are:-
1) Reduce plinth area by using thinner wall concept.Ex.15 cms thick solid concrete block wall.

2) Use locally available material in an innovative form like soil cement blocks in place of burnt brick.

3) Use energy efficiency materials which consumes less energy like concrete block in place of burnt brick.

4) Use environmentally friendly materials which are substitute for conventional building components like use R.C.C. Door and window frames in place of wooden frames.

5) Preplan every component of a house and rationalize the design procedure for reducing the size of the component in the building.

6) By planning each and every component of a house the wastage of materials due to demolition of the unplanned component of the house can be avoided.

7) Each component of the house shall be checked whether if it's necessary, if it is not necessary, then that component should not be used.

Cost reduction through adhoc methods
Normally the foundation cost comes to about 10 to 15% of the total building and usually foundation depth of 3 to 4 ft. is adopted for single or double store building and also the concrete bed of 6 ³(15 Cms.) is used for the foundation which could be avoided.

It is recommended to adopt a foundation depth of 2 ft.(0.6m) for normal soil like gravely soil, red soils etc., and use the uncoursed rubble masonry with the bond stones and good packing. Similarly the foundation width is rationalized to 2 ft.(0.6m).To avoid cracks formation in foundation the masonry shall be thoroughly packed with cement mortar of 1:8 boulders and bond stones at regular intervals.
It is further suggested adopt arch foundation in ordinary soil for effecting reduction in construction cost up to 40%.This kind of foundation will help in bridging the loose pockets of soil which occurs along the foundation.

In the case black cotton and other soft soils it is recommend to use under ream pile foundation which saves about 20 to 25% in cost over the conventional method of construction.

It is suggested to adopt 1 ft. height above ground level for the plinth and may be constructed with a cement mortar of 1:6. The plinth slab of 4 to 6 ³ which is normally adopted can be avoided and in its place brick on edge can be used for reducing the cost. By adopting this procedure the cost of plinth foundation can be reduced by about 35 to 50%.It is necessary to take precaution of providing impervious blanket like concrete slabs or stone slabs all round the building for enabling to reduce erosion of soil and thereby avoiding exposure of foundation surface and crack formation.

Wall thickness of 6 to 9'³ is recommended for adoption in the construction of walls all-round the building and 41/2 - for inside walls. It is suggested to use burnt bricks which are immersed in water for 24 hours and then shall be used for the walls

Rat-trap bond wall
It is a cavity wall construction with added advantage of thermal comfort and reduction in the quantity of bricks required for masonry work. By adopting this method of bonding of brick masonry compared to traditional English or Flemish bond masonry, it is possible to reduce in the material cost of bricks by 25% and about 10 to 15% in the masonry cost. By adopting rat-trap bond method one can create aesthetically pleasing wall surface and plastering can be avoided.

Concrete block walling
In view of high energy consumption by burnt brick it is suggested to use concrete block (block hollow and solid) which consumes about only 1/3 of the energy of the burnt bricks in its production. By using concrete block masonry the wall thickness can be reduced from 20 cms to 15 Cms. Concrete block masonry saves mortar consumption, speedy construction of wall resulting in higher output of labour, plastering can be avoided thereby an overall saving of 10 to 25% can be achieved.

Soil cement block technology
It is an alternative method of construction of walls using soil cement blocks in place of burnt bricks masonry. It is an energy efficient method of construction where soil mixed with 5% and above cement and pressed in hand operated machine and cured well and then used in the masonry. This masonry doesn't require plastering on both sides of the wall. The overall economy that could be achieved with the soil cement technology is about 15 to 20% compared to conventional method of construction.

Doors and windows
It is suggested not to use wood for doors and windows and in its place concrete or steel section frames shall be used for achieving saving in cost up to 30 to 40%. Similiarly for shutters commercially available block boards, fibre or wooden practical boards etc., shall be used for reducing the cost by about 25%. By adopting brick jelly work and precast components effective ventilation could be provided to the building and also the construction cost could be saved up to 50% over the window components.

Lintals and Chajjas
The traditional R.C.C. lintels which are costly can be replaced by brick arches for small spans and save construction cost up to 30 to 40% over the traditional method of construction. By adopting arches of different shapes a good architectural pleasing appearance can be given to the external wall surfaces of the brick masonry.

Normally 5″(12.5 cms) thick R.C.C. slabs is used for roofing of residential buildings. By adopting rationally designed insitu construction practices like filler slab and precast elements the construction cost of roofing can be reduced by about 20 to 25%.

Filler slabs
They are normal RCC slabs where bottom half (tension) concrete portions are replaced by filler materials such as bricks, tiles, cellular concrete blocks, etc.These filler materials are so placed as not to compromise structural strength, result in replacing unwanted and nonfunctional tension concrete, thus resulting in economy. These are safe, sound and provide aesthetically pleasing pattern ceilings and also need no plaster.

For more on filler materials check Filler Materials Used in Concrete

Jack arch roof/floor
They are easy to construct, save on cement and steel, are more appropriate in hot climates. These can be constructed using compressed earth blocks also as alternative to bricks for further economy.

Ferrocement channel/shell unit
Provide an economic solution to RCC slab by providing 30 to 40% cost reduction on floor/roof unit over RCC slabs without compromising the strength. These being precast, construction is speedy, economical due to avoidance of shuttering and facilitate quality control.

Finishing Work
The cost of finishing items like sanitary, electricity, painting etc., varies depending upon the type and quality of products used in the building and its cost reduction is left to the individual choice and liking.

The above list of suggestion for reducing construction cost is of general nature and it varies depending upon the nature of the building to be constructed, budget of the owner, geographical location where the house is to be constructed, availability of the building material, good construction management practices etc. However it is necessary that good planning and design methods shall be adopted by utilizing the services of an experienced engineer or an architect for supervising the work, thereby achieving overall cost effectiveness to the extent of 25% in actual practice.
Nkemakonam. Okofu


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