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The Story Of The Great Plans Of Mice And Men Selling Sustainable


  • pg 1
									  Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

The Story Of The Great Plans Of Mice And Men:
   Selling Sustainable Earth Construction.
                                        Das Steyn
                    Department of Urban and Regional Planning
                     University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.

                                  Gerhard Bosman
                             Unit of Earth Construction
                            Department of Architecture
                     University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.


The use of earth as a building material and construction technique is very old and well known
in South Africa and in the rest of the world (Fathy: 1973, Fransen & Cook 1965, Frescura:
1985). These skills were both African and European in origin and changed repeatedly to suit
the local situation (Frescura: 1985). In many rural areas of SA people are still building with
earth, although the skills are slowly disappearing.

Five senior researchers and a troop of students from the University of the Free State (UFS)
in South Africa and the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands,
collaborated to do research with Dutch funding from SANPAD (South Africa – Netherlands
Research Programme on Alternatives in Development).

Specific research objectives were:
   -         To make an inventory and document existing upgraded earth building
             knowledge and skills in a number of selected target areas in SA.
   -         To create awareness and support for earth construction in communities
             resulting in job creation, capacity building and a high quality built environment
             as part of local economic development.

The research hypothesis was that proper research into understanding the present attitudes
towards earth construction together with the necessary dissemination on the modern use of
earth construction can change perceptions and lead to earth construction being an acceptable
and sustainable technique to conventional techniques, which can enhance sustainable local
economic development.

Five target areas in the Free State and Northern Cape were selected and doing two series of
surveys were done on preferences of building materials and earth construction in: Botshabelo,

                                          Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      Thaba Nchu, Makgolokeng near Harrismith, Taung and Pampierstad The first, undertaken
      before the promotion of the idea of using sustainable earth construction, was done by means
      of technical workshops to leader groups and builders, while the attitudes of the population at
      large was influenced by a play in a local language on the use of earth bricks to build one’s
      own house.

      In each of these the number of houses were counted and mapped (as far as maps were
      available because for some of the rural areas no recent maps or aerial photos were available).
      According to Stoker (1981:13) the sample size for each of the areas were calculated. In total
      nearly 1 800 households had to be visited. Information pertaining to demographics, income,
      present housing conditions and services available, questions on preferences of building
      materials and earth construction were drawn up to be asked to all households.

      After analysing the present situation an intervention, through the use of technical workshops
      on earth construction as well as a play, were conducted.          This comedy, called “Hofeta
      Mokhukhung (‘More than a shack’) – A story of hope”, brought forward the message to the
      public at large that earth could be used to build houses of a good standard. It was written for
      the UFS by a drama student and performed by two black drama students in 14 shows covering
      the study area. It was performed on stage, on the verandas of schools or under a carport in
      either Sesotho or Setswana depending on the community. The attendance was fantastic with
      5 240 people seeing it during the 14 shows. A video in Setswana with English captions was
      made for further distribution.

      The next phase involved a follow-up questionnaire in the study area with a smaller sample
      size to get an idea whether attitudes towards the use of earth construction have improved
      with the interventions (play and workshop). Again the results were analysed and evaluated
      in terms of the influence of the intervention on the attitudes towards earth construction in the
      study areas. Both collaborating parties took part in the evaluation of the data and its influence
      on sustainable local economic development.

      The results were not what we hoped until we realised that the last survey was done just after
      the entire highveldt was subjected to the worst flood in 50 years in April 2006, just before the
      planned follow-up survey. The rain that lasted several days, ending in floods, damaged most
      earth constructed houses while several even collapsed.

      The results of our selling campaign were not what we expected with only a slight improvement
      of attitudes because of the rain. In his poem “to a mouse, on turning her up in her nest with the
      plough” Robert Burns wrote how the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. This also
      happens in research, where we learned this lesson during a span of four years.

      Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

    This article describes our research and gives the statistical results as well as our future
    expectations on earth construction

1          Introduction to earth                    the sun is used in the production process of
           construction                             these elements. No burning of fossil fuels
                                                    takes place as part of the production process
Man has been using earth construction for           of these elements (Vale & Vale,1996:28).
thousands of years in different parts of the
world. Modern research has been done into           1.1     What      are    the     reasons      for
this construction method as it is a sustainable     investigating earth construction?
method of building. Presently we know quite
a lot about the different techniques and how        What are the reasons for studying and
to improve them with modern science. What           investigating earth construction?
we actually do not know is why poor people
over the world abandon this method and would           1)   Almost one third of the world’s
rather live in shacks built from corrugated iron,            population live in houses made of
plastic or other available material, but will not            raw earth (Houben,1994:6) and that
opt for a well-built earth constructed house.                can be increased to around 50%
Solving this question has been the aim of this               when living and work is combined
project.                                                     (http://www.earth-auroville.com).
                                                             This should be one good reason to
The authors of this article have been involved               consider the qualities of earth.
in sustainable development and alternative             2)   In the 1970’s the world was confronted
construction    technology      research    and              with a huge energy crisis. The high
training of architecture, quantity surveying,                cost of oil and fuel forced the world
construction management and urban planning                   to look for alternatives. Here earth
students since 1996. During this period earth                presented itself as a possibility. The
architecture was identified as an ideal vehicle              production of building elements can
for supporting local economic development in                 be done by using renewable sources
a sustainable way.                                           of energy like the sun and wind. It was
                                                             thus cheaper to produce that burnt
There are a number of definitions and                        bricks and was ecologically far more
explanations    of   what    earth   constructed             sensitive.
buildings are. Houben (1994:4) explains it as          3)   The material (soil) can be found
follows: It is the use of raw soil and turning               almost everywhere (with the exception
that into a building element without the use                 of a few places on earth like the North
of any firing. All earth building elements such              and South Poles).
as bricks are produced by making use of                4)   The material is cheap.
the natural and inherent qualities of the soil.        5)   The production of bricks, or any of the
Renewable energy sources like the wind and                  other techniques like rammed

                                              Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

             earth, can provide                            used around the world. (Houben, 1994:165)
             employment in developing countries.           Looking at figure 1, these different techniques
        6)   Earth construction can play a role in         can be seen. They are divided into a number
             the   huge      housing      shortage   of    of local variations, but the main techniques
             developing       countries      especially    are:
             because it can provide work for the              a) Moulded earth (hand shaped adobe,
             small entrepreneur.                              machine shaped adobe, hand moulded
        7)   Earth has the added advantage that it            adobe)
             creates thermally comfortable spaces.            b) Stacked earth
        8)   The material is different in every part          c) Shaped (direct shaping)
             of the world and in this way contributes         d) Compacted (rammed earth, tamped
             to the unique     character     of   each        blocks, pressed blocks)
             place. It becomes an expression                  e) Cut (sods, cut blocks)
             of a place and its people’s identity             f) Filled (fill-in)
             e.g. differences can be seen in the              g) Covered (earth shelters)
             character of the Dogon of Mali and               h) Dug (dug-out)
             houses of the Ndebele in South Africa.           i) Applied (daubed earth)
                                                              j) Formed (cob on posts, straw clay)
      1.2    What are the different techniques                k) Poured (poured earth)
             used around the world?                           l) Extruded (extruded e.g. bricks)

      There are 12 different recognised techniques

                                                                                    Fig 1: Chart showing
                                                                                    the 12 different earth
                                                                                    building techniques

                                                                                    (Houben, 1994:165).

      Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

These techniques are found around the world.            1.   Earth should still be used as a building
The technique used is closely linked to the                  material in the selected areas.
type of soils available in a certain region and         2.   The chosen locations should include a
also related to the traditions of the people of              mix of urban and rural areas.
these places.                                           3.   They should also include a mix of both
                                                             formal and informal areas.
1.3      Perceptions of construction                    4.   The areas should be within a four-
         methods                                             hour drive from Bloemfontein.

The perceptions of what is non-durable in           The research project was undertaken in terms
terms of building material are highly subjective,   of the following structured phases:
“often relating to the culture and conditions of
the observer rather than the observed” (Oliver,     •        The first phase [starting date Sept.
1987:221). In some developing countries “the                 2003] comprised a literature study
problem is largely one of prejudice; hostility               on three main themes, namely the
to the use of ‘bush’ or ‘backward’ methods,                  current perceptions regarding the
antipathy to certain materials and techniques,               acceptability of earth construction;
and fears of being ‘held back’ from modernizing”             measuring the extent to which earth
(Oliver, 1987:232). Pawley (1975:34) found                   construction is used at present; and
that advertising has convinced the poor that                 ways in which earth construction
Western forms of housing are the only solution               could help to sustain local economic
to the housing problem. In Europe the green                  development.
movement influenced architecture to be more         •        The second phase [starting date
ecologically friendly, healthy and sustainable               Oct. 2003] comprised the mobilisation
(Haas & Schmid, 1990; Papaneck, 1995). In a                  and inception phase, during which the
study in Scotland, Stevenson (2006:262) found                project was outlined and developed
that people are more inclined to use natural                 by the research team. Five target
materials in housing. This is an opposite trend              areas were identified:
to what is experienced in the developing world               -       Bothabelo near Bloemfontein
where ‘modern materials’ are in demand.                              in the Free State Province
                                                             -       Thaba Nchu near
2        The methodology and the                                     Bloemfontein in the Free
         use of earth construction in                                State Province
         the target areas                                    -       Tsiame near Harrismith in the
                                                                     Free State Province
A set of criteria was drawn up, in order to                  -       Magolokeng near Harrismith
identify the areas in which to do the research                       in the Free State Province
and surveys. Locations were selected using                   -       Taung in the Northern Cape
the following criteria:                                              Province

