TRAILBLAZING – WHY HAVE WE FORGOTTEN PREFABS?       

prefabs

 (Editor: The prefabricated system of construction was successfully used in the sixties in Uganda and its structures stand safe and sound today. Members of the 8M Construction Forum trailblazed about it)

[8:52 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Canon Perez Wamburu: Panel-built (prefabricated) houses have been around for a long time. All the Bugolobi flats, for example, were built using panels.

[9:09 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: Eng Dr. Badru Kiggundu and I can attest to that fact as this was when we were at National Housing and Construction Company in the early 1970s. It was Israeli technology with Ugandan architects (Architect Amagu and Architect Waiswa) [at work].

[11:39 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: I think even the Makerere estate in Katalemwa is also prefabs, not very sure.

[9:14 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Bugolobi, Wandegeya, Bukoto Brown and White Flats were all built using prefabricated panels. The Doctors’ Village in Mulago was built with prefabs. This mode of construction is quick and offers consistent quality. [However], as late as 1988 there were still many panels swallowed by papyrus grass at Bugolobi just beside Silver Springs Hotel.

[9:15 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: That was the precasting center.

[9:25 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Julius Musimenta Bakeine: Bugolobi Flats and most of the government schools had prefab components that minimize supervision, provide consistent quality and must be cheaper. NHCC sold all the remaining equipment near Silver Springs Hotel to some scrap dealers. Where are the lessons learnt?

[9:26 PM, 12/28/2018] Polling Besigye Kyerere (MD-DEPO): Two steps forward and ten steps backward.

[9:28 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Julius Musimenta Bakeine: If these prefab structures are introduced to the Ministry of Education, Defence, etc, several mafia contractors will be out of business. Kickbacks will be minimized, quality of products improved; and this is not what the mafia want to happen. BUBU has failed due to the same reasons.

[9:29 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: The late Okao was in charge of the panel production when the Israelis left and yours truly was in charge of the machinery.

[10:01 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Henry Ntale: Exactly what happened to the machinery?

[10:09 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: Well, someone has told you it was sold to scrap dealers and that was long after I had left. Unfortunately, we build capacity and then bury it. We have not reproduced a few buildings using this technology. For supervision consultants and architects, this would reduce the volume of business.

[10:09 PM, 12/28/2018] Dr. John Bahana (scientist): I personally tried to introduce this to the Uganda Police. I failed. You can guess why.

[9:33 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Have we moved forward or backward in this industry, especially when you look at the quality of ‘new buildings’ and the rate at which structures collapse, killing people all over Kampala?

[10:13 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: I think production stopped with the fall of Amin or slightly earlier. Amin’s army was occupying the flats and with the advent of the war, it became insecure. Mr. Okao could have run into exile.

[10:34 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: The prefab production indeed followed the trend and got into the systemic destruction line. Eng Okao stayed at NHCC during the Amin era and became MD after the ouster of the Okello regime. He was gunned down in 1987 at Kisementi at around 9.00 pm. The killers were never caught.

[11:43 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: Yes. Now I remember, Mr. Okao was gunned down. But he had a very good team of builders – the Kahuzos and the like.

[10:24 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: Colleagues, those were times when Government was “doing business” through the parastatals: NHCC, UDC, Uganda Hotels Ltd, CMB, etc. Procurement by the Central Tender Board for consultancy and constructors was quick, transparent and effective. I can do nothing to go back to those good old days, and so I look with pity at dear Uganda.

[10:23 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Henry Ntale: Functional prefab manufacturing equipment was left to rot in the bush? NHCC has always had management even at the peak of our civil wars. I will say no more.

[10:32 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: There are many things in this country that can make one shed tears. There used to be a roadworks training school in Kyambogo; it was closed and the premises allocated to UNRA! All the training facilities were dismantled and probably sold.

At the back of the office block, you find components for bridge construction training with a dry river over which bridges used to be assembled by trainees under supervision. The bridge prefabs are now covered in thick grass while the rest of the area is a scrapyard for accident government cars!

