Easing the African Housing Crisis with Eco-Friendly Homes

Image: Earthbag building 

Africa's population is expected to double over the next 25 years. But with Africa's housing already insufficient, expensive and not meeting the soaring demand, the continent faces a housing crisis. Today, 56 percent of Africa's urban population lives in informal settlements as a result of natural disasters and the significant lack of affordable housing available. Kenya and Nigeria are two of Africa's worst affected areas, with Kenya's housing shortage estimated to be around two million units, while Nigeria is short of 17 million homes. But while there are new homes being built, the numbers are simply not enough with demand outstripping supply. The prefabricated homes are just one example of Africa taking a new approach to housing. Could eco-friendly homes offer an affordable and sustainable housing solution? If so, what other eco-friendly houses could we begin to see more of?

Creating Homes from Sandbags

Built using the innovative EcoBeams system, the aim of a sandbag home is to conserve money and conserve resources, while replacing traditional brick and mortar with sandbags. Having been built for $6,000, these homes in Cape Town use inexpensive local materials to reduce transportation costs. Providing a safe, strong and cheap way to deliver affordable housing, these homes were actually constructed with the help of their future residents, helping to bring down the costs even more. 

Ghana’s 'Inno-native' Family Home

One Ghanaian born resident took into his own hands to build an affordable and sustainable home for his family. Joe Osae-Addo, an architect once based in the States, created a beautiful, eco-friendly house using materials found in rural areas such as adobe mud blocks and timber. The house has no air-conditioning, but floor to ceiling jalousie windows and sliding slatted wood screens provide cross ventilation. Joe raised the house three feet from the ground in order to be able to take advantage of the cooling under floor breeze. And while the house is connected to the national grid for electricity, however, solar panels provide good back up and are used for heating water.

Could Eco-Friendly Homes Be Africa's Future?

Sustainable development isn't a new idea. and various forms of sustainable housing developments in the US and Europe have been growing in popularity for some time. And Africa is no different. It has been finding new ways to cut housing costs by taking lessons from traditional building methods, conserving energy and promoting reuse, while staying relevant. From using lumber from plastic and recycled wood, offering a less toxic and more durable alternative to conventional treated lumber to using mud-bricks which are antibacterial, don’t trap moisture, resistant to ultra-violet light and a more workable material cement. There is even a low-cost, healthier and more sustainable alternative for insulation using natural materials like flax, hemp or wood fibers. 

Innovative and eco-friendly homes that use local recyclable materials and resources, combined with efficient water and energy systems, could just offer Africa's population the perfect sustainable and affordable solution to meet its soaring housing needs.