Prefabricated homes are ready-made structures
I talked about “Container House” with my colleagues and many of them found it funny. They teased me: “who wants a ready-made house like a toy?” Although common in the developed world, prefab houses– also referred to as trailer homes, mobile homes, manufactured housing or modular homes– are still a rarity in East African countries, including Tanzania.
But sooner the phrase “prefabricated house” would no longer invoke such a wild imagination among Tanzanians, thanks to Mr Jack Xu, the sales manager of Yafei Construction Company, a Chinese firm operating this kind of business in the country.
Part of the prefab’s convenience is that it takes a short time to build up and is mobile and flexible in designs and shapes. Hzxiaoya Construction Company started its operations in Tanzania in November last year with the aim of assembling prefabs in Dodoma to beautify the county’s capital city.
It is working in partnership with Capital Development Authority, the government agency charged with planning and development of the new capital, with the aim of building many low cost houses within a short period.
“Dodoma was our first choice because it is the capital city,” says Mr Xu.
In some developed as well as developing countries there is a big market for prefabricated homes. Recent estimates indicate that in the United States over 250,000 housing units of this type are sold annually. However, in Tanzania it would take a long time before the people adopt the assembled homes.
Mr Jumanne Kassim, a resident of Dodoma is one of those aloof with the concept and says: “I don’t trust Chinese products. I wonder if those prefabs are durable. I prefer the traditional brick house.”
But others like Peter Maginje in Dar es Salaam are ready to embrace the new technology. The medical student at Muhimbili hospital in Dar es Salaam has ordered a prefab kiosk for running his business.
Mr Xu says prefab houses are light and environmental friendly. Their polyurethane walls, which make the core material of the house, are thin (80mm) and light-weighted (15 kilogrammes). According to him, the lightness of the prefab buildings may bring some significant environmental and ecological benefits.
“In a usual building site a lot of scraps and materials are wasted but in a prefab house there’s much more efficient use of raw materials because these are already molded in a controlled factory setting. This also reduces pollution,” he says.
In addition, he adds, the house with polyurethane walls is well ventilated and thence has low ambient temperature. The walls are also sound-proofed in such a way that they deter noise pollution and, furthermore the materials are inflammable and their thinness economises land space utilization.
It takes 15 days to fix a prefab house in a developed country but in a county like Tanzania the process takes 45 days because fewer people are involved in building it.
“It is easy and fast to fix these types of prefab buildings where people already have the needed skills but in Tanzania we have to train the workers before making any move,” says Mr Xu.
The company has made a prefab house sample in Dodoma where the public and potential clients may familiarise before taking a decision to build their own.
Before building a prefab house, its map and design is drawn and sent to China. Then the Granny House building materials are fabricated there in reference to the map. The materials are clearly marked with numbers before shipping to help the constructor in Tanzania follow the plan accordingly.