10 x 10 Sandbag House

Exhibition: Cities | October 5, 2011 by

In Freedom Park, an informal settlement in the Mitchell’s Plain township in Cape Town, corrugated-metal and scrap-material dwellings are being replaced by low-cost, two-story homes built with timber frames and sandbag in-fill construction. The 10×10 Sandbag Houses are architect Luyanda Mpahlwa’s response to the 10×10 Housing project initiated by Design Indaba, South Africa’s renowned design-advocacy organization, which called for innovative housing solutions costing 50,000 rand (US$7,000)—the national government’s housing subsidy—to build. Concurrently, the Freedom Park upgrading project mobilized community members, local organizations, and the provincial government to participate in creating dignified housing.

The design of the 10×10 Sandbag House borrows from indigenous mud-and-wattle building methods. A structural timber frame using EcoBeam technology (timber beams with metal inlays that provide tensile strength) is combined with sandbags reinforced with chicken wire and finished with plaster and timber cladding. The sandbags provide thermal insulation and, thanks to the EcoBeam technology, contributes to a system that is both wind-resistant (it is heavier than brick construction) and moisture-resistant. Moreover, the building method is cost-effective and energy-efficient, and requires little to no electricity and only minimal transport, since the EcoBeams are manufactured onsite. Little skilled labor is needed for construction, and local community members were involved in building the houses, demonstrating the possibility for replication in other communities. Given the small plot sizes allotted by the government for Freedom Park, the ability to build up rather than out ensures a solution that can accommodate density. Ten houses were completed in Freedom Park in 2009, and the building method can be scaled to help meet the urgent need for housing.

Architects: Luyanda Mpahlwa, Uli Mpahlwa, Kirsty Ronne, Westley van Wyk, and Chinedum Emeruem, DesignSpace Africa; structural engineer: Aurecon; surveyor: BTKM. Construction: Tech Homes. Clients: Interactive Africa, Design Indaba. Freedom Park, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008–9. Sandbags, timber EcoBeams, cement plaster, timber cladding, metal sheet roof, steel windows, timber door

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