                                              Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

                       -        Pampierstad in the Northern Cape Province
                       -        Bankhara Budolong near Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province

      Figure 2: The map shows the areas that were investigated and surveyed.

      These areas were selected on the basis of               •    The third phase [starting date March
      (a) the presence of earth construction and/                  2004] involved the planning of the first
      or (b) the presence of small brickyards, (c)                 survey. In each of these areas, the
      the willingness of communities or groups to                  houses were counted and mapped.
      take part in the project, (d) the different earth-           The sample size for each of the areas
      building techniques utilised in the respective               was calculated according to Stoker’s
      areas, and (e) being in an arid area.                        (1981:13) method:

      √(N ÷20) x 20, where N is the stratum size, thus giving the following number of houses for the areas
      in question:

      -       Botshabelo:       Block K                                147 houses
                                Block W                                56 houses
      -       Thaba Nchu:       Bultfontein Extension 4                220 houses
                                informal settlements                   107 houses
      -       Harrismith:       Tsiame                                 72 houses
                                Magolokeng                             130 houses
      -       Taung:            Pampierstad formal and informal        313 house
                                Taung and Manokwane                    91 houses

        Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

-         Kuruman:                      Bankhara Bodulong formal                231 houses
                                        Mapoteng                                161 houses
TOTAL                                                                           1 528 houses
As the areas were approximately the same in               3        Earth as building technology
respect of their characteristics, it was decided                   in South Africa
that a systematic sample would be used,                   3.1      A background to earth building in
rather than a stratified random sample, as                         South Africa
maps for some of the areas were not available.
Areas were randomly selected and then every               The South African building tradition can be
fourth house was interviewed. The fourth                  divided into two main streams. The first relates
phase [starting date June 2004] involved the              to the use of earth by the indigenous inhabitants
collection of data from the different sampling            of the country. The second tradition is that of
areas in terms of the different households .              the colonial settlers who brought earth-building
                                                          techniques from other parts of the world.
    •     Phase five [starting date August 2004]
          comprised          data-analysis      and       3.1.1    Indigenous earth-building
          interpretation.                                          traditions
    •     Phase    six      [starting   date   March
          2006] entailed the completion of a              There are a great variety of indigenous building
          follow-up questionnaire in the study            traditions, since each of the different groups
          area, involving a smaller sample                had their own method. Similar techniques and
          size, to assess whether attitudes               methods were used by both indigenous people
          towards the use of earth construction           and settlers. The available resources usually
          had improved as a result of the                 played a decisive role in this regard. As people
          interventions (play and workshop).              developed a more permanent lifestyle, the
    •     The seventh phase [starting date                walls were built of more solid material, such as
          September 2006] was the reporting               sods or stone. Changes in the plan form came
          phase, in which all qualitative and             about as a result of several factors, including
          quantitative findings were published            new technologies and materials (e.g. the use
          into a concept report.                          of corrugated iron as a roof material), as well
    •     The eighth and final phase entailed             as urbanisation.
          the dissemination of the findings

                  Figure 4: A Ndebele house on the left and a Sotho house on the right

                                             Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      Today, many dwellings built in accordance with         by corrugated iron sheets. The forms have
      these traditional building methods can still be        changed, but the building techniques have still
      seen in rural areas. The thatched roofs have           remained the same, involving the use of wattle
      mainly disappeared, and have been replaced             and daub, cob and sun-dried blocks.

       Figure 5: Earth houses in Thaba Nchu with structural problems (left: no lintels & right: no roof

       In urban areas it is a different application where earth construction is seen as a temporary solution.
       The quality of these buildings is very poor, owing to the disappearance of the original skills and the
       knowledge involved in the use of the relevant techniques and decoration.

