Housing Solution for World’s Growing Urban Population
In South Africa, one company believes that it has the right technology for an age of rapid urban population growth and the need for quick and safe housing construction.
The Moladi building system developed in 1986 by South African injection mould maker Hennie Botes consists of moulded plastic panels, looking like the panels found in children’s construction toys that are screwed together and assembled as a frame for the building. With the frame in place, a concrete mortar mix is poured in and left to dry, depending on local conditions, taking between 12 and 15 hours. When dry, the plastic mould is removed and a fully built house is the result. Because of the use of moulds, the house walls are smooth and even and the resulting dwelling is tidy to look at.
Moladi doesn’t require professional builders to assemble the frames, and the technique has been tested for strength and for resistance to earthquakes and hurricanes. Since it was developed specifically for the poor, this building method draws on what is called “sweat equity”: often the only asset poor persons have to contribute to the cost of building a home is their free labour. Because the dimensions of the house were already established when the plastic frames were moulded, common on-site mistakes are avoided.
Moladi is certified for its quality with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). Moladi contractors and developers are working in 15 countries and the technique is distributed in a further seven countries.
The Moladi construction technique was born of frustration with the traditional approach of laying one brick on top of another. This traditional construction method, dating back thousands of years, simply does not match the needs of our times. It is slow and requires highly skilled bricklayers to be done right. Across the developing world, it is possible to see poorly constructed brick dwellings – often built unevenly with poor-quality mortar holding the bricks together – that are unsafe in an earthquake. Training in the Moladi technique takes from one to two weeks for unskilled workers, depending on the size of the house. Moladi provides handbooks and all the necessary resources to complete the project. Each project has its own custom-built plastic frames based on the design of the house.
“There is no flat fee for on-site training; the client is only responsible for covering the travel and living expenses for the Moladi representative or training foreman,” said Hennie Botes.
The ideal size for a project is 15 houses. By building a large number of houses, the individual cost comes down and savings increase. The system “can be reused 50 times, which means that the more Moladi houses you build, the more economical it becomes,” Botes said. “Compared with the exorbitant cost of traditional construction methods and when current market values are considered, the cost savings of building with the Moladi technology are achieved from the first application.”
The essence of the Moladi system is breaking down the construction process into simple, replicable steps. It is inspired by the American pioneer of mass production, car maker Henry Ford, who achieved efficiency and low costs in production by simplifying production into standardized, modulated steps.
“The Moladi construction process should be viewed as a work-flow process similar to that of a vehicle assembly line,” Botes said. “Through the simplification, standardization, modularization and industrialization of the construction process, efficiency and cost savings are achieved and maintained by managing the continuous flow process on site.
“Contractors must make sure that they have planned their project roll-out and budget well and have clearly defined goals as to what they want to achieve. It is very important to have all team players and professionals on the same page with regard to their roles and responsibilities.”
South Africa is facing a population growth rate of 1.73 per cent a year (UNICEF). It also has 61 per cent of the urban population trying to live on 4 per cent of the land, according to Botes. This urban population grows at 2.7 per cent a year, yet existing housing needs are not being met. There is already a backlog of 2.2 million houses needing to be built, and this grows by 180,000 every year, according to the Banking Association of South Africa. – (February 2010)