- Inferior building materials have been blamed for the damages caused by a storm in informal settlements in Johannesburg in December
- There are calls for government to introduce more regulations to ensure low-cost houses are built better
- The City of Joburg plans to take remedial action to address the issues with the homes
It is vital that government introduce extra regulations to make sure low-cost housing is built to the best standards.
This is the opinion of Rod Rankine, a civil engineer who specialises in construction material and building.
He said there's a great need for legislation to hold suppliers of low-cost housing materials accountable: "The problem exists because it is not against the law to sell substandard material, even government buys substandard building materials."
According to a report by the Huffington Post, Rankine said government doesn't insist contractors buy materials that comply with the national standards.
Rankine said he believes it should be regulated, adding that one of the main issues is that the country has a National Home Builders' Registration Council that endorses all good practices, but suppliers of building materials are able to sell substandard materials: "They know nobody will ever challenge them or take them to task."
On Thursday, Herman Mashaba, the Johannesburg mayor, released the findings of the city's investigation that revealed the seemingly poor construction of the low-cost homes that were worst affected by the heavy rain, wind and hail on 30 December 2017.
The investigation found the damage to properties was caused by excessive wind force and the severity of the storm.
Mashaba said 1 326 properties in low-cost housing developments and informal settlements south and west of Johannesburg were affected.
The report revealed a major factor was poor design and construction methods, and the use of substandard building materials.
It is not possible to provide good housing with low-cost material, Rankine said.
He said one of the problems in the building industry is that when stuff is cheap, it's usually because the material is inferior.
Questions raised about registration of construction companies
Meanwhile, the investigation raised some serious questions regarding the registration of construction companies.
By law, any person in the home building business has to be registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) or face a serious penalty
But, according to Rankine, this is not enough, because simply being registered doesn't mean the company can produce perfect homes.
Furthermore, Rankine said there's no prerequisites to register a construction company. People can simply register their companies without any prior experience or qualifications.
He also called for the city to help the building inspectors become really proficient at what they do, because inspectors face the dilemma of not having access to the national building standards, which appear in a document that is sold for a high price.
Meanwhile, the city is planning to take remedial action to address these issues, including a community education awareness campaign focusing on building control laws and regulation.
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