Lana: Accessible Housing in Nigeria Requires Modern Construction Technologies 

Fadekemi Ajakaiye

A unique housing solution has been created by an indigenous design and construction management company in Nigeria. 

The Project Director of Petolah Nigeria Limited, Mr. Deolu Lana said his organisation has come up with Matrix 5 System Residential Solution, a mid-density residential solution that accommodates 5 numbers of 3 bedrooms cross ventilated terraces with two living rooms maids’ rooms and two car parks per unit on a rectangular plot of 648 square meters i.e. 18×36 meters. 

According to Lana, the dynamics of an increasing global population coupled with the relatively fixed resources, be it land, building materials and energy required to build homes will ultimately lead to an upward spiral in demand and consequent exorbitant pricing for these basic resources. However, with the Matric 5 System Resident Solution that will soon be a thing of the past

Lana noted that the Matrix 5 System Residential Solution also features passive natural cooling systems that address the challenges of housing head-on with its innovative design, materials, energy and construction technologies that put into consideration the Nigerian climatic, socio-cultural and economic context sustainably. This design, as he puts it, is a novelty of ventilating the originally cold climate western terrace design which is blindly copied in Africa without adjusting to the hot tropical climate and communal African society.

He said this would be a proven technology to address Nigeria’s huge housing deficit, adding that his was the first design and build firm to offer 5 three bedrooms nonlinear homes on a 648 square meters plot to international standards that is both ventilated vertically and horizontally, i.e. tropicalised terraces, and first to build passive cooling house in Lagos in 2009.

Lana stated that the new Matrix-5 System was borne out of years of meticulous global research and practical local industry know-how and innovation given the inflationary upward spiralling cost of land, materials and construction, as well as the energy required to operate the houses. As he put it, the economically daunting forces that boldly confront aspiring Nigerian property investors proved to be an ideal challenge that resulted in a highly intensive collaboration between the team of consultants and building contractors who proposed to surmount this challenge head on.

At the macro level, he said, “First and foremost, recognising nature as the master builder since it’s the actual presence of trees, shrubs with a variety of colours of flowers with scents that attracts beautiful singing birds and butterflies creating a natural green breezy atmosphere ambience that makes a house beautiful. 

“However, the site of our Matrix-5 is conceived to wear an instant envelope of greenery, an array of curiously designed homes in a garden setting, with direct ample visual contact from every space from inside the uniquely arrayed house units. 

“The current stringent economic constraints pushed the team to reach for high levels of profitability that resulted in the creation of a new global industry benchmark, a mid density 5 number of three bedroom units with additional facilities and features previously only found in high end developments.”

According to him, the new Matrix-5 system is based on a 648(sqm) square meters rectangular plot i.e. 18×36 metres (60x120ft). “This simple but curiously arrayed, well thought out, clutter-free design with a clear layout is the inspiring convergence of mathematical and scientific interpretations of a colourful African Art motif.”

Lana said, “The design is a hybrid of sorts ie African culture versus modern living, affordable versus luxury, traditional versus intelligent construction, excellent architecture versus optimal engineering, passive versus active energies services, costs versus value that exemplifies the teams philosophy of simultaneous inversion ie combining the best of both worlds in a creatively but inspiringly economically competitive way targeted at entry level investors in the property market ie starting with just one plot or more.”

The design he stated evolved from social innovation and avoids the solely economic criteria of ostentation or maximal priming and leans more towards user-focused quality of life experiences that conveys the feeling of safety and belonging for family-oriented living. It’s not just a leap forward in value but a step in the right direction as it goes beyond excellence in design and resource efficiency and dives deep down into the heart of the current cost challenges of construction technology and materials efficiency. This he added makes it a positively compelling contribution to the solution of the global housing challenges especially in Africa especially in Nigeria.

The Matrix-5 design decisively tackles the issue of maintenance and operating costs which in over a 40-year period of using a building can out-strip initial building cost. By creating larger than usual shaded windows that extend daylight duration, it admits fresh air to the building volume from the lower slabs and exhausts it via a breathing roof. This twin strategy, reduces the amount of energy requirements for cooling and lighting to a low-energy-house-standard which strives for a radically harmonious coexistence between man, technology and his dominant natural environment.

By creating a friendly environment for increased positive interactions between families sharing like minded values is what Nigerians have asked for in a home which is a very day practically free movement between interior and exterior spaces without sacrificing the cost efficient quality that they expect from their homes. 

The project director said a practical demonstration prototype oasis was built in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos and lessons learned from the construction were added to the new matrix-5 system as an updated improved version. It was the first house in the country to feature the chiller slab technology and provision for a ground exchanger. 

He said there are two 45sqm gardens with three separate access routes to the impressive double volume entrances for each unit which are accessible via the private courtyards/gardens, these meeting spaces provide social networking and communication and seek to break down barriers between immediate neighbours nurturing the warm informal African hospitality. 

The matrix 5 system design demanded exceptional engineering and vigorous value engineering to arrive at the target figure deemed more accessible to the housing market in Nigeria. The living rooms feature both a floor to ceiling, wall to wall fully shaded sliding door/window that flows seamlessly outside into the private courtyard/garden from the sitting room that has a guest toilet. The Kitchen has two access routes, the Master’s bedroom features enclosed balcony and a bright daylit en-suite, all rooms are en-suite and cross ventilated. All services are accessible from external walls for ease of repairs and replacement. It is a world first and global best solution 

On current technology advancement, particularly construction technology and materials, he said, “A lightweight house can weigh just 40 tons (excluding foundations) whereas a conventional house can weigh up to 650 tonnes. This almost 10 fold dematerialization has amazing implications one of which is that it can bring houses into the fast moving consumer Goods (FMCG) business categories like automobiles and make houses accessible to a larger percentage of the 200M Nigerian population.

“Other advantages of the Matrix 5 are shorter construction time frames from months to days time frame /duration and reduced man hours required, Structure can account for up to 25% of total building costs. Current construction technology is over 170 years old and is combative in its extraction of materials from nature. 

“It’s technologically possible to build houses that generate their own energy for lighting, power and cooling ie. the so-called energy plus autarky house by combining active passive cooling & energy systems.”

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