New building technique offers hope for SA housing shortage - CEO

Cape Town - South Africa's housing shortage may be solved faster, cheaper, and environmentally friendlier.

By mixing cement with polystyrene and an additive – a technique that is widely used in Scandinavia and northern Europe – Selcrete wants to do just that.

The company's pilot project, phase one of a revamped day care in the township of Khayelitsha, Cape Town, opened its doors earlier this year.  
 
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mayoral Committee member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Suzette Little says she is very excited about the opportunities Selcrete and their Norwegian partners have brought to Nolunthando and the community of Khayelitsha.
 
“Establishments like these give our children a better future for which I am truly grateful. I want to see our children talking about becoming pilots and doctors and not going out there to look for jobs but rather to have the jobs come looking for them,” said Little.
 
One of the problems at Noluthando day care centre, which cares for over 265 children aged 2 months to 6 six years, is that its timber structures don't offer adequate protection against the summer heat, cold winters, and fires.

“For phase 1, we have helped build a small utility hall, an administration block, and a starter kindergarten classroom using our product, blocks that are made of cement, expanded polystyrene beads, water, and a binding agent,” said Graeme Horwood, Selcrete's CEO. “Twelve new structures will be built in total.”
 
Better protection against fires, to which the densely populated township is prone, and superior insulation are two main improvements at Noluthando, Horwood says.

Selcrete is also negotiating a number of commercial and residential projects in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and the Western Cape.
 
What makes Selcrete interesting for the South African market is that projects can be realised much faster, in over half the time of conventional homes. This could translate to a 25% cost reduction, according to Horwood.

“It is an attractive solution for budget-conscious projects like Noluthando, or even the low-cost housing sector, where quality, affordability, and time efficiency are very important factors. Delivery of low-cost homes in South Africa needs to take place, and quickly too.”

Stats SA estimates that 13.1% of South Africans live in informal settlements.

Mavis Mbaba, who founded Noluthando twenty two years ago when she opened her home to 45 children who needed to be cared for while their parents were at work, said the new buildings will change everything at Noluthando.

"From now on, the children can do activities in a safe environment, without the risk of fires. Fires are a risk when working in a wooden building. These new buildings don't require as much maintenance as the wooden ones. Maintenance costs a lot of money," said Mbaba.

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