New innovative ways to build better shacks

With such a huge housing backlog in the province, the Provincial Human Settlements Department has committed to work with communities to find a lasting solution to the problem.

The department has also urged communities to take a lead in improving their living conditions.

The department has adopted the Better Living Challenge (BLC) of the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) which will see informal settlements turned into liveable human areas.

The BLC on Friday June 30 launched Phase 2 of its skills programme that aims to upgrade informal housing.

Phase 2 of the BLC aims to unleash innovation to improve lives for informal settlement residents.

The aim is to change the face of informal settlements by allowing people to build better shacks.

The BLC said it has been shaped to understand what people needed to incrementally upgrade their homes, in terms of materials, skills and finance.

In May this year, the BLC and CCDI collaborated with members of the Nyanga community in a pilot project, which included a design-build workshop that focused on ways to build a liveable structure entirely out of reclaimed and recycled materials.

The workshops covered practical guidance such as how to insulate houses against cold, heat and flooding using passive design techniques with suitable, easily accessible and cost-effective materials. They also covered technical consideration­­-such as spatial and visual literacy, to help builders design and build structures that can more effectively respond to environmental conditions such as sunlight and building on or near service lines. The participants then applied their knowledge in a live design-build, which culminated in the construction of the structure alongside the Nyanga Arts Centre. The structure is a representation of what the BLC seeks to achieve to find new ways to empower community members to upgrade and improve their homes in innovative ways, empower small scale builders with improved skills in design and construction, and access to financial models for informal upgrades.

Erika Elk, CCDI executive director, said the aim is to transform people’s lives and for people to take the lead in the way they want to live. “That is a true radical transformation. We want to address the challenges of low income communities. We also need to find different ways and solutions for homeowners to upgrade their homes,” she said.

She said the CCDI has a responsibility to ensure that the living conditions of people in informal areas improve.

Thando Mguli, head of the Provincial Department Human Settlements, said the initiative is impressive.

In response to the housing backlog, Mr Mguli said it would be impossible to give everyone a house. His department would need R80 billion. “What we are looking at here is people taking the lead. It would be possible to give everyone a house but what we have started is to provide resources. “We give people serviced sites where there is electricity, water, and a toilet and then one builds what he wants to build. But we will assist people to build. We are committed improving people’s lives. We also need people to lead to improve their own conditions,” he said. The BLC is a project of the CCDI designed to find innovative solutions to pressing or persistent socio-economic challenges.

This iteration, focusing on finding solutions to incremental upgrading, is funded by the Provincial Department of Human Settlements (DHS), and the Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism.