Shot in the arm for cheaper housing

A factory that produces polymer concrete bricks has opened in the capital, making the erection of buildings not only quicker, but affordable too.

10 February 2019 | Infrastructure

Clemens von Alten • Windhoek

The Polycare Research Technology Namibia factory brings the hope of finally addressing Namibia's housing crisis. “Building houses from desert sand and without water borders on magic,” said a visibly impressed Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, as he opened the production plant north of Windhoek earlier this week.

This particular construction technology was first presented in November 2016 as part of the Invest in Namibia Conference. At that time, a demonstration home was built at the conference venue, which was eventually donated to a needy family of eight.

This was followed by a partnership between PolyCare and three Namibian companies, Guinas Investments, KL Construction and Namib Beton, which together own 66 percent of the shares, Guinas Investments chairman Jerome Mutumba told this newspaper.

“The investment is worth around N$38 million and the factory currently employs 30 people of which half are women,” Mbumba said, adding that the workforce would double as soon as the plant reaches full production.

According to the developers, with this new technology it is possible to build a two-bedroom, fully serviced home within three weeks, which costs just under N$300 000.

The process

First, conventional sand is mixed with polyester resin, which then cures in a mould within 20 minutes.

The core consists of styrofoam blocks, which come from Otjiwarongo. “This material is up to five times more robust than conventional concrete and is also water repellent,” said the head of the German partner company PolyCare Research Technology, Gerhard Dust.

The quick construction time is thanks to a so-called modular construction system (MAS), which is very much like Lego. Also, the building material provides a comfortable balance in temperature, as Dust explained. He said he had received a thank you note from the family that now lives in the demo house. “The daughter told us that in the past she got really cold in the winter and had to sleep under three blankets. Now a single blanket is enough to keep her warm,” he said.

At the event, Mbumba spoke about the housing crisis: “President Hage Geingob has declared the housing situation in Namibia a humanitarian crisis and has asked the private sector to help. He is confident that this technique can play a key role in building affordable homes.”

Mbumba also called on the NHE and the ministries of education, health and development to “build clinics, schools and houses using this technology”. Furthermore, he expressed the hope that banks would offer appropriate funding opportunities for Namibians wishing to construct their own homes with this technology.

One of the guests of honour at the opening, was the Thuringian minister of economics, science and digitalisation, Wolfgang Tiefensee. “I am thrilled to see what is possible when people work together,” he said. “It's not about what Africa can learn from Europe or vice versa, but what we can achieve together.”

The PolyCare chief agreed. “It should be a right of all Namibians to live in a decent home, and following the investment conference two years ago, that time has finally come. From this factory in Windhoek, polymer concrete blocks are produced that are available within a few days and with which affordable housing can be built.”

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