This project was launched by the federation in 2013 to produce low cost and environmentally friendly building materials such as soil-stabilized interlocking bricks, pre-cast slabs, t-beams, laadies (precast mini slabs) and concrete blocks. These materials provide an alternative to burnt bricks (which are more expensive and unsustainable due to the rampant deforestation mentioned above) and other cement-dependent materials.
The increased affordability of building materials is critical to incremental upgrading of informal settlements. ACTogether engineer, WaiswaKakaire, explains the savings: “One square meter of regular burnt clay brick costs UGX 35,000 ($14), but we sell a square meter of compressed-soil bricks costs about UGX 28,000 ($11). Those savings are significant when you talk about building a whole sanitation unit or house. Then, when you construct a conventional slab you will need about UGX 120,000 per square meter ($48), but with our Laadies [pre-cast concrete mini slabs] you can buy a square meter for about UGX 90,000 ($36) because we use about 1/3 less cement while maintaining the same strength.” The pre-cast slabs are not only less expensive, but provide an attracting option for slum dwellers with uncertain tenure security as they can easily be disassembled if they are compelled to move.
The project was launched in 2013 with a capital injection of $10,000 and the contribution of land for the project from the municipal council. These funds were used to construct a building shed, curing pit, extend water to the site, and purchase 1 interlocking brick making machine and site fencing. In 2014 another $10,000 was secured from SDI as investment capital. With these funds the project moved to phase two, in which a demonstration house, 2-stance toilet were constructed to demonstrate the potential of the materials being sold and the potential for new technologies to save not only cost (opening up the space for the urban poor to make incremental permanent improvements to their dwellings), but build resilience through the use of local, more environmentally friendly materials. The funds were also used to purchase as “egg-layer” concrete brick machine for manufacturing blocks of various sizes and shapes.
COMMUNITY VOICE: Namwonyo Abu, a 19-year old trainee said, “Having studied up to senior four my parents lacked money to further my education spending most of my time playing football in a village team that mobilized young people in the village to engage in sports and desist in taking part in other unlawful acts in the community, when many of my age mates returned to school after the holiday it left me with no one to play with that’s when my mother decided to send me to the center where I have been casually working. Am now able to own my business of brick making to enable me earn a living, help my family, enable me further my education and also help me go through this world very well.”
The center has produced all the materials for construction of the (buildings on site) and also about 30 orders for sale for houses, toilets, per-cast walls, and worm-digesters. A number of orders were for public toilet projects in slums financed by the Community Upgrading Fund initiative of Government as part of the TSUPU project. During the TSUPU project construction municipal engineers recognized the importance of promoting such alternate materials, which was an important milestone for the federation and building materials workshop. Plans are underway to expand the market and also target hospitals and other social infrastructures.
The center has generated healthy profitsfrom the sale of materials since it commenced operations in 2014. The profits are used to service the loan and reinvest in materials for the project. It has also been a center for innovation, constantly testing new technologies for sanitation systems and building. Greater resilience in communities of the urban poor will depend upon incremental upgrading of housing and affordable building materials will be critical. As we noted in the briquette example, the partnership between the local authority and the community is an encouraging sign of the potential for partnerships in resilience-building initiatives and the innovations of the community to meet affordability and livelihood demands can be harnessed to forge part of a larger municipal/city-level resilience strategy.