How Construction Could Ease Housing Crisis

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Could modern methods of construction hold the key to affordable, sustainable housing in emerging economies?

  • Houses built using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are quick to build, and offer economic, environmental and social benefits.
  • They could provide one solution to problems of housing and economic development in Namibia, and elsewhere in the developing world.
  • Their adoption is held back by the unsustainable legacy processes that govern global construction.

Namibia faces a housing crisis. It needs some half a million new homes but 90% of Namibian households would not qualify for a mortgage to buy them. The problem is chronically mismanaged housing market economics, debt, muted income growth and reliance on cash lending. For now, these exclude most Namibians from home ownership.

In turn, this undermines the country’s growing economy and fuels social tension; shanty towns and shacks fly up at four times the rate of brick houses. Namibia is the second most unequal country in the world on the World Bank GINI Index. The same index shows that Namibia’s CO2 emissions have doubled since 1991, underlining the need for more sustainable housing solutions.

There are technological solutions to these problems, which could be implemented at competitive cost. Namibia offers a clear opportunity for housing development, particularly in the affordable market, where there is significant demand. Between 2009 and 2019, Namibia attracted N$59.4 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI), largely from China, Mauritius and South Africa. The challenge is to channel that money into socially and environmentally sustainable projects.

Modern Methods Of Construction

Modern methods of construction (MMC) use off-site techniques like pre-built modular wall panels to create faster, more sustainable alternatives to brick-built structures. Comparatively, houses made using MMC are very cost competitive and adaptable. They offer environmental benefits, too. Their adoption is held back by the fact that most global construction, for now, relies upon legacy concepts and processes.

MMC work best when combined with sustainable technologies and intelligent town planning. Homes can go up speedily and affordably, packed with renewable energy kit and other emissions-saving tech to create futurist, tight-knit sustainable communities. Crucially, the dual advantages of short build time and low economic and environmental cost make the idea particularly attractive for Namibia and other developing countries.

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