Prefab Houses: The Quickest Way to Build your Home
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Prefab Houses: The Quickest Way to Build your Home

Prefabricated houses or at least houses built using large blocks are a little-used technique that more people should explore. Building a house using panels can see your home being completed in a matter of weeks instead of the better part of a year that it takes to build a house.

Just to demonstrate how powerful prefabrication is, we need to look at the example of China. It seems like a distant memory now but when the COVID pandemic began it originated in China. The country was caught by surprise by the scale of patients that needed hospitalisation especially in Wuhan, the epicentre of it all.

The authorities needed a hospital and fast in order to hold back the wave. Normally building a hospital is an undertaking that would take years and in countries like our beloved Zimbabwe, it sometimes takes more than a decade. The authorities knew they didn’t have a decade so they opted to build a prefab hospital that had about 1000 beds in under a week. To give a sense of scale Harare Central Hospital (Gomo) has about 1200 beds.

While prefabrication is widely used in industrial buildings, it’s something residential builders and property developers continue to ignore it. Mostly this is because there is a sense that it interferes with customisation but in a country like Zimbabwe where there is an acute shortage of houses, most people would rather have a house and are not overly concerned by how unique it looks. It’s a fact that is reinforced by the enthusiastic uptake of the new similar looking houses built by banks like CBZ and NBS.

Dziro Africa construction and their panel cottages

I could not find any local construction company that does prefabricated houses here in Zimbabwe. The closest I could find was Dziro-Africa which uses panels to rapidly construct mostly cottages. Their main rubric is a two bedroomed plan that comes with a bathroom which also doubles as the shower and toilet, a kitchenette and a lounge. That’s ample room for most middle-class families.

According to the company, it only takes about a week in order to complete the house depending on how far away your stand is from Harare. In fact, for most Harare houses they can complete your house in under a week. The biggest delay is a result of them having to wait for the concrete slabs to set. Your house will be roofed and painted and fully habitable within a space of 10 days.

The second draw is the cost of building such a cottage. It will only cost you about US$8 000 and the company will even supply you with all the materials. While this doesn’t sound like pocket change it’s far less than it would cost to build such a house the traditional way using bricks. You could expect to spend around US$15 000.

Getting council approval is also a breeze unless of course, you have a stand that requires some attention from an engineer due to things like unusual terrain or loose soils. In all the other cases council approval is almost guaranteed and just a matter of routine.

While the house is not unique it can help you get away from your current landlord without breaking the bank or making you have to incur debt. You can build the cottage while you wait for your main custom house to be completed. The only biggest disadvantage I can think of living in such a cottage is perhaps having to live in it during winter. You would have to insulate it further otherwise you would be in for one tough winter.