- Building materials are very important to the housing sector, but due to over dependence on imports, poor distribution, lack of local skills and equipment and low production capacity in the country they are often compromised.
By Umar Nsubuga
Man has built homes from a variety of materials since his existence. Therefore, the choice and selection of building material has also evolved.
Stephen Kyagulanyi who built his house 50 years ago and it is strong says mud and clay were among the first building materials used in the past.
“The adhesive quality of clay made it easy to work with and form into shapes. Logs, sticks, thatch, and wood were also used for early construction purposes,” he says. In my years some people could use dung and mud and build strong houses, he adds.
Abdu-Wahab Nyanzi, an architect at JR Consultants says some materials of the past are still being used the same way that our ancestors used them while others have been modified to suite the times.
“For example the inhabitants of the tundra desert build their igloos today the same way that their fore fathers did millions of years ago. The use of grass thatch, for example, has been with man to date. In its earlier use, some people built entire houses out of thatch and a few sticks. Now thatch is used for roofing mainly while the structure could be anything from timber, mud and wattle to blocks”, he says.
Some of the building materials we use today are re-engineered to enhance performance, reduce costs and to make them more appealing to the eye. Nyanzi says fired clay bricks are an example of materials that have been re-engineered from their original mode of use.
“In the past bricks of clay were simply a mix of clay and sand, it was used as an un-fired brick then later fired to make them durable and stronger”.
More improvements have been made on this item in the factory by increasing its compression capacity and water resistance capability. Stones are also other materials that have been used since the beginning of time.
Right from the pyramids to date, stones are very popular materials. Today stones are refined by cutting and polishing to improve the appeal. Cement has been used from the past to date.
Current building materials
Plastics are one of the current and most modern, widely used building materials. Formed of polymers, plastics are easily molded while in the liquid state. Compared to metal and many other materials, plastic is very light in weight and relatively low in cost.
Plastic is often used to make pipes and to decorate the interior of buildings. In Uganda today there are many modern buildings using glass, not only for windows, but often as the primary exterior building material. Such structures have become quite popular due to their eye appeal. In these modern days, technology continues to create new building materials with exceptional properties. However, there are many builders who are moving back to older building materials in an effort to increase durability.
How fake building materials are spoiling the market
According to Nyanzi the competition in the market and little knowledge in the sector is causing poor mixing of building materials, like cement and aggregate, and this can cause cracks in the walls, beams, slabs among others, and may cause the collapsing of buildings.
With high prices of building materials, builders are faced with a dilemma of procuring quality materials and end up using what is available to them. This partly explains the collapse of buildings in many parts of the country.
Choosing the right materials
Building materials are very important to the housing sector, but due to over dependence on imports, poor distribution, lack of local skills and equipment and low production capacity in the country they are often compromised.
These factors contribute a lot to the high prices and high production costs and later the poorly erected structures since people resort to materials with in their reach. The critical issues pertaining building materials in Uganda are a result of unfavourable economic factors and also partly due to the over all shortage of tools, equipment and skilled man power.
Also some traditional materials like grass and some techniques are not permitted in urban areas , which gives room to too much dependence on imports. Sadly there also a few consultants in the construction sector and as such there is limited knowledge on the durability of materials used. People buy materials on impulse or due to band wagon effect.
In some cases the consultancy are not appreciated or are very expensive. The local contracting capacity is also very poor mainly due to under capitalisation and lack of equipment