[10:29 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: Please, old-timers, give us more! Great enlightening info. Julius made a great point: If the Ministry of Education, or Defence, or others need schools’ and teachers’ buildings, a generic design with production centers could spring up in districts to support the project and create capacity. Give us the advantages and disadvantages of the system. I volunteer to reproduce the info, publish it in 8M Construction Digest, distribute it to the policymakers, the professionals, relevant government departments,  the business community, the academia, hopefully, to cause tears that could result in action! What is the new and revamped UDC doing? Maybe we could re-awaken sleeping giants!

[10:32 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Henry Ntale: Perhaps after COSASE is through with the Bank of Uganda, they should engage NHCC to establish the full story. What happened after the Bugolobi and Bukoto flats projects? Why did progress grind to a [halt]?

[11:04 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Francis Baziraake: We have to note, however, that the environment has changed! Otherwise changing back the production system might again not work!

[11:28 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: I believe prefabs are still viable because even to the private developer it makes construction cheaper and qualitative. Somebody with big money could venture into the business to produce prefabs but must be supported by policy. Schools, hospitals, [housing] estates could turn out cheaper to build.

[11:30 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Francis Baziraake: What would happen if the prices were inflated?

[11:35 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Livingstone Kangere: These can be regulated. Members, the Ntinda and the Naguru estates were built with prefabs, prison staff houses in Luzira were built with prefabs. They would solve the Government’s housing problem and help it go back to housing its workers and [harvest] motivated service delivery.

[11:38 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Dr. Francis Baziraake: It appears moral decay is ignored or underestimated! However, my observation is otherwise!

[11:52 PM, 12/28/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: If anything, it should be spearheaded by the project managers, consulting architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors! They are the ones to advise big clients like ministries. Maybe we should sensitize ourselves through a “Symposium on An Appropriate Prefabricated Construction System for Uganda”! Coordinating it through all stakeholders is easy for me! Then the business communities through BUBU will easily come on board.

Uganda Consolidated Properties also had a standardized system of materials and designs, including basic furniture and compound tables and chairs, done to precision and consistently good quality!

 [7:22 AM, 12/29/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: I say this from authority, that it is only on the approval of the originator (the World Bank) of decentralization and what effectively amounts to Government abandonment of service delivery that the waste of resources and corruption-driven prices will be brought back in check. Moral decay will only then become a risk to the perpetrators. That is the deathbed of standards, quality and sensible moral pricing in the entire construction sector.

[7:24 AM, 12/29/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Spot on, Eng Batumbya.

[7:36 AM, 12/29/2018] Eng Patrick Batumbya: Perfect example, Hans, of what a threat such a situation would be perceived and brutally resisted by the beneficiaries of the current porous procurement system.

[8:01 AM, 12/29/2018] Edison Mwebaze (construction supervisor): There’s a sample of a prefabricated CAF panels house I supervised in UPDF UMEC Lugazi…maybe admin can seek an audience with Arch Brig-Gen Sabiiti Mutebire  for a symposium on it.

[8:04 AM, 12/29/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: You are arming a publisher! Bravo! These are symposium topics for discussion, where UIPE/ERB and all other stakeholders contribute, giving the constraints industry as example since we understand it only too well!

[2:29 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Dr Francis Baziraake: Probably someone should write a critical analysis of this approach in Uganda so that really both sides are seen clearly! For example, there are issues of transport, accuracy (the pieces must fit exactly) and, of course, moral decay! We need an honest presentation!

[2:30 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Canon Perez Wamburu: This kind of construction can be adopted by contractors. It can be to their advantage. Imagine if DOTT Services had used prefabs for culverts on Tirinyi Road, they would have finished long time ago.

[2:34 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Transporting prefabs or human beings?

[2:34 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Dr Francis Baziraake: Prefabs! Imagine you are transporting walls, beams, et cetera!

