Emerging technologies that might shape the future of affordable housing in Africa

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Sub-Saharan Africa is home to diverse cultures with varying needs. It includes the entire African continent south of the Sahara, with 49 countries, almost one billion people and an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.5 % over the past ten years.

Only 39 % of Africa’s population lives in cities, which places the region among the least urbanized in the world, according to World Bank data (2014). However, urbanization is gaining increased traction because of the population explosion. For the whole continent, the level of urbanization will reach 50 per cent by 2035 and 58 per cent in 2050 (CIAN 2016). In the next ten years, the total population of Africa is expected to exceed that of Europe, South America and North America combined.

Construction Review had an exclusive interview with Christopher Mulera, Technical Specification Manager – Saint Gobain Development East Africa Ltd on the current affordable housing market in Africa

  1. What’s your take on the current affordable housing market in Africa?

The world is urbanizing at a very high rate. Today more than half of the world population live in cities. Urbanization is an opportunity for economic development, but also generates increasing pressure on urban services and infrastructure. Providing dignified housing is among the biggest challenges faced by countries around the world.

  1. What are the positives achieved so far due to the implementation of affordable housing in Africa?

In countries like South Africa, the energy efficiency regulations promulgated in 2011 was a significant catalyst in unlocking demand for energy saving building construction technology.

In Kenya, the government has made affordable housing a presidential priority and is committed to facilitate the construction of 500,000 houses between 2017 and 2022. The government has identified four affordability brackets and adequate public serviced land for development.

Private developers, in partnership with the government, will build social and affordable houses around the country. In addition, the establishment of Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company and a National Housing Development Fund will improve the affordability of mortgages making home ownership more accessible.

  1. What are the challenges experienced with regards to the implementation of affordable housing?

Determinants of costs: land and services, labor, finance and materials

High interest rates on mortgage loans

High cost of servicing land

Serviced land is relatively expensive in the urban areas

In Kenya, large housing projects normally target middle and high income earners.

  1. What can be done to address these challenges?

On areas like skills development, we need to work with local authorities and private sectors to train artisans on product application and emerging building construction technologies

  1. Do we have any emerging technologies that might shape the future of affordable housing in Africa?

Saint-Gobain has a key role to play in supporting Africa’s urban transformation. Our building solutions aim to improve people’s daily life by providing quality and decent housing for all. In Kenya, we continuously develop and adapt our portfolio to the market needs and offer solutions combining affordability, comfort and sustainability.

In line with the government’s Big Four agenda, we believe that everyone has the right to a dignified and comfortable home. We aim to provide adequate solutions to improve living conditions while respecting the affordability brackets of the population.

Our solutions contribute to better living through:
  • Guaranteed quality, safety and security: Our solutions guarantee strength and durability backed by the Group’s 353 years of experience worldwide. Furthermore, our products are compliant with international standards. For example, we offer the best quality gypsum board and gypsum plaster for ceilings and dry walling, reducing the high maintenance costs of buildings and product wastage. We also have a range of solutions to protect people and property ranging from non-combustible ceiling board and insulation to fire resistant dry-walling systems.
  • Comfort, energy efficiency and cost savings: We are committed to providing solutions at an affordable price that can improve the comfort and sustainability of homes in Kenya. We believe that although affordability is key, there should be a balance between affording a home and comfortable living conditions, especially in view of climate change. Because insulation increases energy efficiency and provides energy savings, we consistently encourage the installation of insulation in ceilings and walls. About 30-40% of the heat loss of a house happens through its roof and ceiling.

By installing an insulated ceiling, we can save 30-40% of our energy costs (both heating and cooling). Our solutions can also reduce the overall cost of construction. Brush Coat is a coloured waterproof and UV resistant solution that protects external walls against moisture and increases aesthetics. It can be applied directly onto a cement surface offering protection against the sun and rain. Similarly, because of its very light weight (22kg/m² to 96kg/m² vs 200kg/m² to 480kg/m² for traditional construction), dry wall leads to large savings in structural costs and foundation for multi-story construction.

In addition, dry wall technology and gypsum plaster enable water savings. About 80% of Kenya is arid or semi-arid. Recent droughts have emphasized the vulnerability of the population to changing climate patterns. Even in the main cities, water supply is not enough to satisfy demand. Dry wall technology does not require the use of water, whereas brick or stone works use 7-8L/m². Similarly, gypsum plaster has a water usage of only 0.2-0.8L/m² compared to 6L/m² for normal sand and cement plaster.

  • Speed of construction: Dry walling systems enable much faster construction compared to traditional methods. One can build 12-58 m² compared to only 8-16 m² with normal brick or stone work, making it possible to build a house of 45 m² in one day, as opposed to three days for brick work. In light of the enormous housing deficit in Kenya, dry wall systems will significantly contribute to narrow the housing gap.

1 thought on “Emerging technologies that might shape the future of affordable housing in Africa”

  1. Every architect knows the truth in the statement “about 30-40% of the heat loss of a house happens through its roof and ceiling. The article captures the solution to this ever-present problem in building and construction pretty well. Architects and experts work constantly to reduce this number significantly.

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