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Are 3D Printed Homes the Solution to the Housing Crisis in Nigeria?

Editors Note: The following content has been provided by Noah Ibrahim CEO of Novarick Homes, and developer of the first solar-powered residential community in Nigeria.

The crisis in the Nigerian real estate sector has existed for a very long while, contributing less than an average of seven percent to the GDP and under one percent to employment, according to the PWC 2019 report. 

Placing the Nigerian real estate sector in direct comparison to countries like the US and Australia in terms of contribution to the GDP, you’ll become aware that the Nigerian real estate sector has recorded a downward trend, and this has been for the better part of the last five years.

According to the same report, Nigeria is estimated to have a deficit of 17 million houses and requires 700,000 houses annually compared to less than 100,000 currently being constructed. In Nigeria, the cost of housing is relatively higher, while the average income level is relatively lower compared to the global average.

 

The Nigerian Real estate Sector and its brewing housing challenges

 

The Nigerian real estate sector faces many challenges and setbacks, which we cannot turn a blind eye to. These shortcomings which are witnessed in the housing sector can be attributed to negligence from the government, ineffective government housing policies, failed housing financing system, unavailability/inadequate access to long-term housing funds, unattractive interest rates, high land prices, high fluctuation of building materials,  high bureaucracy in the town planning agencies for approvals,  difficulties in obtaining government clearance for buildings and the high rate of corruption.  

The domino effect of these challenges is the growing housing deficit within the country.  Quite a number of developing countries have devised a framework and developed new technologies to ensure success in their housing market. One of such is the 3D printing of houses. 

3D printing is the production of physical objects layer-by-layer by an automated and usually computer-controlled machine. The machine, which digital 3D models guide, either melts metal or powdered solids or ejects liquid or semi-liquid materials. It is an additive process whereby layers of material are built up to create a 3D part. This is also known as “additive manufacturing,” and it was first developed in the 1980s. Over the years, this technology has improved, advanced, and can now be used to print almost anything. Recently, it has been explored to print buildings, a development that is shaking things up in the construction business and disrupting multiple global supply chains. 


3D Printing as a Sustainable Housing Solution for Nigeria’s Housing Needs 

 

3D technology is an effective building strategy for the Nigerian real estate market. This is because, using this technology, buildings or components can be printed out as objects in three dimensions from a  3D digital model.  The benefits of using this technology are numerous. There can be a decrease in waste through personal manufacturing and a decrease in the gap between large and small manufacturing firms in developing countries.

One element which makes the 3D printing technology stand out and makes it the best tool for combating the housing deficit in Nigeria is the speed at which houses are delivered. With this technology, the construction process is automated; therefore, it surpasses the limitation of the human factor of fatigue while working to deliver a building on schedule.

3D printing also makes the construction of affordable yet eco-friendly homes possible. Using this machine means there is no need to depend heavily on the importation of materials. This is because the printers use sustainable materials like locally sourced concrete mixtures or clay. If there is ever a need to demolish a building, the materials are recyclable and can be used again in future construction.

The amount of waste generated during construction is alarming from the bamboo used for scaffolds, cement bags, broken blocks, wooden formworks, unused concrete, binding wires, broken tiles, and nails. All these are usually disposed of improperly without careful consideration of neighboring residents or the environment. 3D printing technology would reduce the amount of waste generated in construction, even as improper construction waste remains a major issue in construction. 3D printers use only materials that have been inserted into the printer, generating little or no waste as materials are layered to form living homes.

Generally, 3D printing technology offers a more sustainable solution to building houses. Following the United Nation’s drive to create a sustainable future with the release of the SDGs, countries worldwide have begun adopting technologies to build sustainable cities and communities, and 3D printing technologies are at the top of this list.

Given there are some fears with using this technology which is largely based on the cost to implement. However, it has been argued that this technology is becoming economical due to the availability of free  3D digital models online. 

Nigeria’s population is growing at a rate of 3.75% annually, indicating a doubling of the population every 22 years. Apart from this, there is a rapid urbanization rate and high poverty profile. It is rather pivotal to adopt a lasting solution to the housing deficit in the country.

If this housing deficit is not addressed, there would be a high slum creation and homelessness. Solving Nigeria‘s housing deficit is about the speed of delivery. In a country that can only maximally produce 700,000 units of houses annually with a deficit of over 17million units, the innovation of 3DP should be embraced.

It is highly recommended that through a private-public partnership (PPP) framework, 3DP can be integrated into increasing the stock of housing produced annually. 

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