One of many challenges facing African property developers is the growing cost of building materials. To overcome this, many are embracing passive design and alternative building materials, unlocking a host of potential benefits for hyperscale housing production.

Rammed earth, for example, is a zero-emission material with low maintenance costs and an impressive lifespan of up to 25 years without the need for reform. Joelle Eyeson, Co-founder of Hive Earth, incorporates Ghana’s freely available mud and granite chippings into the construction of low-cost housing units (Lionesses of Africa, 2019). Eyeson has reduced the cost of building a freestanding one-bedroom home to a remarkable $5000 (US).

Adobe, a popular traditional Middle Eastern and Spanish building material, is also reappearing as a viable option in drier climates (Green Home Building, 2019). Modern material variations include soilcrete (earth excavated to lay foundations then gets sifted and mixed into concrete to reduce the amount of cement required), plastic compound slabs (solid or semi-filled plastic spheres are embedded into the concrete mix for pouring slabs) and re-fill (grinding rubble from destroyed buildings into concrete mixes for flooring and boundary walls; Neufert, 2013) – each of which could shave off as much as $1500 (US) for the construction of a free-standing one-bedroom home.

While numerous other factors such as a building’s orientation toward the sun, the built-to-open space ratio per plot, and spatial layout, all play equally important roles in housing construction costs, it has never been easier to experiment with low-cost, low-emission building materials (Muguda & Nagaraj, 2019) to incorporate into existing design schemes.

Our upcoming Round Table Discussion, focused on Affordable Housing in East Africa, will delve further into the topic of best practice; provide insight into the sustainable reduction of construction costs and thus allow for increased production per dollar invested. Sponsorship opportunities are still available for those who would like to benefit from the discussions held on the day of the event. We remind all interested parties that attendance is strictly by invitation only, and that sponsorship is the only avenue to guarantee participation.

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