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Masons influence homebuilders’ choice of cement, but most are untrained

PHILSTAR

By Patricia Mirasol

Eighty two percent of low-income incremental builders (or homeowners who build their homes in increments, depending on the availability of funds) rely on the recommendations of masons for their home construction, according to a market study on the Visayas region’s wood and cement industries by Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. Most masons, however, are either semi-skilled or unskilled, and have limited knowledge of the right building materials to use.

“The skills and training of masons is important for the selection of construction materials,” said Zoe M. Sibala, chief sustainability officer of cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines Inc.

The strength requirements needed for concrete — which is composed partly of cement — is different for high-rise buildings and for low-rise residences, Ms. Sibala cited as an example in a Nov. 5 event that discussed the market study.

As per the study, 76% of low-income to lower middle-income homeowners in the Visayas region do not have a cement brand preference. Another 41% do not have an idea as to what type of cement they use.

RECOMMENDATION MISMATCH

Masons make recommendations based on affordability and accessibility. Discounts also factor in their recommendations, as well as suppliers having complete stocks of items. Apo/Cemex is the most recommended brand by masons due to its strength and durability, followed by Republic Cement, due to its affordability and availability.

“When buyers go to hardware stores, the [salesperson who] engages them offer what’s available,” said Margaret Ann T. Gravador, a consultant of the Development Consulting Group, a Cebu-based research group that the Terwilliger Center commissioned for the study. Even if they don’t have a preference, hardware stores push what’s in stock, she added.

More than two-thirds (or 69%) of small and medium hardware stores in the Visayas, the study further found, do not receive any orientation on the cement products they carry.

Households select masons based on word-of-mouth within the community, Ms. Gravador told the participants at the event. “This is one area of opportunity,” she said. “Masons do not get formal training in terms of their trade, but are very influential to households.”

Among the study’s recommendations is an improvement in partnerships between government agencies and private companies in order to improve the way skills trainings are accessed by masons and other construction workers. Education, as mentioned in the webinar, will address the mismatch between the type of cement that is needed, versus the type of cement that is recommended.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the government agency tasked to manage and supervise technical education and skills development in the Philippines, offers skills training for masonry.

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