Funke Otti is a construction giant. She is a big player in the real estate and Construction sector. But she does not make noise about her giant strides in the built industry.
She is one of those who are quietly finding lasting solutions to some of the problems the sector suffers from.
The big news is that this pretty woman of substance whose knowledge of the real estate sector is deep is out with a new technology that will revolutionalise how construction is done in Nigeria. Her company CTSR Group is set to launch precast Concrete Houses across Nigeria and the prototype will be ready any moment from now.
For those who don’t still catch the drift lets tell you about the CTSR Group which is a Nigerian sole partner of Broad Homes, the multinational automated precast concrete production, building and construction company with headquarters in China.
It offers Technical service and consulting in the areas of automated precast concrete production and installation, real estate, manufacturing and construction, facility management, furniture, electrical engineering and logistics services.
It also specialises in providing integrated solutions of precast concrete construction (including residential buildings, commercial buildings, public facilities, industrial facilities and infrastructure.
Funke Otti told City People last week that CTSR Group’s mission is a simple one: to build extraordinary affordable Housing for Nigeria. “We want to enhance the quality of life, foster built environment, conserve resources and minimize environmental impact through technology innovation, mass production, and global collaboration.”
The latest from CTSR Group is that the Nigerian Built Industry is about to witness a new revolution in the way houses are built. This is because the construction company is set to introduce this precast concrete technology that will shorten the time frame for building houses.
City People can authoritatively reveal that work has already started on the prototype of the building and it is hoped that the prototype will be ready in a few days time.
Work started two weekends back. Before this elegant and stylish social entrepreneur went into construction, she had worked with NTA for very many years before she left to go into private business. For a few years she dealt in supplying carpets to clients who needed Carpets in their offices, houses and hotels. Her mum had a Carpet shop so it was a bit easy to access the carpets.
All of this started in 1985. She got a contract to furnish ACB headquarters on Broad Street. It was all glass. She got introduced and her company was considered to carpet a couple of floors. She did a good job of it. She finished quite early, faster than other companies who got similar contracts and so she was given more floors to do. They were impressed that she finished so quietly. From carpets, they needed furniture and she was approached to do the banks guest house. They needed carpets. They needed to do interiors. They needed furniture.
It was convenient because her mum had rolls and rolls of carpets in her shop. She will take the quantity she needs and pay. The only problem was Furniture. Furniture business she didn’t do. But she decided to give it a shot. She went into it. She did the job. And the experience she got from that single contract got her thinking about the possibility of going into furniture business.
She had also realised that most of her clients were asking for similar services for curtains, decor to furniture. That led her into doing production of furniture.
She invested in machines. “In the process of making furniture, we went into doing doors”, she explained. “We also did wardrobes, flitted kitchens. And when you produce doors, you end up working more with the construction industry. In the process of doing projects, we found ourselves staying around in the Construction industry. And I took up the challenge. I am a Social Entrepreneur by calling. We like to look for solutions to problems in the society. It’s not just about making money, especially in countries with weak governments like Nigeria where you don’t have social security. So the social entrepreneurs will serve like the missing links. Yes we want to make money, but we want to solve problems too, and fix problems and look for solutions”.
“You are an entrepreneur; you get ideas you move towards that. The problem we found when we came into that sector was the fact that we don’t pay attention to details. The work ethics here is such that is highly unproductive. So, gradually we drifted into construction and we started trying our hands on it. So like Julius Berger which started with construction of buildings and roads and when they had to do furrnishing of some projects they went into furnitures and they delved into facility management. We did the same too. We did facility management at some point. We managed CBN building for about 10 years and then we went into Construction. Now that we are into construction we now started facing the regular complaints and challenges as regards finishing.
We went into construction in 2008. We set up a company to go into real estate and construction. Getting into construction, we were faced with the normal issues. One of it is the problem of paying attention to details. Finishing is a problem. And I keep asking the big question. Why can’t we seem to get it right? We go abroad and everything is done to precision. And I began to do research on how we can do a lot of things right and better? And how do we become efficient in whatever. We want to build for our clients. We did a research into what Nigerians want and we discovered a lot. One of it is Nigeria likes concrete a lot. That is what led us to this technology. But its not entirely new. Its German technology. Its been practiced in the US as well.
