The benefits of prefab for Ghana’s real estate

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Prefabricated building can bridge Ghana’s infrastructure gap
Ghana is on the ascendancy, especially when it comes to real estate. The country has consistently attracted healthy foreign direct investment over the past 10 years. In addition, gross domestic product (GDP) is growing, though this has slowed down slightly in the last two years.

A growing economy needs improved infrastructure to support it. With an abundance of resources such as sand, mud and laterite, the West African giant can propel itself to bridge its real estate gap. Until now, the country has relied on conventional building methods. However, improved building technology is creating new opportunities for real estate.

Prefabricated building technology is one major unorthodox method used in constructing homes, schools, hospitals and all other real estate. Real estate expert Lamudi Ghana investigates its importance for the country and the whole of Africa.

What is prefabricated building technology?
Prefabricated buildings, also known as prefabs, are buildings built in components at a factory which are then transported to the building site for construction and installation. The material commonly used is expanded polystyrene (EPS). EPS is a lightweight but rigid plastic product that is made of expanded polystyrene beads. This product is then moulded into sheets and blocks for construction. Cement is typically mixed to make it more durable and presents a more environmentally friendly option to conventional concrete. The high insulation property of EPS makes it ideal for extreme temperatures as well. There are three main types of prefab. These are panel built, modular and manufactured.

The differences between these types are subtle. For instance, panel built prefab is manufactured in the factory in very small components. These components are then transported to the building site, where they are laid down. The floor and each section of wall is lowered into place.
Modular buildings are constructed in separate box-like structures and transported on flatbed trucks to the building site. The separate box-like structures are then fastened together to make a single unit with the help of a crane.

Manufactured buildings are completely built in factories on a steel frame and transported to the building site with a set of wheels underneath. The building is then laid on a concrete slab while the wheels are removed. In some instances the wheels are kept, while concealed by a skirting. Of the three types, panel built is the most popular due to its advantage of covering wide open spaces and high ceilings. It has been proven to be the most cost-effective too.

How useful is prefab to Ghana’s real estate?

1. Highly cost effective
Since most of construction is done in a factory, prefab reduces labor and transportations costs. The Executive Secretary of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), Sammy Amegayibor, said in Lamudi’s 2014 Real Estate Report that the cost of labor is one major factor contributing to the high prices of real estate. Prefab would eliminate a great deal of this cost, ensuring that labor is engaged for the pertinent aspects. The construction of building components in the factory also reduces the number of trips made by vehicles. For instance, the conventional method would need multiple trips by vehicles to transport materials to the site. On the other hand, prefab reduces this to one trip since all the components are manufactured in the factory.

2. Faster completion time
Depending on the type of building, prefabs can be completed in a matter of days or weeks, compared to conventional construction that typically takes many months to complete. For real estate developers, this can be crucial as scheduled completion dates are adhered to. The construction of hospitals, schools and dormitories also benefit from this short schedule time.

3. Highly energy efficient
EPS, the material used for prefabs, is highly energy efficient as well as environmentally friendly. Unlike concrete which is a bad insulator of heat and harmful to the environment, EPS can be a catalyst for the reduction in the use of air conditioners in the country. This is extremely important in the wake of the country’s energy challenges.

4. Easily adaptable
EPS can be easily reconfigured into new shapes to suit property hunters’ needs. The other great aspect of prefabs is that they can be relocated without dismantling the building, saving costs to the property owner.

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