      3.1.2   Architecture of the settlers                            of this tradition of building with earth
                                                                      are found all over the country. Elize
      The Cape Dutch architecture in South Africa                     Labuschagne (1998:26) writes that
      displays a wonderful blending of building                       in the Transvaal, as it was known
      applications and methods known in Europe,                       then, the trekboere (the farmers
      with the available materials and skills of a new                from the Cape who migrated to the
      country (Greig, 1971:21). Many earth-building                   north) built their houses according to
      techniques were used in accordance with the                     different earth-building techniques.
      available resources. A few examples will be                     Materials included wattle and daub
      discussed.                                                      as used for the houses of the Zulu,
                                                                      Tswana, Venda and also the Sotho
        •     Wattle and daub                                         (Labuschagne, 1998:26). The walls
              Some of the first houses in the Cape                    were then plastered with mud, or mud
              displayed no similarity to the well-                    and cow-dung, and whitewashed with
              known Cape Dutch houses, but                            lime.
              were single-storey dwellings, built
              of wattle and daub according to a
              rectangular plan. The roofs were
              thatched (Walton,1952:5). Examples

        Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

    •     Cob                                                  of Tulbach was almost ruined, Dr
          Examples of cob architecture can be                  Gawie Fagan, who conducted the
          found in Tulbach. After the earthquake               restoration, found that the walls of the
          of 29 September 1969, in which the                   houses were made of cob.
          largest portion of the main street

Figure 6: Historic houses restored in Church Street, Tulbach

Cob walls were also used in the construction                   important is the fact that, in the various
of the early Free State houses (Pretorius                      earth-building traditions of the people
1997:134). When a farm became a more                           of this country, more similarities than
permanent residence, stone and sun-dried                       differences can be observed.
blocks were used for construction (Pretorius
1997:134).                                           3.2       Contemporary sustainable earth
                                                               buildings in South Africa
•         Sods
          The earth sods were cut and left to        During recent years different groups started
          dry. They were then laid in a shallow      experimenting with alternative materials and
          trough, with the grass facing the          construction methods in South Africa. The
          ground. Each layer was placed, using       word “alternative” is applied to materials and
          mud as an adhesive, or sometimes the       techniques not part of mainstream building
          sods were dry-stacked (Labuschagne         practices.    Many of the buildings may not
          1998:27).                                  constitute great architecture but they have
          South Africa has a rich earth-building     played a noteworthy role regarding the criteria
          tradition   regarding   the   different    of sustainability.
          techniques, locations and soil types,
          as well as the country’s different
          cultures. What is possibly even more

                                             Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      3.2.1     The Cape Province                           the use of compressed earth blocks in a
                                                            contemporary building. This project provided
      The Alliance Française building in Cape Town,         economic opportunities and skills-training
      designed by ACG Architects and Development            for the surrounding community (SA Digest,
      Planners, provides the venue for a language           2000:90).
      school.    The   process   followed   promoted

      Figure 7: Exterior (a) and interior (b) views of the Alliance Française building in Cape Town

      3.2.2     The Free State                              daycare centers for pre-school children, a
                                                            large multi-purpose hall and a tourist centre.
      The Unit for Earth Construction (UEC) which           Stabilised adobe and compressed earth
      is part of the Department of Architecture at the      blocks were used for these buildings. Training
      UFS has constructed several experimental              of unskilled small builders and students
      buildings since 1995. These include a prototype       comprised a large part of these projects.
      house, ablution facilities for sports grounds,

      Figure 8: Three projects by the UEC: (a) and (b) day care centers in Bloemfontein and (c) a tourism
      craft center in Gariep Dam.

      3.2.3     The Northern Cape                           produced materials. In a project entailing
                                                            the construction of a school in Bankhara
      The South African Council for Scientific and          Budolong near Kuruman a part of this project
      Industrial Research (CSIR) – the main research        was realised with the help of The Unit for Earth
      instituttion in the country – launched a project      Construction at the UFS. A group of people
      entitled Thube Makote, with the aim of building       from the community received training in the
      a school in each of the nine provinces. One           production of compressed earth blocks and
      of the requirements was the use of locally-           the contractor bought the bricks from them.

      Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

3.2.4 The Eastern Cape                             Rich, designed the offices of Hydraform, a
                                                   company which produces brick presses. Bricks
Another experimental project was conducted         produced by the presses manufactured            by
in Buffalo City near East London by the Van        the company were used for the construction.
Der Leij Foundation with the technical support     This is an example of a corporate building that
of CRATerre-EAG in France. This housing            illustrates the potential of the use of earth in
project was carried out with the approval and      urban areas.
co-operation of the municipality.
                                                   3.2.7 Namibia

3.2.5 KwaZulu-Natal                                The Habitat Research and Development
                                                   Centre in Katatura by the architect Nina Maritz
In KwaZulu-Natal, an Australian group, AusAid,     addressed different issues regarding the
worked in the very remote rural areas, using       different facets of sustainability. The building is
earth as a building material. The work of the      the result of a range of materials, techniques
Durban-based architect Rodney Harber is a          and innovative ecosystems. This centre
great example of “pushing the boundaries”. He      illustrates how the building industry can play
uses various types of materials in his projects.   a role in the protection of our environment, by
                                                   encouraging innovative thinking about what
3.2.6 Gauteng                                      we do and how it is done.

In Gauteng the well-known architect Peter

Figure 9: The Habitat Research and Development Center in Katatura, Windhoek.                             	
3.3     Informal housing in South Africa           people can obtain at little or no cost. These
                                                   include plastic, corrugated iron sheets, wood,
In South Africa every town and city is             old bricks and also earth. Many people use the
surrounded by extensive areas of informal and      soil from the plot on which they are residing,
formal housing built by the less fortunate. Vast   to make blocks to build a house. This is one of
numbers of poor people live in these townships     the cheapest ways to construct a house if one
surrounding towns and cities. The informal         has little or no income.
houses are made of all sorts of materials that

                                               Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      Figure 10: The current situation in respect of housing in the Thaba Nchu area.

      However, these houses all display similar                          indeed they have any.
      problems, which include one or more of the                     •   The absence of window sills and
      following:                                                         gutters leads to a great deal of water
        •     A lack of foundations, with the result                     damage under windows.
              that houses tend to crack, especially                  •   The corners are problematic with poor
              in areas where clay is prominent.                          bonding.
        •     The floor level on the inside of the                   •   The inadequate roof structures and
              house is often much lower than the                         anchorage lead to extensive water
              ground level on the outside resulting                      damage and eventually structural
              in rain water that streams in.                             problems.
        •     The bottom plinth of the buildings                     •   The use of parapet walls constructed
              receives no attention, leading to                          in earth results in water penetration,
              surface water eroding the walls.                           cracks and loss of structural strength.
        •     Openings do not have proper lintels if

      Figure 11: Main problems with erosion caused by water penetration

      Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

This situation in respect of poverty, informal         4         The attitudes of people
settlements and the practice of building with          	         found	in	the	first	survey
whatever materials are available – with little
“know-how” or skill – has created negative             The following results indicate the main issues
perceptions about earth buildings in general in        and problems that can be deduced on the
this country. This is most unfortunate, since if       basis of the data collected.
earth buildings are constructed in the correct
manner and properly maintained, they can last          4.1       Categories of three main areas
for hundreds of years. The Cape Dutch houses
provide an excellent example in this regard.           The different locations can be categorised
                                                       into three (3) main areas: Area A comprises
3.4      The Government’s solution                     formal urban areas, i.e., townships that were
                                                       planned before settlement took place and may
In South Africa the government has a policy            or may not have all the services such as water,
to provide every citizen with a free house             electricity and/or a sewerage system. Area B
and minimum services (Pithouse, 2009). This            is comprised of informal urban areas, where
creates expectations from poor people, doing           settlement took place before any planning had
away with and the initiative to do your own            been implemented. Some areas have services
thing. Furthermore the government is building          and some none at all. Area C consists of rural
all these houses with burned or cement bricks.         areas, where the land belongs to the tribe and
This is then perceived as a better way of              the local chief is in charge of the distribution
building.                                              thereof. These areas, too, may or may not
                                                       have all the relevant services.