So we are bringing it here. We have a need for it. And we went for it. So, its here. It’s a Concrete Precast Technology.
It’s a proven construction technology which many developers in the Middle East, Europe, Asia use. In Nigeria, we have a housing deficit of about 17-18 million. I am sure it will be much more than that. Every year, a new government comes in and it would say this in one of our priorities. We want to deliver 5,000 houses. But they find it difficult achieving it. They want to do things the same way and expect to get a different result. Its not going to happen. It we continue to do Brick and Mortar we can’t make any progress. Because in the first instance we don’t pay attention to details. Most of the jobs done here are shoddy. A lot of the construction firms will either use Beninois, Ghanaians, Togolese to do all the finishing. A lot of people have paid money to developers and they are stuck. People pay deposits and they never get the houses they paid for because the people they have paid do not have the capacity to deliver the houses on due dates.
So, the first thing that you need to do as a company is to develop capacity. How do you do that? You need to apply Technology. That is where we make the difference.
The technology that we have uses what is called BIM (Building Information Modelling) it is a software for Engineering and for the Construction industry. So, this precast technology is like an advanced building method, more like an industrialized construction because you do everything from the factory, and then you move to site. Right now, as we speak, work is on going on the prototype in Abuja.
We started the factory, and we had to slow down because of the meltdown. We do not have access to foreign exchange. We had to made do with the black market. We have part of the equipment. The new Minister of Housing, Babatunde Fashola when he came in called a few of us to make presentations. He knew there was a problem that must be addressed. The new Minister knows we need to definitely approach the issue differently. So we did the presentation with others.
They asked us the question: where has this Technology been tried before? We need to see. So right now we have a prototype that was quickly done because the factory is on going. So, the prototype will be finished in a few days from now. It will take about 5 days.
If you use the conventional construction method it will take you like a year, but the same project won’t take us more than 3 months. Which means you will save 70% of time on Delivery. And when you save time you are saving money. So it is cost effective. In the conventional construction method, there is a lot of wastage on site. But if you use this technology there is less waste, its environmentally friendly. It is done from the factory. It is done to precision. You will save a lot of money to build when you compared to what you will spend if you choose to build normally, or, conventionally. So you will save Money, you will save Time.
Before we go into production, all the sockets and fittings will have been provided for using BIM modeling. Some of the widow frames would have been fixed. Once the production starts within the next 5 years we should be able to train our people locally how it works and we can do it ourselves.
We have also realized that to be able to do this successfully we need to play in the mortgage sector. We are in the process of getting a License so that we can run our mortgage ourselves. We want to show people we can do it. We want to show people it can be done. What we are about to introduce is a revolution in the industry. We want to do things properly. We can produce for other property developers. Other construction players can get their precast element from us. We can produce for them. Because its new we have to first show them how to sell. We are going to be open to other construction players and other estate developers.
But basically we are going to target organisations that have co-operatives and associations. A lot of these people have been contributing money in to the national housing fund and yet they cannot access the money.
Will it last long?
Our precast technology will last for a minimum of 100 years. Dolphin Estate in Lagos is a precast and it has lasted since 1982, though ours is better We improved on what was used at Dolphin Estate. And it is protected against all sorts of things. External finishing is superb. It will save you a lot of money. So, people should get ready for this PC Precast Concrete) technology. It is a construction product produced by casting concrete in the factory and then transport to the job to site, and then get in erected. That is the simplest way to present it to lay men.
You have a series of slabs. For instance in conventional construction if you want to do your decking, after casting you have to wait for 21days. All of these can be done in the factory and it takes a shorter time. There is precision and reduces wastage. BIM is a software. It means Building Information Modelling. It is for the Engineering and Construction industry.