[2:37 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Even if you did the comparative transport costs, you can even consider regionally-placed manufacturing units. The advantages of prefabs in terms of consistency, speed of construction and standardisation are so high.

[2:39 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Justus Akankwasa: The advantages of prefabrication are: (1) Programme savings due to the ability to progress work as a parallel operation in a factory and on a construction site (2) Factory tolerance and workmanship are of a higher quality and consistency compared to that achieved on site (3) There tends to be less waste (4) Independence from adverse weather and winter working (5) An alternative means of production where there may be shortages of local skilled labour (6) Access to cheaper labour markets. For instance, two hundred prefabricated timber lodges for short-holiday lets in Pembrokeshire were sourced from Eastern Europe (7) Greater programme certainty (8) The factory environment can allow better safety than the construction site.

The disadvantages of prefabrication include: (1) road transport maximum widths (2) the need for police escorts (3) height restrictions under bridges (4) daytime traffic restrictions in city centres (5) maximum load capacities of site cranes and temporary gantries (6) additional cost of temporary bracing for transportation and/or lifting or permanent framing to support prefabricated assemblies, and (7) additional cost of pre-assembly in the factory prior to dismantling for transport and delivery (8) The in situ work abutting prefabricated assemblies requires a higher degree of accuracy than is normally associated with on-site building work to avoid interface problems. A mistake in the mass production of prefabricated elements ahead of the measurable site work is a serious risk. Reputedly, there is a field in which 60 prefabricated concrete staircases were buried as they had been incorrectly manufactured for a tower block in the City of London (9) Sustainability is an issue regarding the transportation of the materials to the construction site (10) Factory production requires predictable and consistent demand, whereas construction tends to require large numbers at the same time, then none.

[2:40 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Dr Francis Baziraake: At last you are cooperating! Thanks.

[2:41 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Justus Akankwasa: But Francis, I always cooperate!

[2:42 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Dr Francis Baziraake: Seriously! Thanks!

[2:44 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Justus Akankwasa: We need to evaluate advantages and disadvantages before we promote the method of construction.

[2:47 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: Honestly guys, just look around for the article on prefabs made in Uganda for the attention of the relevant stakeholders.

[2:49 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Darlington Sakwa: Where is it?

[2:49 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Justus Akankwasa: Give us references where to look.

[2:54 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: No, we are going to compile it from your great contribution. Possibly in our Feb/March issue.

[2:59 PM, 12/29/2018] Justus Akankwasa: I get u. Prefab technology is economical when there is a programme with many projects of similar design; for example, building 100 schools across the country.

[3:07 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Ephraim Turinawe: Gentlemen, if you recall the prefabs were used in the 1960s and 1970s for the USAID-aided schools. Definitely we have the numbers of all the projects that we may decide to embark on.

[3:09 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Canon Perez Wamburu: This where the discussion began. Remember also that even some Uganda Railways old buildings were prefabs. It is not a new technology.

[3:24 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Dr Francis Baziraake: Did anyone stop us from prefabs?

[3:50 PM, 12/29/2018] Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa: The truth is, prefabs started and thrived in those developed countries that have the adverse climatic conditions of winter, when normal construction is impossible. The new prefabs system was invented to satisfy the vibrant MARKET; to offer advanced METHODS  of design and construction technology with a MANAGEMENT of the prefabs business using MONEY; research and improvement of MATERIALS; a trained MANPOWER, and last but not least, sophisticated and appropriate  MACHINERY. The prefab systems done in Europe or America are more advanced in the sense that prefab parts for thousands  of housing blocks or tall buildings can be assembled in factories, transported to sites and with massive cranes put together. Yes, in Uganda, we can tone down our requirements and use the advantages of the system. Note that if Government, which basically does most of the construction of schools, hospitals, etc, put its act together, this system could be updated to suit our needs. All we need is a MINDSET. Over to the Prime Minister and his relevant ministries!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *