Fast-track homes may end crisis
Manama, January 26, 2010
A revolutionary system that builds homes twice as fast could spell the end to Bahrain's government housing crisis, it was claimed. The prediction was made at the official launch of the International Smart Building Centre (ISBC).
Housing Minister and Eskan (Housing) Bank chairman Shaikh Ibrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa promised the new building techniques could effectively eliminate waiting lists for government homes over the next few years.
He added the launch of the centre marked a significant step in securing an economical, environment-friendly and plentiful supply of housing for Bahrain's ever-increasing population.
'Over the last 10 years, the government has provided over 36,600 housing services to low-income families, totalling around BD1.6 billion,' he said in a keynote address during the launch at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa yesterday.
'The ministry provided these homes well below market rates and a Royal Decree granted even more benefits to the beneficiaries of housing services. The net result of all this is that over 25 years, the Bahraini citizen pays little more than a fifth of the value of the housing service obtained, while the government bears the remaining 80 per cent of the costs.'
He said this was partly responsible for the huge surge in applications for housing services in Bahrain, with 45,000 applications still outstanding by the end of least year.
Based on traditional building methods, each housing unit would cost BD50,000 - meaning that meeting Bahrain's housing demands would have cost around BD2.25 billion, he explained.
However, he said a solution had now been found through a partnership between Eskan Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the China Building Materials Academy and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation's (Unido) Investment and Technology Promotion offices.
The new properties, the first two of which have been constructed in Hamad Town and are open for viewings, will use 90 per cent recyclable materials, will have a durability of up to 90 years, will be resistant to earthquakes and cyclones, will be insulated from sound, heat and moisture and will be quick and cheap to build.
The first development to take advantage of the smart technology will be the Hidd Housing Project, with construction expected to begin on the project's 800 homes by the end of the year.
Shaikh Ibrahim claimed the new centre's construction methods would put the country at the pinnacle of building technology globally.
He expects it to effectively double the number of houses available to citizens, at the same time improving quality and reducing the time and costs associated with building homes - without penalising the beneficiaries.
'This will be reflected in the reduction and ultimate dismissal of the waiting period within a few years,' Shaikh Ibrahim stated.
Also speaking at yesterday's event, which was attended by Shura Council members, MPs and other high-ranking officials, was Unido's director-general Dr Kandeh Yumkella, who was keen to praise Bahrain's foresight in investing not only in ecologically-friendly building techniques themselves, but the processes used to develop those materials in the first place.
'Climate change is firmly on everybody's agenda and whilst we all want to discuss this, on the other hand we need to be aware of resource and energy efficiency too,' he said.
'For me, having a centre like this in Bahrain is a significant move - it will help Bahrain develop the necessary knowledge to become more resource-efficient and look at what materials are most suitable for the ecological situation in Bahrain and the Gulf.
'I commend the government for not just buying the technology, but for requesting a centre to be built here - where that knowledge will be developed not just for the local economy, but for the Gulf region as a whole.'
The ISBC aims to provide information, technical support and training to support real estate developers and contractors in Bahrain in adopting environment-friendly methods, through the application of innovative building techniques.-TradeArabia News Service