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Wednesday Aug 08, 2012

Joburg pushes alternative ways of building

Alternative building technologies (ABTs) have become even more essential to South Africans since the affordable housing backlog has risen to 2.5 million, according to the City of Joburg.

A low-cost house built using alternative building technologies.

And now Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating the state of RDP houses in the country.

"Alternative building technologies are non-conventional building methodologies that provide sustainable solutions in the build environment," said Serenta Ramraj, specialist business analyst at Sasol ChemCity.

Tower Technologies, Sasol ChemCity and FNB have teamed up to manufacture, erect and finance the houses.

According to an article in Engineering News, the technology uses fine ash from waste products. Then it is mixed with cement to form a rich foam held together by a polymeric binder. Fly ash is a by-product of Sasol's energy production and is 75 percent lighter than brick and mortar.

The article also states that the technology has provided bondable houses that are 10- to 20-percent cheaper than conventional houses, but still deliver on quality.

In SA, conventional building material consists of brick and mortar. ABTs can be either non-conventional building methodologies utilising conventional materials, or non-conventional building methodologies utilising nonconventional materials. Building systems include structural insulated panels, insulated concrete, insulated bricks and precast concrete panels.

Cosmo City, Benoni, Rosslyn, a site at the CSIR and Sasolburg are some of the areas with ABT houses.

Costs are dependent on many factors, such as finishes of a building. The type of finishes - like the tiling and light fittings - of a building can significantly contribute to the cost. It is best to do a cost analysis on specific projects in a specific environment.

Recent reports about cement quality when building RDP houses have started to surface. Business Report reported that Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale would engage with the National Regulator for Compulsory Speculations about disturbing reports of inferior quality cement being imported into the country. He said that if inferior quality cement was coming into the country, "we are asking for shoddy work". He was referring to the R50 billion the government had spent on rectifying shoddy workmanship on low-cost housing. An RDP house costs about R50 000 to build. The backlog has resulted in many houses remaining unfinished, being illegally moved into or abandoned.

"Current delivery is not sufficient. You have to look at alternatives," said entrepreneur Joe Tal of Dynamic Shells.

The company manufactures highquality, low-cost, fast-assembly PVCbased housing solutions. He said the ABT method was not trying to replace RDP homes, but was an attempt to speed up the delivery rate.

"The old system was not delivering fast enough. That's where we come in. We can put up a house in two to three days," he said.

The structure itself can be built in a day and the plumbing and electricity are put in place over the next two days. The houses are quick to construct because they are assembled from high quality parts.

There will be an Eco-AfriBuild exhibition at Nasrec from August 15 to 18 to raise awareness about ABTs.

The Star

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