New con­di­tions and ex­tended dead­line for 50,000 brick- and -mor­tar houses in North and East

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions changed or added to keep con­struc­tion costs down and to fa­cil­i­tate sourc­ing of ma­te­rial

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Namini Wi­jedasa

The Gov­ern­ment has ex­tended the dead­line to sub­mit pro­pos­als for the con­struc­tion of 50,000 brick- and- mor­tar houses for con­flict-af­fected fam­i­lies in the North and East, and changed some of the spec­i­fi­ca­tions to make the units cheaper and eas­ier to build.

The new con­di­tions go some dis­tance in quelling con­cerns that the es­ti­mated price of a brick- and- mor­tar house would be so high as to val­i­date ef­forts in other quar­ters to erect im­ported, steel pre­fab­ri­cated houses across the north and east.

The dead­line for sub­mis­sion of pro­pos­als is now Novem­ber 27. It was ear­lier Novem­ber 13. The Min­istry of Nat iona l In­te­gra­tion and Rec­on­cil­iat i o n , which is han­dling the project, in­tro­duced an ad­den­dum to its re­cent Re­quest for Pro­pos­als ( RFP) that al­lows the use of ce­ment sand blocks (hol­low and solid) in ad­di­tion to the burnt brick ear­lier de­manded. This was after wide­spread rep­re­sen­ta­tions that burnt brick could be dif­fi­cult to find in ar­eas where the houses are to be built. Sev­eral other spec­i­fi­ca­tions have been changed or added to keep con­struc­tion costs down and to fa­cil­i­tate sourc­ing of ma­te­rial. The RFP ini­tially in­sisted on river sand for all con­struc­tion but this has now been mod­i­fied - in view of, among other things, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns - to in­clude washed sea sand or man­u­fac­tured sand ( grind­ing sand) that is ap­proved for qual­ity.

There is also now more flex­i­bil­ity in the use of wood. The RFP ear­lier called for all doors, in­clud­ing those in­side the house, to be of suit­able sea­soned tim­ber. This has been changed to “front door and rear door should be suit­able sea­soned, treated tim­ber”. In­ner doors will be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the re­cip­i­ent of the house while the toi­let door can be lo­cal, or­di­nary tim­ber.

The ob­jec­tive of the project is to build low-cost, durable hous­ing, the ad­den­dum read. Ten­ders will have to be ac­com­pa­nied by fi­nanc­ing ar­range­ments on soft terms.

Civil so­ci­ety groups have waged a two- year cam­paign to com­pel the Gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce ac­cept­able hous­ing for the war-dis­placed peo­ple in the North and East. “Ma­sonry houses are the time- tested model, tech­ni­cally sound and most suit­able for liv­ing, cul­tural and cli­matic con­di­tions of the North and East,” a re­cent state­ment by a hous­ing col­lec­tive said. “Thus, we are also pleased that the gov­ern­ment has recog­nised and re­spected the pref­er­ence of the peo­ple for ma­sonry houses.”

It high­lighted the im­por­tance of in­volv­ing home own­ers in the con­struc­tion, with in­put from com­mu­nity groups; of creat­ing em­ploy­ment while boost­ing the lo­cal con­struc­tion in­dus­try and econ­omy of the North and East through the project; of “mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion” with ben­e­fi­cia­ries; and of us­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally ap­pro­pri­ate op­tions.

“Ma­sonry houses are not just built of burnt clay bricks ( gadol/ chengkallu), but also of ce­ment blocks, com­pressed sta­bilised earth blocks, etc,” the state­ment said. “The most cost- ef­fec­tive and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­tion for the area needs to be con­sid­ered, eg. burnt clay bricks, are not the most cost ef­fec­tive in the North, ac­count­ing for a small per­cent­age only.” This is­sue has now been solved via the ad­den­dum.

“The RFP pro­vides very lit­tle space for com­mu­nity own­er­ship and com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion in mon­i­tor­ing the con­struc­tion, and seems in­stead to strongly favour a con­trac­tor driven ap­proach,” the state­ment also said.

This con­cern has been han­dled through re­sponses to ques­tions raised at the pre- bid meet­ing. In­ter­ested par­ties have been told to sub­mit a sep­a­rate pro­posal out­side the bid for con­sid­er­a­tion and “suit­able pol­icy de­ci­sion”. Lo­cal em­ploy­ment is en­cour­aged while the in­volve­ment of in­ter­na­tional staff with spe­cial ex­per­tise is deemed “ac­cept­able”.

The project has been di­vided into pack­ages, with each given a dead­line of one year for com­ple­tion. A suc­cess­ful bid­der has to sub­mit a per­for­mance bond equiv­a­lent to five per­cent of the ini­tial con­tract price.

Ma­sonry houses are not just built of burnt clay bricks (gadol/ chengkallu), but also of ce­ment blocks, com­pressed sta­bilised earth blocks, etc,” the state­ment said. “The most cost-ef­fec­tive and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­tion for the area needs to be con­sid­ered, eg. burnt clay bricks, are not the most cost ef­fec­tive in the North, ac­count­ing for a small per­cent­age only.” This is­sue has now been solved via the ad­den­dum.

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