Can Houses Be Cheaply Mass Produced in SA?

Housing is a big issue in SA. Some people will wait – all the while living in a squatter camp – 50 years on the “waiting list” to get a substandard RDP house in a shitty area while others will wait until they die for the government to give them a house.  All the while many could probably have been able to build a house via their own efforts if they didn’t drink out all their money, spend it on slay queens or overpriced and overrated Golf GTI’s. Despite there being lots of cheap land in SA in safe areas. There has to be a better way. The biggest issue currently is that cheap land is not close to major cities, well the bigger issue is that most people are stupid but that is another story for another day.

I have spoken about modular housing and looking to bring down the cost of building in SA. But I’m not convinced that factory produced houses (as seen in video below) is the way in SA as it is still not cheap.

The Boca Chita house they speak about above for top secret client is Elon Musk’s house.

The traditional way to push down the price of manufacturing is either economies of scale or vertical integration. So can producing a lot of houses and owning two or more stages of production reduce the costs significantly? The thing is raw materials is only half of the equation, with labour being the other. But let’s take a look nonetheless.

How will vertical integration look like
At it’s simplest vertical integration in housing will mean the builder will manufacture the bricks as well as do the building. When you buy bricks you are paying a premium and you are paying an even bigger premium if you go via building retailers such as Builders Warehouse who will add even more margin on top. I don’t think owning a stone quarry or crusher to produce cement is viable but this is where economies of scale come in. You can approach a cement producer and negotiate if you are ordering a lot.

My neighbour who is a builder also told me that casting and using interlocking blocks (Stumbelblocs) will push down the cost significantly not only are you making the blocks yourself onsite which means no need for factory space but you are using less than if you were to be say using clay bricks. But the question is if you are building a lot of houses (scale) would you not benefit from a central manufacturing facility. You do not even need a warehouse an open plot is fine to make bricks. But maybe have a shed and onsite security for storage purposes.

One of the reasons that building is so expensive in SA is the mindset of builders that is why a lot of foreign builders have been able to enter the local market. Locals treat building like a luxury that they can build one house a year and live well whereas it should be treated as a commodity with smaller margins and higher output if we were to bring the cost down.

Image credit: Boxabl