Sunday, November 15, 2009

South Africa: CSIR develops improved low-income house

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a demonstration low-income house with an improved design that is durable and easy to extend.

The CSIR said in a statement that communities who depend on subsidised, low-income houses in South Africa can benefit greatly from the technology they have developed and tested.

“If built according to CSIR specifications, and on large scale, such houses will be constructed much faster and at similar costs than when using conventional methods," said Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, president and CEO of the CSIR.

Sibisi said that the CSIR recognises housing provision as a national priority, and therefore has applied the knowledge of the Council towards finding a solution for the low-income housing sector.

Improved design
The biggest improvement to the CSIR’s experimental houses is an optimised design that can easily be extended by home owners.

"The house was constructed combining technologies and materials in an innovative way to improve living conditions and the durability of the home," said Hans Ittmann, Executive Director of CSIR Built Environment.

The CSIR also used technology developed for roads to form the foundation slab of the house. They hope that this will eliminate cracked walls that result from the sub-standard foundations often found in the low-income market.

“Local labour can be used to construct such foundations, which is based on ultra-thin, continuously-reinforced concrete technology," says Ittmann.

Improvements have also been made to the design of the bathroom and kitchen area, the plumbing installation and temperature control of the houses.

"We used a modular, design-to-fit approach similar to a Lego set where pieces have to fit together correctly to form the bigger unit," explains Llewellyn van Wyk, senior researcher at the CSIR.

The CSIR developed the use of a waste outlet manifold that is pre-manufactured, quality-tested and installed on site. This reduces the extent of the plumbing installation substantially while ensuring that the installation is done to the required standard.

The roof of the house was improved by adding insulation material that doubles up as a ceiling. "Standard low-income houses have no ceilings and thus no insulation, which results in incredible variations in temperatures," says Van Wyk.

The demonstration house also faces the appropriate direction to ensure that bedrooms receive sunlight, while the living room faces north.

Demonstration units will be constructed by local authorities in the Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape and at Kleinmond in the Western Cape, incorporating most components of the CSIR design.