DRY CONSTRUCTION: AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE BRICK AND MORTAR BUILDING CONSTRUCTION METHOD

There are two distinctive types of construction system: Wet and dry construction systems. In Nigeria, what we are used to is wet construction system. For the purpose of those who are not in the building trade, it is important to ask the question, what is wet construction system and what is dry construction system?

Wet construction system is based on employing construction materials that are placed or installed either in wet state or other than dry state or condition. These include using concrete, mortar, plaster and liquid cement.

Dry construction involves using materials other than concrete, mortar and plaster in building construction. It employs plaster boards, wood, steel and prefab concrete panels. It also simply means building construction that is dry. This method of building construction involves the use of very little water during the process of construction.

Faced with an unstable price of crude oil and a high cost of funds required to execute building projects and the fast paced nature of the business climate, the construction industry in Nigeria is obviously under pressure to deliver buildings that are more cost efficient and time saving, hence the need to consider other method of construction apart from the traditional method of construction.

In other clime, builders and developers are not only thinking of mixing of water with sand, gravel and cement to form concrete or the mixture of cement and sand with the addition of a good quantity of water to form brick and mortar.

Taking a critical look at what construction was like in the days of old, it is clear that dry construction is not alien to Nigerians as timber and palm fronds were used for the construction of houses, sheds and other structures that can serve as shelter for people,  love stocks and crops. It is important to also state that It was a time when housing deficit was at a low ebb.

However, the dry construction we have now is no where near the primitive era of construction in the days of our fathers. What is obtainable these days is a construction method that saves time and cost.

Dry construction is usually perfect for a project with an impossible deadline because it takes more than one third of the time it would have taken if the traditional method of building was used in its stead. Imagine building a house that would have taken you 6 months in less than 2 months

Another thing of note is that dry construction is ten times lighter than block. Let’s assume your building foundation is meant to carry a structure made of blocks, then how much relief will it be if the foundation carries a building ten times lighter than what it should have been if the building were to be composed of blocks?

To put it plainly, dry construction method can make your entire building come to you in 30 tons truck and all you must do is assemble the building on site. It is faster, lighter and the finishing is better and neater with less waste on site unlike the traditional system where there is always waste from broken blocks, extra sand, gravel and other waste on site.

Technically, you don’t have waste lying around when you build with dry construction. In this modern method of construction, it is easier to hide your plumbing and electrical pipes, and it is even easy to remodel spaces. Whatever the design idea the Architect can conceive, the dry construction system can achieve.

It also protects the environment as the use of timber associated with the traditional construction is avoided with dry construction, and the system impacts positively on reducing deforestation.

The demand for housing in Nigeria continues to grow at a geometric rate while housing provision is at arithmetic rate, yet most Nigerians don’t have access to decent housing units due to the cost occasioned by the cost of building materials. Hence, there is obvious need to evolve a more practical method of achieving mass housing development in the country.

Dry construction presents an excellent opportunity to government at all levels and the primary mortgage institutions to guarantee speedy provision of mass and affordable housing in Nigeria.

Perception and resistance to change are the two major issues facing the switch to dry construction method. My father’s house is still standing, and he built it in the 80’s, so why should I build something else? That is a popular line from a typical Nigerian.

The emergence of modern dry construction may be slow in Nigeria and may not even completely take over in 5-10 years to come, however it will likely have a mainstay in the building industry if the right steps are taken towards its actualization.

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