Table 1: Three areas surveyed

                                    Frequency       Percentage     Valid              Cumulative
                                                                   Percentage         Percentage
 Valid                       A      1075            60,0           60,0               60,0
                             B      329             18,4           18,4               78,4

                             386    21,6            21,6           100,0
 Total                              1790            100,0          100,0

4.2      Acceptability of earth as a building        the most frequent answer was “poor” (47.3%;
         material                                    n=844), followed by “very poor” (34.3%; n=612).
                                                     Regarding the question as to whether they felt
The acceptability of earth as a building material    that the use of adobe was problematic, 86.6%
was addressed on the basis of several different      (n=1546) of respondents’ answered in the affir-
questions. In response to the question on re-        mative. When asked if they considered the use
spondents’ opinions regarding the average qual-      of adobe to be a good idea, 84.6% (n=1377) of
ity of walls made from adobe blocks, in terms of     respondents’ answered in the negative.
a 5-point Likert scale (very good – very poor),

                                                Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      4.3       Reasons for low acceptability                categories: (a) collapses; (b) cracks; (c)
                levels                                       maintenance; (d) climate/rain; (e) insects; (f)
                                                             not safe/ not strong and (g) other. More than
      The respondents specified the problems which           one of these categories could be selected as
      were related to the use of adobe (q22). The            arguments for regarding the use of adobe as
      responses were divided into the following              problematic.
      Table 2: Arguments for low acceptability of adobe blocks

       Argument                    Frequency [-]                         Percentage [%]
       Collapses                   864                                   55.9
       Cracks                      337                                   21.8
       Maintenance                 224                                   14.5
       Climate/rain                663                                   40.9
       Insects                     22                                    1.4
       Not safe/ not strong        189                                   12.2
       Other                       187                                   12.1

      4.4       General conclusions                          The aim was to promote earth as a building
                                                             material with the potential to create better living
      In the determination of the nonparametric              environments, and to change perceptions
      correlation coefficients, a significant correlation    regarding earth construction.
      was found between the perception relating to
      adobe, and the fact that a person is (or is not)       It was decided that schools in the areas
      currently living in an adobe house. This positive      would be used to present these activities. A
      weak correlation suggests that respondents             classroom, hall or similar venue was utilised
      who live in adobe houses perceive adobe                for the play and workshops.
      houses in a more positive light than those who
      currently do not reside in adobe houses.               5.1      The workshops

      5         Intervention by the researchers              Five technical one day workshops (one in each
                                                             area) were presented by The Unit for Earth
      This phase of the project involved the                 Construction (UEC) based at the UFS. People
      promotion of earth construction. This was              from different backgrounds were selected to
      achieved by means of:                                  attend the workshops. Those who attended
                                                             included councillors, small builders and chiefs,
          a.    the presentation of technical                inter alia. The aim of the workshops was to
                workshops; and                               familiarise people with the contemporary uses
          b.    the performances of a community              of earth construction.
                play in Setswana and Sesotho (the
                local languags of these areas).

       Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

5.2      The play                                   of South Africa. Houses built with earth showed
                                                    problems associated with wet conditions:
The project team had been looking for a             collapsing foundation walls, plastering falling
medium through which to tell a story and            off, crack-forming in parapet walls, etc.
convey a message that would be of interest
to a larger audience. A comedy entitled
“Hofeta Makhukhung” – “A Story of Hope”             6.1     The results of Survey II
was developed in this regard. The play, which
was presented in the format of a community          Only the main findings will be examined as
theatre production, was performed in Sesotho        the full results were published as a separate
and Setswana. Fourteen performances of              research report.
this comedy were attended by a total of 5260
adults and school children. A DVD was made          6.1.1   Preferred building material for
of the play for future use of this method of                walls and motivations for
communication.                                              preferences.

5.3	     Measuring	the	influence	of	the		           Respondents were asked to indicate which
         intervention on attitudes                  building material they preferred for the
                                                    construction of walls. Answers to the question
After the intervention the second survey took       relating to the reasons for respondents’
place in order to measure the effect of the         preferences in this regard, are grouped into the
intervention.                                       following categories: (a) aesthetics; (b) strong
                                                    and safe; (c) fewer problems; (d) climate; (e)
                                                    quick building process; (f) finances; and (g)
6        The results of the second                  other. Table x indicates the scores in each
         survey                                     category, grouped according to respondents’
A selection of the questions asked in Survey
I were included in the questionnaire, with
four new questions added to establish the
number of individuals who had attended the
workshops and play. Survey I was conducted
during the period before the performance of
the community play while Survey II (from 3 -
7 March 2006) was conducted thereafter. The
areas were homogeneous, as in the case of
Survey I (conducted in 2004).

