K-Brick System for Namibian Housing Backlog

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By Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK The building industry is poised for major change if a creative idea by a Namibian company takes root. Trans Atlantic Enterprises Namibia was last year granted the patent by the South African Department of Trade and Industry as the only company to manufacture the Kavango Brick to help with cost-effective housing for millions of homeless people in the country and beyond. The Kavango Brick is a specially constructed block to be used on all wall systems. The design system is filed by Trans Atlantic in most African countries as well as Asia, the Americas and Europe. Local professional quantity surveyors, Jordaan & Associates, to whom the Kavango Brick System was introduced, say they believe this is the answer to the problem of producing affordable and acceptable low-cost housing. Jordaan & Associates said in their letter of recommendation that there are many so-called “alternative construction methods” that appeared on the market just to be rejected because the public are so set in using conventional construction methods with normal brick walls. “The K-Brick system,” the letter reads, “is a special way of construction and also offers all the qualities that one finds in the proven conventional construction method but far from lower cost.” The surveyor’s office said saving in costs lies mainly in the efficiency of the construction method and the fact that construction time for a building is cut by as much as 40 percent. They said the system can be used for all types of construction, including double-storeyed buildings. They are also of the opinion that, in the Namibian context, it might be used with enormous success in the low-income housing business. The company says it has done a theoretical exercise to compare the real construction cost of different housing units by using the conventional construction method, to that of the same units by using the K-Brick system. Results so far showed a total saving of approximately 25 percent on conventional methods. This was taken from calculations done from tenders for low-cost housing projects which closed last year. Jordaan & Associates said the K-Brick system will be the solution for constructing more affordable schools and clinics especially where the construction is of a more simple nature and single storeyed. They said, however, that the K-Brick system is not for the developer who has a one-off project. The emphasis is definitely on bulk and the magnitude of the saving will be determined by the numbers, (the more units the bigger the saving). They said that small developers could also benefit by buying the building blocks from developers or suppliers who have their own plants. The diversity of the plant, the company said, offers different types of interlocks, pavers and kerbstones that can be manufactured by the same plant. They conclude with a recommendation that institutions that buy into the system might just be on the right path to solving the problem of supplying all Namibians with affordable and acceptable housing. Meanwhile, in a letter of recommendation, Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, Ben Kathindi, said they had received and reviewed the product’s technical designs and reports from the engineers and that the Kavango Brick, according to professional quantity surveyors, can reduce construction costs by up to 40 percent. Kathindi said the “uniqueness of the product lies in the specific shape and interlocking configuration of the Kavango Brick. The brick system is a special way of construction to accommodate project specifications.” Trans Atlantic Enterprises are renowned for their low-cost modular insulating lightweight panels. The panel, Kathindi said, can be applied in a wide range of building applications such as housing projects, hospitals, schools, ablution facilities, mobile warehouses and many other needs. He recommended that Trans Atlantic Enterprises with their unique product be added to the list of companies in order to participate in the tender industry by supporting the local manufacturing initiative in the country. All specifications on the Kavango Brick have been checked by the Department of Planning, Urbanization and Environment of the City of Windhoek and accepted by the chief building inspector. Niilo Taapopi, Chief Executive officer of the City of Windhoek, after a presentation from Trans Atlantic Enterprises to councillors, said the City wholeheartedly applauds the company’s spirit and endeavour. “It is my conviction that your initiative to come up with this truly revolutionary product is clear testimony that the construction industry is coming of age in terms of product diversification and innovation. I only wish you good luck,” he stated in a letter of recommendation. Although no tests have been done by the Research and Developing Centre of Namibia, John Korrubel, director of the Habitat centre, said in a release that the system had been presented to the HRDC and they support the introduction of the system for application in low-income housing construction subject to strict adherence to the manufacturer’s specifications. In the meantime, Trans Atlantic Enterprises is negotiating with the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre (VTC) to cooperate with the institution in on-the-job training for their trainees for practical exposure as required by the Namibian Vocational Education and Training system (NVET). The company is ready to train students for job attachment and exposure to the building world. The institution in its reply through the office of the principal, Paulus Haukongo, said it supports Trans Atlantic Enterprises in regard to their commitment to their training programme. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Regional Local Government Housing and Rural Development, Erastus Negonga, on whose shoulders the country’s housing needs rest, said they find the concept very interesting especially among the low-income groups, the category the ministry is assisting to acquire housing through the national housing programme, the Build Together Programme. The PS wrote that the role which Trans Atlantic Enterprises has to play towards Vision 2030 has to be supported by the public sector. “The ministry is hoping that if Trans Atlantic Enterprises’ initiatives are implemented, its capacity would go a long way in responding to low-income housing needs at regional and local levels,” he states. He said that since housing activities have been decentralized to the regions, his ministry has no objection in introducing Trans Atlantic Enterprises to all local authorities and regional councils for their consideration. The ministry hopes they will give the company their cooperation, support and assistance. The K-Brick is a fast cost-saving method of building. The larger brick size solution means less time building. It is dipped in block grip and packed. Less wastage with less cost. No chasings in walls due to holes in bricks, which allow the insertion of conduits. The Kavango Brick is said to be strong and its dimensions are consistent and accurate.