‘Dry construction panacea to Nigeria’s housing challenge’



Building materials are of significant for to housing delivery. However, the influx of substandard materials into the country has been a source of concern to stakeholders in built environment. Explaining the efforts by his company to address the menace and contribution to housing delivery in Nigeria, Managing Director, Nigerite Nigeria Limited, Mr. Frank Lebris’ in this interview with Tunde Alao, said the firm is committed to quality product delivery

How have you been able to maintain standard in view of the challenges associated with fake products in the market?
I would say challenges are around fake products. if we talk about dry construction, we have two types of cement board, which have no problem with fake because we are the leader and the binding force, but if you talk about plaster boards, you have a lot of fake products imported from China, which cannot be compared with the board we import from Etex Group in Europe.

The construction industry is moving towards what they call dry construction. You also mentioned it in your speech what does it mean? And how is Nigerite linked to it?
Dry construction is lightweight construction. That means it is a new way of building houses. So, it’s a new beginning house and it’s a simple process, very simple technology, using the right tools and the right bolts, and you can build your house, as you want.
At the end everything is lightweight. That means it does not weigh a lot. So you can adapt it on existing buildings.

Nigerite Limited has been in the forefront of developing this new concept in building technology called dry construction aimed at addressing the deficit housing needs of Nigerians. Tell us about it?
We have been able to set up a new organization with sales team, which we call Dry Construction Business Unit. In order to achieve our business goal, we think it is appropriate to start from the scratch, so we hired eight personnel with background experience in architecture and engineering to drive the business unit of dry construction. To achieve this set objective, Nigerite received support from our foreign partner Etex group, which is also involved in dry construction in Europe, Asia and South America, and they usually offer support services in the areas of capacity development and skill acquisition.

We have also received support from Benchmark, a company based in South America representing Etex. The company specialized in building high-rise structures using dry construction in South America.

Are you suggesting that finance is key to the reduction of housing deficit?
Yes, finance is key. If you want to have a house that will go for less than N2 million naira, you need major finance because it is impossible to build a good house for less than N2 million. The one we did in Abuja was done with less than N2 million because it was co-financed.

What is your advice to the Nigerian government on how it can best reduce the 17 million housing deficits?
The key issue is the financing. I think the Federal government may consider to finance or co-finance with some investors houses for poor people or what some call affordable houses for low-income earners, those who don’t have so much money to invest in houses.
We did it last year in Abuja for 24 single bed detached houses. It was wonderful.

Just last month a 24 housing unit was built using dry construction technology in partnership with Nigerite/Selavip and Etex, tell us a bit about it?
Yes, the 24 hours Housing unit was built in partnership with Selavip and Etex directly financed it and Nigerite gave a lot of discount for the building materials. There are also other organizations that took part in the building of the project, which the discussion on the execution started last year November, December and by March when the project started it was completed in two months. So, as we speak we have 24 housing units with 2 bedroom, 1 bedroom and the cost is between N1.6 to N1.7 million being sold to people at a very reasonable cost. This is a way of developing more housing in a faster and quicker way. The wall roofing, ceiling is made of cladding from building board specialist Kalsi.

What is Kalsi?
Kalsi is the brand name for the high performance building boards produced by Nigerite for the first time in Nigerite. It is manufactured with a precise and unique combination of cement, silica and cellulose. The boards are cured and stabilized in an autoclave, which is a leading technology involving high pressure and temperatures, that ensures optimum stability and mechanical resistance, ideal for any environmental condition.

How do you see Kalsi doing in the market?
I think it will do well. I think it will be very successful. First, it will do well more, around the cities. It will take a bit more time to penetrate the rural market. I think it will take a bit more time to convince people in the rural market. Look at the Kalsi Ceiling, I am sure that even the real market will buy it, because it is adaptable.

How has Nigerite been able to retain its position in the market?
I will mention two factors. First, it is the high quality of our products. We have maintained our quality for years. We have always been on maintaining our high and top quality products.

As far as Nigerite is concerned quality is key. That is the first. The second is Innovation. We always continue to look for new solutions, new products that we need for our roofing sheets like we’ve got light span. Recently we did embossed ceiling. So we have nice designs, instead of having a flat sheet. So, it is innovation and quality.

In terms of effectiveness and affordability is their any plan in bringing down the cost as to give more organization the opportunity to have assess to the materials?

The company is seriously working everyday to reduce cost. First, we will reduce the cost of board, because we produce them here, unlike before when we used to import from Indonesia. So we are working on the process everyday and certainly the cost will come down.

So far, is there any constructive engagement with the federal Ministry of Works and Housing using dry construction’s mode of building technology in solving the nation’s housing deficits?
There is no engagement for now with the federal authorities but we are ready to cooperate with them. However, we have had projects with some state governments. For example, in Osun, we are currently handling big projects regarding construction of schools, which I think is a good start. We also have Samsung Centre in Ekiti State, which is also a big project, and we are cooperating with other states like Bayelsa and Enugu that are also showing interest in using dry construction for some of their projects.

How do you see competition in Nigeria market?
Frankly speaking, the more competitors we have in the market the better. This is because it is good for the market to expand, and therefore we not threatened at all. The strategy for Nigerite is clear and our aim is to continue to innovate all the time. If you are innovative in motivating people, it won’t be difficult in coping with competitors, and let me say, this we have been successful in the last fifty -five years, so I have no fear at all.

Are you collaborating with real estate developers to use dry construction in some of their projects?
We are already cooperating with real estate developers but the challenge there is that they are looking for quality and good price, and because we are looking at construction of low cost housing at a very short time to deliver, it becomes very challenging. But we will continue to work with them especially in the area of price and offer after sale service in such a way that if there are problems we should be able to sort it out.

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