Forum sees need for R&D in local building materials as recession bites, import cost soars
As economic recession in Nigeria lingers with the attendant rising costs, the need for research and development (R&D) of local building materials was top of considerations by participants at a three-day forum organised by the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) recently.
The forum, otherwise called the Lagos Architects Forum (LAF), was a gathering of diverse stakeholder groups from public service, private sector, academia, allied professions, artisans and building construction materials manufacturers and suppliers. It recorded well over 2,000 participants.
Nigeria is passing through an economic recession with cost-push inflation and rising cost of imported building materials, making the already bad situation in the housing sector much worse with increased unaffordability of the available housing stock, especially at the low income market.
Participants at the forum have therefore, called for research into the use of local materials such as bamboo for structural work and lateritic clayey soil for stabilised bricks on a commercial basis, stressing that this becomes very necessary, as no housing solution can be sustainable on floating foreign exchange rates experienced in the country today.
A communiqué issued at the end of the forum and signed by Fitzgerald Umah, NIA Lagos Chapter chairman, acknowledges the leadership role architects have been playing in development and modernization of the built-environment in the country, and particularly Lagos State as it marks its 50th anniversary since creation, but urges them to position themselves and their profession as drivers of new revolution to move the state to a new pedestal that will solve the myriad of housing challenges being faced by the low income groups, and indeed the slum areas of the state.
Lagos, with nine identified areas harbouring about 70 percent of its 18 million population, as an estimated 3 million housing deficit which requires about 200,000 housing units to be built consistently annually for the next 15-20 years to close that gap.
In the light of the above, the communiqué tasks the architects to think “out of the box” in producing practical and affordable blueprints that have scientific and empirical data basis in solving the housing problem in a contextual way.
“Architecture should not serve only the elites who can afford to pay for their services, but also extend their services to the low and middle income citizens who constitute more than 70 percent of the populace”, the communiqués says, noting that engaging in this will have collateral advantages of making architects more relevant to the society, help in reducing the slums and blighted areas and, in the long run, create suitable jobs for the architects.
In several ways, the Lagos state government is making efforts to address the housing problems of its citizens as could be seen in the first of its kind Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (LagosHOMS), Lagos Public Housing Scheme (LAPH) and the Rent-to-Own housing scheme.
The forum commended the state particularly on the Rent-to-Own housing scheme which is for the low and middle income public servants, but requested the government to have a broad based housing development strategy, taking cognizance of the actual statistics of both present needs and projected data as rural-urban drift continues.
The forum also advised that in order to have an efficient government development control systems for vetting, processing and approval of design drawings, government has to to ensure that well trained ,qualified and registered relevant professionals including architects, engineers and planners are deployed for the task.
In view of the continuous exponential increase in the population of the state and the challenges of land constraints for development matter, the forum also implores the government to muster all political will for the provision of real affordable and sustainable housing for the vulnerable , the poor and the low income residents.
The forum frown at the high incidence of building collapse in Lagos and recommended that the responsibilities of building design and supervision should be that of appropriate registered and qualified architects and built-environment professionals, who should be legally held liable if there are any failures on such buildings.
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