The importance of sustainable housing cannot be overemphasized both in Nigeria and in every other place worldwide. With the unprecedented pace at which climate change is advancing and the decline of raw materials on our planet, sustainable housing needs to be a top priority to every government and private stakeholder in the housing sector.
Sustainable housing is the process of constructing houses while ensuring less waste, more reuse, more recycling, lower life-cycle environmental impacts and costs, less maintenance, better reliability, and greater user satisfaction.
The factors that make housing sustainable are the extent to which the construction of the house uses energy and materials, its the ongoing impact on the environment in which it exists, the house’s design, and how that affects the need for things like artificial heating, cooling, lighting and water demands, the energy and materials required to maintain or renovate the building throughout its life, the overall lifespan of the building, the resources required to demolish the building, and how its by-products are either disposed off or recycled.
Sustainable Housing Projects in Nigeria
Housing in Nigeria is generally classified into two categories viz: public and private sector housing. The term public housing relates to housing provided by the government in pursuit of its obligation to support the shelter needs of its citizens. For decades, Nigeria has tried to develop a workable housing delivery program that would enable the country to attain its “housing for all policy.” The availability of decent and affordable housing in Nigeria has been one of the primary sources of concern for successive governments since 1960.
With Nigeria currently operating a three-tier system of government, i.e., Federal, State, and Local levels, each tier is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring practical housing projects at their various groups. Over time, State governments like the Lagos State Government have put into place housing schemes to achieve this policy.
Recently, a World Bank report noted that two of the most critical urban development issues bedeviling Nigeria are financing urban infrastructure and institutional arrangements for housing delivery in urban centers (World Bank 2008). With the increasing population of Nigeria (About 200 million), now more than ever, there is a need to develop an effective and operational framework for housing delivery. Could 3D Printing be the break Nigeria needs to achieve her “housing for all policy”?
With the introduction of 3D Printing, it can no longer be said that there are no measures to ensure sustainable housing in Nigeria and worldwide. 3D Printing has introduced a massive reduction of waste in housing and increased speed in building, among other advantages. 3D Printing uses computer-aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional objects through a layering method. Sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D Printing involves layering materials, like plastics, composites, or bio-materials to develop things that range in shape, size, rigidity, and color. 3D printers are part of the additive manufacturing family and use similar methods to a traditional inkjet printer- albeit in 3D. It takes a combination of top-of-the-line software, powder-like materials, and precision tools to create a three-dimensional object from scratch.
In simple words, the term “3D PRINTING” refers to an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design. The process works by laying down thin layers of materials in liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing the layers. With this technology, houses have been built faster, cheaper, and with less workforce needed.
However, there are widespread myths about 3D printed houses; while some claim that 3D printed houses are structurally inferior to their traditional counterparts, others say that the durability of such houses is questionable since they do not necessarily involve sculpting or building with human hands. However, 3D Printing ensures that there are relatively fewer stress points in construction. What this means is that the structure would be more substantial. Hua Shang Tengda, a company specializing in building 3D printed houses, recently demoed a 400-square-meter house that has been proven to withstand an 8.0 Richter earthquake. This is only one of the advantages of 3D printed homes to sustainable housing. Let’s go further.
3D Printing and Its Contribution to Sustainable Housing in Nigeria
One significant feature that must not be left out in the definition of a sustainable house is the management/reduction of waste. Building a sustainable house is imperative to ensure that available resources are well managed and never wasted. This is one thing that 3D Printing helps to provide. It is equally important to consider sustainable housing projects in Nigeria as waste management has always been a good discussion topic in the country’s housing and other related sectors.
To reduce housing waste materials, 3D Printing serves as a great option as traditional manufacturing methods can be highly wasteful and consume large amounts of energy and raw materials. Instead of sculpting an item from huge pieces of metal or plastic, 3D Printing precisely fabricates items layer by layer, resulting in less scrap waste (between 70 and 90% reduction) compared to some traditional manufacturing methods. Other contributions of 3D Printing to Sustainable Housing include:
With a 3D printer, building projects can be completed faster to reduce the construction period massively. Getting a house built with 3D technology can be completed in about a month and a half. This can come in handy during emergencies where structures need to be made in very little time. Using materials like concrete, traditional methods of the building take a long time to dry out. During the process of drying out, the materials are subject to the whims of the weather. However, with 3D Printing, drying out becomes more accessible and faster. While a traditionally constructed house can take 6-7 months to get done, 3D printing methods allow creating a home within 24 hours.
Over time, the Nigerian government has set measures in place via the Ministry of housing to create sustainable development plans for good housing schemes. The primary concern of both the State and Federal governments is how to develop strategies that will cut the cost of housing for citizens. However, the dramatic reduction of construction costs on 3D Printing is almost unbelievable due to minimal materials and labor consumption. Experts claim that a 650 square foot house costs only $10,000, but more people adopting the technology can come down further to $4,000. In comparison to traditional methods of constructing a home, this is a massive reduction in costs.
Homeowners can have unique houses catered to their taste with the endless design possibilities that 3D Printing opens up. With this new technology, one can resort to curvilinear structures, which have proven to be a lot more structurally sound. This helps the construction workers to experiment with different shapes.
These are only a few advantages of 3D Printing to sustainable housing. However, there are a few quibbles to deal with; the roughness of the surface, unlike traditionally built houses. The high prices of the printers also remain a significant source of concern and discouragement to construction workers.
With the rate at which the Nigerian government strives to create sustainable housing projects to reduce the housing deficit and provide affordable homes for a greater percentage of residents, it is essential to note that the above contributions of 3D Printing to sustainable development proves that the technology is a better option for Nigeria and other developing countries.
Increase in Design Shapes
3D experts say that the technology can create design shapes and customizations that would be impossible and expensive if done traditionally. As explained earlier, the printers can precisely place small amounts of concrete exactly where needed for complex shapes, which will significantly enhance the design possibilities for architects.
The future of sustainable housing in Nigeria and the introduction of 3D Printing into the housing sector are two inseparable factors that will help achieve both the public and private housing sector goals in ensuring excellent and workable projects for Nigerians.
Story By: Noah Ibrahim
Noah Ibrahim is a Real Estate disruptor, CEO of Novarick Homes, and developer of the first solar-powered residential community in Nigeria. He is also a change advocate and has pioneered several innovations in the real estate industry like the green real estate initiative, build-to-rent drive, and young entrepreneur mentorship initiative.