Use housing to tackle poverty, says formwork guru

Empower community co-operatives to lead mass programme, Moladi boss tells African human settlements virtual summit

Community members fill plastic formwork with concrete and a Moladi additive during the construction of a house.
Community members fill plastic formwork with concrete and a Moladi additive during the construction of a house.
Image: SUPPLIED

Use housing construction to empower people, fix the economy and create sustainable smart villages.

That is the call from Port Elizabeth housing entrepreneur Hennie Botes, who was speaking during a recent virtual summit hosted by the African Union for Housing Finance.

Botes — whose company Moladi Construction has delivered formwork homes, schools and government buildings in 20 countries around the world — said the move to overcome poverty and unemployment needed to be leveraged around another key SA dilemma.

Fourteen per cent of South Africans cannot afford to buy food, 10-million are unemployed and there is a backlog of three-million houses

“Fourteen per cent of South Africans cannot afford to buy food, 10-million are unemployed and there is a backlog of three-million houses,” he said.

“We must use this backlog to stimulate the industrialisation of the housing production line.

“We can fight poverty, unemployment and associated social ills like crime through housing.

“It’s a matter of connecting the dots.

“And we need to begin by establishing community-based co-operatives and empower people to help themselves.”

The members of each co-operative would be trained in the multiple different skills, from welding and plumbing to electrical work and plumbing, required to build their own formwork homes, he said.

They can then take these skills into the mainstream economy and establish sustainable businesses, producing a win-win scenario for SA and its people

“They can then take these skills into the mainstream economy and establish sustainable businesses, producing a win-win scenario for SA and its people.”

Botes, who started out as an apprentice tool and die maker with the railways after matriculating in Durban, said the strategy needed to be driven by a public-private partnership involving various government departments with expert artisans and service providers.

“Production would be geared around the Moladi formwork, which is a lightweight, removable and reusable plastic mould.

“But we would be just one part of the team.

“The power would be in the collaboration.”

The Moladi formwork system has been endorsed by the National Home Builders Registration Council and in 2006 the company was presented with the Eric Molobi Innovation Hub Award in parliament.

They were invited by the Smithsonian Institution to exhibit at the UN in New York, and recently by the World Bank to Washington, to present the system as a “housing for all” solution to the International Finance Corporation.

Botes said the formwork panels, connecting rods and spacers had been manufactured at a factory in Uitenhage, licensed out usually to a housing contractor and then put together on-site by the beneficiaries, with the guidance of a Moladi trainer.

With the formwork clipped together and erected like a child would build a Lego model, the pipes, doors and windows were inserted and a mix of concrete and a special Moladi additive were poured into the wall, floor and foundation moulds.

The next day the formwork was removed for reuse, and the house was ready.

No plastering was needed and only the roof needed to be fitted.

“The reduced building time, simple transfer of skills and easy transportability and reusability of the formwork mean we can deliver one home per day per formwork and also one that is six times stronger and half the price of a brick and mortar house.”

He said he was confident the same production line strategy could solve housing problems through Africa and the world.

“Projections by the UN indicate that 53% of Africa’s inhabitants live in cities, of whom 62% reside in slums.

“What’s more troubling is that it appears that the incentive to move to the cities is completely independent from economic growth and development, and this is not expected to ease in the foreseeable future.”

There was no doubt that the housing challenge facing South Africa and the continent was colossal and the question was whether conventional building methods were able to cope with the ever-increasing demand for quality homes, he said.

The mass production techniques Henry Ford championed in the automotive industry, lean production and lean assembly are what we need to implement affordable mass housing to eliminate waste, speed up production and reduce cost.

“If we empower rural communities to build their own homes and add water harvesting, solar power and food production systems we can revive rundown villages and build new smart ones and thereby stop the urbanisation that’s draining our resources in the cities.

“Instead these rural communities can be encouraged to stay on the land, grow food and market it to the cities.”

HeraldLIVE


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