October 17th by Joseph Migadde
Earth bag Technology really is the cheapest construction technology, using dirt dug up on site when excavating for septic tanks and soak pits. It is labour intensive but easy to learn and replicate.
Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks are a much more conventional low-cost technology that can utilize the same soil on site while not being as labour intensive and providing faster project delivery than Earth Bag Technology.
With this foundation in low-cost construction technology, what do you think about tackling low-cost housing in these two ways?
Avail those in need of housing with pp-cloth tubing or discarded sacks of flour (what i used here in Uganda), rolls of barbed wire, door and window molds and simple earth dome plans with clear instructions. Or provide them with an ISSB machine to produce their own blocks on site. Avail roofing material in forms of solar sheets and solve their energy needs in the same move. Avail water via large scale investment in boreholes, wells and the like.
You’d need some “donor” funding” to avail those materials but after this, those who own small pieces of land can construct these small homes for themselves (with a visiting supervisor experienced at the technology of course).
The biggest issues i see with this model are; those in need of low-cost housing rarely possess land, the building codes mean you can only attempt this in very rural areas and availing water requires large scale investment in borehole set ups and the like.
Obtain funding (grant, government funding, private-public partnerships). Buy cheap land (low-cost housing ceases being low-cost if it is set up on “expensive” land). Design “boxy” high rise housing blocks (using land optimally by utilising the vertical space) with low-cost but durable fittings and finishes to keep the initial and lifetime costs down. Invest in water harvesting mechanisms and boreholes to avail water not only for home use but also for crop irrigation (did i mention farming and animal husbandry to earn a living for the home occupants?). Invest in solar power to provide for the energy needs.
Design for a community life; farm, leisure parks, community centres and other places of transition and congregation. Then the occupants of these homes pay back the cost of development as a collective from their proceeds in the farm. Their proceeds can be used to set up more and more projects benefiting more people in the long run.
In conclusion, water and power are unavailable in large areas of Uganda, which makes the land cost cheaper in these areas but also makes them hard to live in. The solutions above are aimed at reducing rural-urban migration by providing quality low-cost housing with renewable energy and clean water in rural areas. In fact, both solutions can be applied as appropriate.
Please share your thoughts. Thank you.