We live in a generation where speed is everything and patience as a virtue is on the verge of extinction. In order to stay competitive, businesses have to ensure they deliver their goods and services almost within the blink of an eye.
The millennials have taken over and have proven to be more tech savvy with greater access to information and more knowledge regarding global market trends and changes. They have been described as the microwave generation who expect nothing short of instant gratification. What this means is that, the bar has been raised even higher for those of us in the construction industry. The question on everyone’s mind is why should I wait for months when my home can be ready by tomorrow?
In principle, if you are able to save on time in any project you save on costs as well in the long term. Traditional methods of construction, no matter how efficient you try to be, simply cannot compete with the advantages offered by modern methods. By traditional, I mean masonry construction and in situ concreting of structures. These are not only labor intensive but have the disadvantage of being adversely affected by weather conditions.
The weight of masonry blocks, or even concrete structures increase the dead load that has to be sustained and taken safely to the foundation, hence will require a much more elaborate structural design in the form of more reinforcement, bigger columns, deeper beams etc.
Technicalities such as setting up of formwork and reinforcement and erecting of scaffolding take up a lot of time and add on to the complexity of the process. Work on lower levels cannot proceed before scaffolding can be removed (in about 3-4 weeks), further delaying the project.
Precast Panel Homes
Panel homes are gaining popularity in Kenya due to their ability to cut your build time in halve. These are houses built using factory precast concrete to form the exterior and support the structure.
Originally they were preferred for multistory buildings with simple floor plans but have evolved over time to capture the residential house construction market. Controlled manufacture of wall and even floor panels offers very precise construction, achieves a higher quality and reduces on wastage.
However, for precast construction to make economic sense, the location of the precast factory should not be too far from the site so that transport and handling charges are brought down to the minimum possible extent.
Detailed design is also needed at the joints in order to ensure satisfactory connections between the precast members.
The National Housing Corporation, in a bid to develop decent and affordable housing in Kenya, introduced expandable polystyrene (EPS) panels to the Kenyan market. The EPS panels are an innovative building material consisting of EPS foam sandwiched between a galvanized steel wire mesh that provides for lightweight construction with excellent insulation properties.
Each panel is 3.0×1.5 meters wide and is a substitute for building stones and timber and take less time to erect. This means that they might very soon replace the traditional reinforced concrete and masonry in both horizontal and vertical parts such as roofing, walling and flooring. They are finished by plastering on both sides.
Steel frame construction
Steel frame construction is one of the building techniques that have made construction of sky scrapers possible and is now being used for residential house construction. The skeleton of the building will consist of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-Beams constructed in a rectangular grid to support the floors, roof and walls of a building which are then attached to the frame.
The frame needs to be protected from fire because steel loses its strength at high temperatures and can cause a building to collapse.
Construction is quick and simple mainly since fabrication is carried out off site.
Steel as a building material in today’s construction industry is more durable, compared to wood, since it is not susceptible to termites and other pests. It is also able to span greater distances enabling design flexibility.
It has the highest strength to weight ratio of any construction material and is also a recyclable product.
Modern trends in the building and construction industry are leaning towards light weight construction and a shift from using natural building materials to more man made and composite materials with increased levels of fire safety. Off-site pre-fab construction is also being encouraged for more efficient use of these material and further reduction of build times. The bottom line is to save on time and ultimately cost but not to compromise on quality.
This is a win/win situation for all stakeholders since contractors are able to work on more projects in a year and clients are able to use their buildings much earlier and start generating income.