The second survey was done after one of the
worst floods in 50 year flood in the central area

                                              Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      Table 3: Preferences in respect of building material for walls

                                     Burned bricks    N=237                    Cement blocks
                                     [-]                   [%]                 [-]                [%]
       Aesthetics                    84                    27.4                25                 7.0
       Strong & safe                 117                   48.7                185                49.2
       Fewer problems                11                    4.8                 39                 10.9
       Climate                       8                     3.5                 31                 8.7
       Quick building process        1                     0.4                 2                  0.6
       Finances                      7                     3.0                 22                 6.2
       Other                         28                    12.2                62                 17.4

      The results of the Mann-Whitney U test                     could not be stopped and we had to continue.
      reveal that in cases where respondents had                 We did not realise that in some places the rain
      attended the play, their perceptions regarding             that lasted several days and ending in floods
      adobe blocks had not been influenced by                    damaged most the earth constructed houses
      their attendance; and that no differences                  while several even collapsed.
      were observed between the perceptions of
      respondents who had attended the play, and                 Due to the rain the results of our selling
      the perceptions of those who had not attended              campaign    were     therefore    not   what   we
      the play, in terms of their opinions regarding             expected, with only a slight improvement
      the quality of adobe blocks.                               of attitudes. We learned the lesson that
                                                                 the best laid plans of mice and men do not
      6.3.     Conclusion of Survey II                           always have the results that you worked for
                                                                 during a span of four years. Houses built in
      On the basis of the results, it must be concluded          earth experienced problems associated with
      that no visible effect of the interventions can be         wet conditions: collapsing foundation walls,
      observed within the population of respondents              plastering falling off, crack-forming in parapet
      who answered to the questions posed in                     walls and in some cases the toppling down of
      Questionnaire 2. In order to change people’s               houses. Seeing what is happening with earth
      perceptions regarding adobe blocks, other                  constructed houses around you most probably
      measures will need to be taken.                            have a heavier influence on your attitudes than
                                                                 a workshop or a play (presented sometime
      7        Lessons of the Research                           before the flood).
                                                                 7.1     What now?
      The results were not what we hoped for until
      we realised that the last survey was done just             The study has shown that earth construction
      after a period that the whole highveldt was                is being used as a sustainable building
      subjected to one of the worst floods in 50 year,           method in South Africa. This was achieved by
      in March 2006. Once the survey had started it              pointing out relevant research and providing
     Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

adequate examples. On the basis of the              8        The Future of Earth
results, it can be concluded that no visible                 Construction in South Africa
effect of the interventions can be observed.
In order to change people’s perceptions             This article does not aim to provide specific
regarding adobe blocks, other measures will         directly applicable measures for supporting
need to be taken. It is also highly probable        local    economic        development       through
that the Survey II influenced people’s attitudes    sustainable construction. At best, it may
towards earth construction.                         provide some guidelines for developing such
                                                    measures. The article does aim to stress
The search for a sustainable approach to            the importance and potential of applying
all spheres of development has, in recent           sustainable construction as a means for local
times, become an ever more pressing matter.         economic development.
Affordable, effective construction methods
that represent sustainable architecture are         8.1      Sustainable construction
becoming of great importance in achieving
this goal. The attempt to change perceptions        Earth construction was identified as an
regarding earth construction was not singularly     ideal vehicle for supporting local economic
effective. According to the research results, the   development in a sustainable way. People who
respondents ranged from poor to extremely           are directly or indirectly involved in construction
poor. It is thus to be expected that basic          have every reason to be concerned about
services such as running water, electricity         sustainable       development.     According      to
and a flushing toilet inside the dwelling could     estimations,      the   construction   industry   is
constitute acceptable living standards. The         responsible for approximately 40 per cent of
tolerance for earth houses was low, with the        all resource consumption and 40 per cent of
most important reasons for dislike of this          all waste production (Du Plessis, 2002: iv).
construction method cited as the fact that these    Furthermore, the construction industry does
houses collapse, are not strong and stable and      not have a good reputation in terms of social
cannot withstand climate factors such as rain.      responsibility (Du Plessis, 2002: 16).
In correlation with the hypothesis, this may
indicate that the proper skills for building with   8.2      Sustainable settlements
adobe bricks have fallen by the wayside and
that proper training and information about this     Truly   sustainable       construction    requires
construction method might help render the           that attention should not only be focused
negative perception positive. The perception        on buildings, but also on infrastructure and
that earth houses signify poverty, as well as       services. Furthermore, socio-economic and
that it can be perceived as old-fashioned,          environmental issues need to be considered,
should be taken into consideration.                 while community involvement is essential.
                                                    Achieving sustainable settlements is the goal
                                                    in this regard.

