Saturday, 10 December 2016

Building Cheap: The Laterite way - Engr. Osaz' ENOBAKHARE

Nowadays building designs without ornamental columns (otherwise known as fanciful pillars) either in front, the sides, back or in the interior are often seen as old-fashioned. Interestingly most of these columns are either non-load bearing or partially-load bearing but due to ignorance, most of these columns are often over-strengthened and thus wasteful cost-wise; its like giving an empty trolley to a giant to carry when there are heavier loads yet to be moved. Basically, ornamental columns are often designed to carry artworks that add beauty to the buildings exterior or interior. They come in various cross-sectional shapes; circular, square, oval, rectangular, etc. However aesthetically appealing on completion, the cost of constructing ornamental columns especially the reinforced concrete and steel forms are considerably high in relation to other elements of the same shape, size and function in the building. Similarly, the use of Sandcrete blocks for walls and reinforced concrete for frames (i.e. columns and beams) account 

for a sizeable proportion of the cost of building projects (usually about a quarter of the gross construction cost) hence the emphasis on low-cost technologies to lower these costs.

Today, the use of Laterite bricks to replace reinfiorced concrete columns and the traditional Sandcrete hollow or solid blocks is increasing by the day across the country and elsewhere; not just because they are relatively inexpensive and durable but for their fair resistance to tension and compression when bonded and their decent stability. The rate at which developers are keying into this low-cost technology suggests that the use of blocks may soon fade out and block factories may be forced to convert to brick making.

From industry estimates, the use of Laterite bricks for block walls and columns where suitable, reduces the cost of these items of work by about 15 - 25% depending on how widely it was used. Laterite bricks are cheap because the cost of the main constituent material Laterite and the cement-sand ratio is quite low compared to the cost of producing the popular Sandcrete type. Using Laterite bricks in place of reinforced concrete for columns for instance, completely erases the cost of buying re-bars (i.e. Iron rods) as well as the cost of employing the service of a steel fixer to cut and fix the steel. Overall they meet all the established functional requirements, including the fact that they come already finished.

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