By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The World Health Organisation estimates that nearly 2 million people die in developing countries due to health issues that arise from inadequate housing (WHO, 2010).
Similarly, the United Nations International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states that adequate housing is fundamental to improving living standards among poor and low-income households. Without adequate shelter, families lack security and are vulnerable to natural disasters and the chaos of civil conflict (UN,2010).
These examples clearly illustrate the need for adequate and affordable housing hence, prompting scientific research into the development of cost-effective and sustainable housing for developing countries.
In developed world, significant progress in tackling this challenge has been made however, in many other parts of the world, especially in Africa, there is still a great need for low cost, robust and thermally comfortable housing.
In addition to the adequate housing requirement, energy access, water and sanitation are still major problems in many low-income communities. This project is typically aimed at addressing some of these pressing issues, by using a multi-disciplinary approach in empowering local capacity to use new methods and locally engineered materials, in building, low cost, self-sufficient homes.
The home design incorporates up-cycled materials and local agricultural waste that would have been otherwise incinerated or dumped, as well as energy and water harvesting facilities.
Goals and objectives;
The main goal of this project is to develop a low cost self-sufficient home that can be easily replicated by local capacity using local commonly available materials. The specific objectives are to;
I. Demonstrate the potential for engineering local waste materials into inexpensive, sustainable building materials. This was achieved by utilizing team members’ expertise in natural fiber composite (Materials) as well as Structures (civil engineering)
II. II. Maximize the self-sufficiency potential (in terms of energy and water) of this home. This involved integrating various systems for harvesting and efficiently utilizing water and Energy This objective was achieved by drawing on the expertise of team members in Architecture, Building services engineering, Renewable energy engineering as well as water engineering.
III. Investigate the social viability (acceptance) of this low cost, sustainable home. The project employed a participatory design method to reflect the choices and desires of the community. Similarly, a study into the local resident’s perception/acceptance of this sort of building (a building made from unconventional materials) was conducted.
IV. Investigate ways of combining various components in an aesthetically pleasing way to enhance the user appeal. This was achieved by various disciplines working together.
In summary, the objectives were achieved by an inter-disciplinary team working together. The inter-disciplinary nature of this project ensured that the structural, energy, water, aesthetic and economic performance of the building were optimized.
The first step in the research activities was to characterise the chosen community – Paipe – a low income community in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. This was chosen as it was a good representation of low income communities in semi urban areas of Nigeria.
A Research assistant was employed to undertake this task and researchers from De Montfort University, UK, visited the community to support, train and supervise the research assistant.
One of the observations from this task was that plastic bottles were a major component of the waste stream. It was also observed that there was an informal plastic bottle sorting facility in the community.
Another observation was that most of the locals engaged in some form of farming and as such produced significant agricultural wastes.
This discoveries strengthened the decision to explore using plastic bottles for walls and making panels (floor, ceiling and walls) from natural fibre composites (using agricultural waste).
A comprehensive literature survey was done to ascertain the usage and properties of the various candidate materials identified.
This project addresses 3 of the United Nations goals for sustainable development.
Goal 6- clean water and sanitation,
Goal 7- Affordable and clean energy,
Goal 11- sustainable cities and communities.
The main benefitting country of this project is Nigeria; however, the concept of the project could be easily transferred and replicated in other developing countries. Some of the specific impacts include;
By filling the plastic bottles with Sand, the amount of cement needed was drastically reduced, forcing downwards total cement cost to about 35% of a conventional building made from Sandcrete blocks in Nigeria. The prototype constructed can be likened to a typical 1-bedroom flat apartment in Nigeria; living room, bedroom, toilet, and kitchen.
The building was designed to be self-sufficient and as such, steps were taken to minimise the environmental footprint such as optimising thermal comfort and rain water harvesting. By utilising renewable energy and rain water, the running of this home will be environmentally clean, employing plastic and agricultural wastes as building components, by this, the project has contributed to reducing the environmental impact the waste would have produced.
By working with local SME’s, skills men, and local engineering students, the project built and encourage local capacity to develop solutions using local materials. This will ultimately lead to new jobs. Building the prototype went a long way in building the capacity of the SME’s who worked on the project. For example, Awonto Konsolts, the Civil Engineering contractors who built the prototype are discussing with a local organisation on the possibility of building 8 units for their employees. Similarly, the Solar Energy SME that installed the PV panels have received a tool kit (EscoBox), developed by a researcher at DMU for optimising solar PV installations.
Domestication in Cross River State;
Replicating this in Cross River is very important owing to the dire need of housing and the present administration’s commitment to secure effective and affordable housing scheme for her citizens.
Being a coastal area and a key player in the global climate change agenda. This project is importantly timely.
This project is a best-fit for a state like Cross River, in terms of cost effectiveness and social needs considering the economic muscle.
It will also go a long way in enhancing the esthetic value and ambience the state is known for, thereby further promoting her tourism potentials.
Concluding, The prototype has been visited by over 200 people who have written positive comments in the visitor’s book.
The prototype was also officially visited by representatives of the Federal ministry of Science and Technology, Executive directors of the Rural Electrification Agency and the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Maitama Branch.
Involving UK and Nigeria students on the capacity building trip was a fantastic opportunity for both sides. The feedback from students was that it was a unique experience that has inspired them to do more on the international development front.
Also, the project was broken down into smaller students final year/MSc projects, which gave students real world experiences. This was one of the few examples highlighted in DMU’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) submission, which resulted in a Gold award.
Justin Udie, is a Cross Riverian and currently a Doctoral Researcher on Sustainability, Climate Change and Resources Management at the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Technology, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.