Alternative technology offers housing solution

29th July 2011 By: Idéle Esterhuizen

A housing solution for South Africans who fall in the affordable-housing bracket has come in the form of innovative and affordable fly ash technology.

This forms part of a business model that was developed through a partnership between research and development company Tower Technologies, a subsidiary of waste management company EnviroServ, energy and chemicals group Sasol’s business incubator Sasol ChemCity and financial services provider First National Bank (FNB).

While fly ash housing is not a new invention, this particular technology makes use of fly ash and gypsum waste to make foamed cement.

The foamed cement panels have improved insulation potential, which translates into energy savings, and can be erected in a short space of time.

They are also 75% lighter than conventional brick and mortar, making the panels less costly to transport and erect.

“Fly ash is an excellent exten- der of cement and can be used to create foamed cement, which forms the basis of our housing system,” explains Tower Technologies MD Mike Symons.

Beneficiating fly ash from Sasol, the team has harnessed Tower Technologies’ alternative housing technology to develop homes that are aesthetically pleasing and environment friendly.

Sasol ChemCity waste management group leader Rivash Panday says people in the affordable-housing bracket continue to find themselves in limbo as they are unable to access finance or afford to invest in homes of their own.

“This growing sector of the market is in need of a solution that caters for their specific needs.”

He says the idea of developing new housing materials was generated when Sasol looked at sustainable ways of beneficiating its waste stream.

The assistance of Tower Tech- nologies, whose alternative building system is approved by the South African Bureau of Standards, was called in.

“The use of fly ash and gypsum to develop housing panels and the short timeframe from manufacture to the completion of a fully erected house, as well as the environmental benefits, give this technology its competitive advantage,” Panday says.

He notes that the top structure of the house, namely the walls and roof, can be erected in three days.

With the technology already in place, Sasol ChemCity provided the necessary business support to start the manufacturing of three pilot houses, which were erected in Cosmo City, Gauteng, as show houses.

“The houses will form part of the next stage of the project, which is a comprehensive market acceptance survey to gauge demand. Once the survey is complete, we will start looking at roll-out and production,” says Panday.

At Cosmo City, the houses consisted of 52 m2, 62 m2 or 85 m2 units.

“Members of the communities in and around Cosmo City have responded positively to the three houses. “We also expect them to be well received by other communities when the project is rolled out,” he adds.

A business plan has also been drafted to secure funding to establish a factory for manufacturing the panels.

Panday says, by combining their individual expertise, the three companies have managed to successfully close the value chain, from sourcing raw material to manufacturing alternative housing panels and providing finance for potential buyers.

“While Tower Technologies will provide the technology, Sasol ChemCity will offer support to the entrepreneurs who will manufacture and erect the houses, and FNB will provide potential buyers with affordable finance solutions.”

He adds that the houses are competitively priced, owing to the use of waste as a resource in the construction, a reduced carbon footprint and the speed of delivery.

The team is currently undertaking internal studies to determine the durability of the houses. However, initial assessments indicate that the life span of the houses is on par with that of conventional housing materials, such as brick and mortar.

Panday says Sasol ChemCity’s engagement with Tower Tech-nologies came at a time when the small and medium-sized enterprises sector had been approached by FNB to provide it with a means of entering the affordable and alternatively built housing markets.

Despite government’s delivery of over 2.4-million subsidised houses in the past 12 years, the housing backlog continues to grow and is currently estimated at between 2.2-million and 2.5-million. In an attempt to overcome this challenge, govern- ment has approached banks to assist in making home loans available to people in the affordable-housing sector.

Among the four outputs of government’s human settlements delivery agreement Outcome 8 is the improvement of the property market, which requires facilitation of access to 600 000 home loans or bonded units.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale expects banks to grant the targeted amount of home loans to the emerging middle class over the next 36 months.
FNB housing finance CEO Marius Marais admits tailor-made financial solutions are required to enable customers to own their first homes.