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Latest construction, building tech struggling for fame in Nigeria

Globally, technological innovations are spreading like wildfire in all sectors including construction, building and architecture.

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In many countries, recent technological advancements in robotics for construction to the use of drones are helping to improve the quality, aesthetics and profitability of projects.

From planning, design, construction  to maintenance and demolition of structures, there are now technologies that can aide any of the processes but some of these advancements are yet to gain strong grounds in Nigeria.

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The 2018 edition of Archibuilt provided yet another opportunity to showcase some of these technologies.

The annual exhibition-forum midwifed and driven by the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) brought together architects, builders, surveyors, artisans and allied professionals in Abuja.

Below is a list of either new or existing technologies in the building and construction sectors showcased at the forum which exhibitors said were yet to be popular in Nigeria.  

Plastic roads

Plastic roads are roads made from recycled plastics. It is a relatively new technology but has been implemented to some extent in India and some other countries.

Currently, there are no records of regular roads made purely of plastic in Nigeria.

“It is the latest technology about road but for now we don’t have it in Nigeria although it has been tested in Ghana,” said a building expert at the exhibition.

Although no large scale, systematic approach has been employed to build roads entirely of plastics, portions of a dilapidated road can be amended using this technology.

“It is the use of waste mostly PET bottle to treat road. We prepare it with a chemical then mix it with asphalt. When you apply it water cannot penetrate the road,” the expert explained adding that “The major problem with Nigerian roads is the penetration of water and that is why we have potholes.”

“For example roads built today cannot last six months’ time because of water but this one can last longer.” 

Plastic formwork

Formwork is a temporary mold into which concrete or similar materials are poured. It is done prior to casting or concrete work.

One of the major factors that influence the success of construction of any structure in terms of safety, cost, quality and speed is the formwork which takes about 20 to 25 per cent of the total cost of the structure.

Formwork can be made out of timber, plywood; steel, fibreglass or aluminium but timber and plywood are the most common at any Nigerian construction site because they are perceived to be cheaper.

However, the plastic formwork technology has been in vogue in other countries but has hardly gained prominence in the Nigerian construction space. Builders describe it as the most labour friendly system because not only does it fit and plugged easily but is also considerably light weight compared with other types of formwork systems. It takes about 30 per cent less time to install and dismantle compared with conventional formwork systems like plywood. Also, after its utilization, the plastic forms can be cleaned with water easily and can be sealed if it breaks due to bad handling.

An official of a company marketing the modular plastic formwork said it is a new technology moving away from the old system of plywood and iron.

“The life span of plywood is that you use it once or twice and then throw them away and buy another one. But now with the plastic one you can reuse them more than 100 times,” he said adding that it was a new product whose awareness is still low although had been deployed at different sites in Nigeria. 

Solar control glass technology

Whether for exterior purpose or interior partitioning or decoration, glass is one of the materials that has given modern architecture all of its functional features and design qualities and there are increasing energy and aesthetic requirements which only high-tech glass products are able to meet.

In the area of building design, architecture and aesthetics, construction professionals in Nigeria are said to know very little about solar control coated glass technology. 

There are now glasses that can prevent heat from entering the building and the products were displayed at the Archibuilt exhibition. 

This particular glass has solar control and low emissivity, meaning that it prevents the flow of sun into the building and cold from escaping the building. 

The glass comes in different colours and with safety features such that when it breaks all the pieces stick together. 

“The price depends on three main factors – the size (square meter), the thickness and colour of the glass,” said an expert in glass design.

“What we have discovered is that even construction professionals know very little about glass that is why one of the things we do is to train them. It is amazing what you can do with glass but if you don’t know you won’t be able to sell to clients,” said the expert who identified himself as a major glass distributor in Nigeria.  

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