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Alternative solutions for homes Print E-mail
30 September 2010

The Alternative Building Technologies Indaba is looking for sustainable solutions on the road to overcoming the housing backlog.

SOLUTIONS to build good, sustainable houses are the focus of the Alternative Building Technologies Indaba.

Minister for Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale
Minister for Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale

The indaba is hosted by the Department of Human Settlements at the Sandton Convention Centre in northern Joburg, from 29 to 30 September.

Over the two days, the aim is to explore how alternative building technologies can increase the development of sustainable human settlements and also provide a platform for service providers to showcase their innovative systems. In all, 90 suppliers are participating.

Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale spoke at the opening of the indaba. “Given rapid urbanisation and the rate of population growth, with the diminishing availability of land in relation to the growing number of people, it means we have to apply new technology to build better homes,” he said.

“We live in the real world, where we need concrete answers and suggestions. In our case, this means finding new ways of building better homes for people in suburbs, villages and towns.”

Thabane Zulu, his director-general, was also at the opening. “The utilisation of alternative technologies as a strategy for accelerating delivery of housing is expressed in various policies of the department,” he said. “We have a huge backlog but we have set targets for the department which will not exceed costs and compromise quality.”

A brick-making machine on display
A brick-making machine on display

The Department of Human Settlements was looking at new ideas around internal electrification; solar panels; improved sanitation, heating systems and water reticulation systems; and durable roofing and tiling. It was also looking at biometric technologies in social housing projects.

Llewellyn van Wyk, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, pointed out that technology was just a means to an end “and not the solution. We need to know how to use technology in order to find solutions to our housing problems,” he said.

“We need to build houses/units in such a way that in five to 10 years time they can take shape in their individual owners’ way, not uniform houses for life as the owners’ lifestyles change and the houses should be able to change with them.”

Some of the companies displaying their alternative technology solutions for housing include APC Homes, Litestone Holdings, Eco Construction, Vinn Homes, Moelekanyi Eco Bean, RJ Distributors, Spazatainer South Africa, Tile and Stone Designs, Humane Homes, Trumod, Sijabula Homes, Group Five Advanced Building Technology, JJ Mashiyane Electrical Construction and Quality Control, and JNS Building and Civils.

“We offer a hosing solution of houses made out of a steel structure then sprayed with concrete,” explained John Cook, the managing director of Nare Housing. “The lightweight steel structure is attached to the foundation and one house can be built in five days with no compromise to quality and the structure can last for more than 100 years.”

Ahmed Ahmed from Ezylight shows one of his company's solar lighting system
Ahmed Ahmed from Ezylight shows one of his company's solar lighting system

Another exhibitor, Freddie Seward, the director of Surefire Solutions, was also optimistic: “With our speed of manufacture and proven track record we could house 16 million people in modules of apartments in two years.”

Surefire Structures built the BMW headquarters in Hamburg, Germany.

Another innovator is Ahmed Ahmed, of Ezylight, a solar lighting company. “Solar lighting is an emerging market in South Africa with no government input regarding it,” he pointed out.

Ezylight offers solar lighting for 12 hours daily; the system costs R1 700 to buy, and the battery lasts four years. Its replacement value is R120.

“The company employs only women at its manufacturing plant in Cape Town and wants to turn the installation of its systems into a social programme as part of skills transfer and job creation,” said Ahmed.

“This indaba shall have gone a long way if it provides the ministry with new ideas on technologies which are not only cost effective, high quality and durable, but are sustainable. That way, this indaba would have made itself relevant in national discourse around human settlements,” said Sexwale.

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Last Updated on 15 October 2010