Build A Nation- Block by Block

Innovative tools to Build a Nation

With house prices coming in at an all time high it’s easy to see why so many are struggling to find an affordable family home. In The kombo’s, it is now almost impossible to find a house for under $100,000 – with many hitting the half-million mark.

Despite this, many families seem to be overlooking cheaper housing options, skeptical to sway from traditional brick-built designs. The reluctance of Gambian families to take advantage of alternative housing types and less expensive technologies could leave them out of the property ladder altogether.There is an increasing number of property developers in The Gambia which are beginning to explore non-traditional building technologies.Home-Squared Gambia Limited, agents for Roots Hydra form Blocks & Habitat Africa, claims to have a solution to Africa’s housing problems: interlocking stabilised soil blocks, otherwise known as Hydra form.

The high cost of materials is a major contributing factor to escalating house prices in The Gambia, according to Keba Njie at Sahel Invest, one of Gambia’s leading consulting firms.

“Cement is an expensive building material, and has to be imported from Senegal,” he explained to African Business Weblog. “Things are getting better – the stabilization of the Dalais against the Dollar in the past few years means that prices are more fixed, and the entry of more Chinese developers onto the market is driving everyone to seek better value materials and to decrease their prices.”

But the use of more local materials could drive down prices much further. Alternative building forms, which have been employed elsewhere, should also be embraced as a means of providing more affordable housing in The Gambia.

The alternative material was first introduced in 1988 in South Africa and is now used widely around Africa, South America India and Asia. The compressed stabilised soil blocks, which are said to be “more solid than any conventional block,” can be interlocked and dry stacked, therefore saving both time and money.

Although Home-Square is a fairly new start-up in The Gambia, they are currently in talks with Government over the use of their technology in the ongoing affordable housing projects. They estimate that the savings they make on materials and labour from hydro houses and the increased speed to put up result in an overall saving of 20 percent on the cost of a building.

The blocks are cheaper and faster to produce than traditional bricks. As Mr Gibi explains: “We use the low cost alternative material as it is made up of 90 percent laterate soil and just 10 percent cement. It is the 100 percent cement used for brick built homes that explains the huge costs. One bag of cement costs 205 Dalais and you would need 200-300 bags for a standard 2 bedroom home.”

The use of laterate soil in the Hydra form blocks reduces transportation costs as it can usually be found within the vicinity of the building site and then used for the production of the Hydra form blocks.

“The material is much quicker to lay, as Hydra form does not require the water-based layers of conventional bricks, we can just dry stack the blocks one on top of the other,” says Mr Gibi. “Once the attractive foundation is complete it requires no plastering or painting, thus minimising labor costs and reducing maintenance costs in the long term.”

The Hydra form, said to be ideal for high quality housing and commercial buildings, has also been well used in earthquake regions such as Nigeria to build strong, cost effective alternatives. The blocks are made easily on the building site and its simplistic building techniques could potentially create many job opportunities for unskilled workers everywhere.

Other advantages of the technology include its superior thermal properties, which allow the blocks to absorb and hold heat better than brick houses. Use of local materials will also reduce the pollution effects of importation and transportation meaning Hydra form could provide the cheap alternative desperately required by many in their search for an affordable family home.

Its fast construction, like the Hydra form technology, results in competitive low costs and can boast superior energy performance with low maintenance costs.

Mr Njie sayes seeing is believing. You can visit their 3 bedroom viewing model located at the premises of The West African International School on the Bertil Highway behind the Independence Stadium. Even better they are currently working with First International Bank on a pilot finance scheme to help you own your own Home-Squared House.

Please contact Mr Gibi 220-9393995
Mr John 220-

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