                                              Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

      In 2001, the CSIR was commissioned by                8.4     Earth construction as a
      the National Housing Department to carry                     sustainable alternative
      out a study on the sustainability of human
      settlements in South Africa (Du Plessis,             The    SANPAD       project    provided     local
      2003: 12-13). One of the chosen points of            entrepreneurs with exposure to the production
      departure for determining the sustainability of      of higher-quality blocks which could prove
      existing human settlements was the quality           to be more acceptable to consumers, and
      of life offered to each member of society. The       which would also be more beneficial from an
      institutional determinants for the sustainability    environmental point of view. Earth construction
      of settlements were based on the issues of           can justly be considered a sustainable
      financial capacity, institutional integration,       alternative. With earth, good-quality buildings
      operational efficiency, technical capacity and       can be constructed, which are suited to the
      political will. The environmental indicators         local climate and which also provide a healthy
      were centered on the issues of resource use,         inner climate for the occupants.
      pollution and degradation, as well as protection
      of the environment.                                  The production of sun-dried bricks uses
                                                           up far less energy than, for instance, the
      8.3     Sustainable building technology              production of concrete or bricks fired in a kiln.
                                                           Manufacturing one fired brick consumes 2
      One could simply say that sustainable                kWh of energy, whereas the manufacture of
      building technology is building technology           a cement-stabilised earth brick of the same
      that contributes to the creation of sustainable      size consumes 0, 05 kWh. Producing 1 m³ of
      settlements. Though this is true, it does not        concrete consumes 300-500 kWh, whereas
      provide many practical indications of ways           the same volume of raw earth for building
      in which to determine the sustainability of          uses only 1% of this quantity of energy
      proposed building materials and construction         (Gerneke, 1992b: 36). Furthermore, sun-
      techniques. For that purpose, it will be             drying, in contrast to baking, does not lead
      necessary to look more closely at the ways           to the emission of harmful substances into
      in which building materials and construction         the air (air pollution). Raw materials for the
      techniques have an impact on the environment,        creation of earth blocks can be extracted from
      and how they affect sustainability in a broader      the production site, preventing the negative
      sense (e.g. in terms of socio-economic               impacts on the environment that are caused
      factors). In addition, we will need to find ways     by the transportation of materials to the site
      to compare the different factors, in order           by road. Earth construction can also help to
      to determine the total effect on sustainable         reduce the environmental impact caused by
      development.                                         building waste.

      Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010

8.5       Employment                                8.6     Conclusion

There is no doubt that unemployment is one          The South African Government (on all three
of the major problems in South Africa. The          levels) and academic institutions have an
creation of more job opportunities should           important role to play in this regard. The
therefore be one of the main priorities, if not     diversity and ability of earth construction to
the top priority, in any attempt to stimulate       adapt to contemporary architecture could be
local economic development.                         utilised much more effectively in government
                                                    and semi government initiatives. If the
In many poor communities in South Africa,           commitment towards sustainable development
e.g. in Kuruman in the Northern Cape, small         is to be taken seriously at all, the importance
entrepreneurs have started to produce earth         of earth construction must not be overlooked.
blocks in accordance with traditional skills,       Building high profile buildings all over the
but with material that has been upgraded            country using earth will be a means to show
(by adding cement to adobe blocks). These           that the negative attitudes on earth architecture
groups run small brickyards, and make a             can be changed.
living from selling the blocks. These existing
small businesses that have been running             The results of this research did not give the
successfully for a period of time should be         expected outcomes. However Edison, when
supported, either financially or through training   asked how many failures he had in experiments
(Diedericks, 2001: 50). This provides another       during the invention of the electric bulb, replied
argument in favour of supporting local brick-       that it was not failures but data showing which
makers as a potential source of further local       avenues in his research did not work.
economic development.
                                                    Earth construction traditionally is for dry areas.
Considering the rich tradition of building with     Modern technology in earth construction
earth (Gerneke, 1992a/b/c), and taking into         must still convince people that this type
account such factors as the local climate,          of construction can also be used in wetter
the use of local raw materials, the minimal         conditions. However this convincing will take
environmental impact, the labor-intensity, and      time and should not be conducted during or
the lower costs involved in earth construction,     after floods. More research and intervention in
building with earth can be regarded as an           people’s attitudes towards earth construction
appropriate technology for housing in South         should be done in this country in order to
Africa.                                             reduce our ecological footprint.

                                             Human Settlements Review, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010


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