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Are IKEA flat-pack houses viable in South Africa?

By Ania Szmyd-Potapczuk

, |

Are IKEA flat-pack houses viable in South Africa?

By Ania Szmyd-Potapczuk

, |

3 min read

Prefab housing does not have a great track record as an affordable option in South Africa. So could IKEA-style flat-pack houses work here like they are in the UK?

Swedish housing developer, BoKlok has recently paired with the Worthing council in the UK to manufacture 162 affordable, prefabricated houses. BoKlok, which is co-owned by IKEA and Swedish construction company Skanska, says that the houses are priced in order to be affordable for a single parent earning the average salary in the area.

It’s an unfortunate fact that housing prices in South Africa, particularly in the metropolitan areas, are steadily increasing in price and are unaffordable for the average South African. Could flat-pack houses, such as those offered by BoKlok be the solution for affordable housing for all?

Why are Flat-Pack Houses so Cheap?

Despite the name, flat-pack houses don’t actually come neatly packed with a set of instructions. Instead, what sets them apart from traditional houses is that all the components are constructed off-site and are then just assembled on location. This saves on labour costs, as these houses can be built within a day. As the components are all produced using standard techniques, the material costs of flat-pack houses are cheaper as well.

House Nel - inizio.co.za

If you think that this sounds suspiciously like prefab buildings, that’s exactly what these houses are. Luckily, they bear little resemblance to the uncomfortable huts we were subjected to in high-school. Modern prefab houses are constructed using durable, robust materials that can withstand harsh rains and constant sun exposure.

Challenges for Flat-Pack Houses in South Africa

Despite increased densification in urban areas, the majority of low-cost housing in South Africa comes in the form of a single dwelling home. These are typically constructed out of bricks and are an ineffective solution to South Africa’s housing problem. This has led many engineers and other experts to recommend prefab housing as an alternative option.

Flat-pack houses are already present in South Africa. There are numerous companies that sell pre-manufactured homes that are assembled on-site. Companies such as Inizio and Going Green have been manufacturing prefabricated homes in South Africa since the 2000s. So why haven’t these homes become more popular, especially as a low-cost housing option?

Inizio Studio - inizio.co.za
Going Green Prefab Modular home - 123goinggreen.co.za

One challenge for prefab buildings is that South Africa has an extreme climate that is expected to get worse as climate change takes its toll. This means that prefab shelters need to be designed to withstand severe weather conditions, from torrential rain to constant sun exposure.

Prefab houses also need to adhere to the National Housing Act and National Building Regulations guidelines that define the form and energy, water and sanitation requirements of these houses. Many developers think that these regulations are inappropriate and onerous, leading to slowed growth within the affordable flat-pack housing market.

Finally, many prefab housing companies in South Africa aren’t really targeting the low-cost housing market. Prices for prefab houses tend to be only slightly less, or on par, with those for a traditionally built house, rendering them unaffordable for the average South African and unsuitable for low-cost housing initiatives.

Opportunities Offered by Flat-Pack Houses

South Africa presents interesting challenges and opportunities for BoKlok-like deals with international companies. While some find the regulations and set guidelines restrictive, working within these constraints allows for more creative and innovative solutions.

Recent advances in materials science and energy generation can be incorporated into these homes, pushing prices down while ensuring the homes are energy-efficient and sustainable.  The end result is houses that are durable and liveable, and that can be passed on through generations as an asset and human right.

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Recent comments

11 Comments
  • John Petersen
    Posted at 15:46h, 14 Jul Reply

    Hi,

    i really enjoyed reading this article as it outlines what is happening in the alternative housing market. i personally have been looking to get a modular home as conventional houses are too expensive, especially if you are picky about where to stay. i have recently looked at South African companies like Inizio and Going Green and they do have some nice concepts to choose from. the drawback with this is the costs outside the project scope like laying concrete foundations and getting approval from local council and not to mention the sudden rise in vacant land prices. but having said that, these type of houses are in most a delight to the eye.

    regards

    John

  • Julie Meijer
    Posted at 07:47h, 02 Aug Reply

    Please can you you forward me details so I can give you a call?

    What is the pricing of House Nel?

    Regards Julie

  • Sheila
    Posted at 12:48h, 28 Aug Reply

    I would like a pre fab house that looks like a box – all glass in front, opening onto an open plan sitting, dining, kitchen with a mezzanine bedroom and bathroom. This would require high walls.it would be a small house. Could you give me an idea what such a house would cost? It would be built in South Africa.

  • Elizabeth Young
    Posted at 14:54h, 12 Sep Reply

    I would like to know more about the cost of your houses please. I lost mine and I am starting over.

  • Sheila
    Posted at 10:00h, 09 Oct Reply

    Are ikea flat pack houses available in South Africa?

  • Sharon
    Posted at 22:14h, 04 Jan Reply

    I would like quote for a 2 bedroom unit on a farm alongside the Vaal river.it needs to be on stilts .could I please get a quote

  • Johannes dongo
    Posted at 12:26h, 26 Jan Reply

    hi I’m looking for job I’m parnel erector from Nigel

  • Jan Van vreden
    Posted at 10:35h, 04 Mar Reply

    Please contact me urgently

  • Jackie Jonker
    Posted at 16:13h, 15 Mar Reply

    Looking for more information

  • Elizabeth Thebus
    Posted at 20:42h, 19 Mar Reply

    I’m interested. What would be the cost of a 4 bedroom structure with all extras?

  • Joe
    Posted at 22:32h, 04 Apr Reply

    Hi.
    Please contact us. We’re looking for time to market, coast effective, 2 bed chalets, stacked 2 high.
    Please arise costs and we can agree volumes and further extensive projects.

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