Design is for everyone

ILLUSTRATIONS Paul-Louis Louw WORDS Jana Redelinghuys

Housing in rapidly growing cities remains one of the battlegrounds of our time, not just in South Africa but also across the developing world. With the World Design Capital 2014, renewed focus has been placed on “design that gives a damn.” VISI investigates four innovative African solutions.

1. House of light
Can a decent and safe home be built with the same budget of R50 000 used to construct the minimal structures provided in temporary relocation areas? The Light House, funded by the City of Cape Town and designed by the owner Xoma Ayob, is proof that it is. The participatory process between the two was facilitated by Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord, who have been long-time advocates for fire- and flood-proofing temporary houses in informal settlements, and creating food security through vertical gardening. Xoma designed the two-storey house according to his own needs, which was then put through a rigorous approval process that included the go-ahead from an architect, structural engineer and the city. This fully compliant design is now offered as an open-source solution for all.

2. House of plastic
The Eco Bricking Exchange turns mountains of non-recyclable waste into building material. Making an eco brick is simple: take a 2L soft-drink bottle and stuff it to the brim with compacted non-recyclable waste such as chips packets, fruit trays or wax paper, then screw the lid back on. The bricks are then laid using earth and finished with a lime wash. This system has been used to build houses from Guatemala to Uganda, and the local team, lead by Ian and Ilze Dommisse, plan to construct a pre-school in Walmer township in Port Elizabeth. They’re also inviting individuals and groups to get involved in making the eco bricks.

3. House of corn
The results of Nigerian designer Charles Job’s research at the Bern University of Applied Arts and the University of Nigeria, this project sought to develop alternative, affordable materials for the construction of social housing from agricultural waste materials such as corn cobs, rice husks and groundnut shells. The waste is bound using tannin (a natural adhesive extracted from tree bark), with a result similar to reconstituted wood. This means not only a reduced dependency on raw materials such as timber, but also a reduction in the greenhouse gases that would normally be released by burning the waste materials. The project has won numerous international awards.

4. House of concrete
Moladi is a system that uses a reusable, recyclable and lightweight plastic formwork mould, which is filled with mortar (a special Moladi aerated concrete without stones), to construct the wall of a house in as little as a day. Each set of Moladi formwork panels can be reused 50 times, making the technology cost-effective due to its repetitive application, and reducing the time, labour and transportation cost of construction significantly. The Moladi system produces durable and permanent structures.