Steel houses way to go

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THE country has a huge housing backlog, with most of the building techniques having an adverse effect on the environment.
As technologies advance, newer techniques are being introduced in the construction industry.
And in Zimbabwe, among these latest techniques are the recently introduced steel-houses.
Regrettably, there is a low uptake of the steel houses being constructed by China Industrial International Group.
These steel houses have short construction time and are produced with strong and high quality materials that give them the ability to weather all the climatic vagaries.
This housing model could efficiently and timely address the huge housing backlog which currently stands at 1, 25 million and has resulted in the proliferation of many illegal housing structures without proper water and sanitation facilities, posing huge health hazards.
Government has since availed suitable land around the country for housing projects.
Work is presently ongoing in places like Norton and Imvutsha in Bulawayo.
The new administration has promised to construct more than 400 000 houses for low-income earners.
China Industrial International Group Zimbabwe (Private) Limited-CIIG in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government Public Works and National Housing, has brought in new housing technology to address the accommodation crisis through low cost houses targeting low income earners.
The company has invested more than US$2,5 million in the construction of four factories to supply the components of the steel houses.
And the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) has since approved the steel houses.
Speaking to The Patriot, CIIG’s chairman Nie Haiyang said the company was engaging Government to assist it market the houses and increase their uptake.
“We have introduced a new product for the local market which enables local people to experience a new housing technology which gives a guarantee of over 30 years. The roofing material used gives a guarantee of 70 years, the steel walls over 35 years with no colour change. The ratios in mixture for cement to sand are different, making our product last longer and stronger and Government is happy with this. We have, however, not been able to roll out the programme in full. If Government supported this housing model, it would be cheaper for people to access it (sic),” said Nie.
Abel Chivambo of Wozani Love in Africa Children’s Home, a beneficiary of the steel house model, hailed them as convenient and affordable.
“When it is cold, the house has a warming effect to it and when it is hot, it has a cooling effect. The solar lighting system which came with the house is good and provides lighting for a long time while the sewer septic tank that was installed has helped us as we use the water for agricultural purposes(sic),” said Chivambo.
Projects co-ordinator Constance Muchoni said the septic tank was included as it proved to be a major cost for low income earners.
“It is difficult for many informal settlements to put up proper septic tanks which cost about US$2 000 but this septic tank provided along with the house is eco-friendly and cheaper. The septic tank comes with three chambers that release the water semi-treated, which can be used for watering the garden. This type of septic tank is not produced locally at the moment and needs to be produced from virgin material so that it withstands the pressure underground (sic),” said Muchoni.
Housing provision has been cited as one of the major engines for economic growth and serves as a barometer for development.
It also creates employment for those in the construction industry and promotes small and medium enterprises, who are the main suppliers of building materials.
Advantages of steel structure, according to Tyler Building Systems:
l Speed of construction
A metal building system is engineered, detailed and fabricated at the metal building manufacturer’s plant. The finished product is shipped to the job site and bolted together.
The on-site assembly of the metal building system is usually accomplished much faster than the on-site construction of a wood-framed home. The advantage the metal building provides the builder is that he is working “in the dry” sooner and is therefore able to reduce construction time.
l No load-bearing walls
For widths that are typically associated with residential structures, a metal building system does not require interior support columns. That means that none of the interior walls of the residence are load-bearing. No load bearing walls means that the home builder can easily make last minute changes to the location of interior walls since they do not impact the structural integrity of the shell building.
For the same reason, future remodelling is no problem. Walls can be moved or totally eliminated without concern for the structural integrity of the metal building. Another advantage of the absence of load-bearing walls is that open spaces within the residence can be much larger with a metal building than can be achieved with traditional wood construction.
l Fewer trades mean few problems
The structural framing, roof and walls of a metal building system are installed by a single sub-contractor. In contrast, a wood-framed home with brick exterior will require at least a framing sub-contractor, roofing sub-contractor, and masonry sub-contractor. Three subcontractors are three times the potential for scheduling conflicts.
l Bolted connections versus nailed connections

The structural connections of a metal building system are accomplished using high-strength bolts. The structural connections in the typical wood-framed home are made with nails. Nails are not nearly as strong as bolts in resisting uplift force which is the primary cause of catastrophic failure in building structures.

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