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Monday, 26 September 2011

Compounding our problems

If you are familiar with residential housing in Nigeria, you are not a stranger to 'four walls', that is the left wall, the right wall and the front and rear walls that every house seems to surround itself these days.

Now, there are many reasons why we put up walls, and I say walls because these structures are much to high to even see the person behind then let alone call them 'garden fences'.

Enclosing ourselves into our compound improves the feeling of security, there is a clear boundary that separates 'us' and 'them' and for the average Nigerian, the them is anyone whose agenda remains a mystery to us - and that makes us very fearful.

In other socieities, you find these walls outside a group of housing units, creating a community within, a gated community to be specific. These gated communities provide occupants the sense of control which they so desire in order to control the people they want to see and be around. Does that mean the average Nigerian household couldn't care less about their neighbours - since our walls rarely extend more than 3 metres from our interior walls and rarely refrain from exceeding 2 and a half metres in height?

In my honest opinion, these walls are usually unattractive, but they were not really designed to be objects of beauty, instead they are merely deterrents to burglars and lurkers looking for an oportunity to loot. Nevertheless I have obtained several photographs of different intertesting & attractive wall designs around Lagos-Ibadan-Ife area.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Bottle house

Many of us would shudder if someone suggested that they build a house for us out of rubbish, but the bottle house definitely makes one reconsider all previous speculations about homes made from reclaimed materials.
The German company Eco-Tec initially explored this method of construction.

Considering the future of housing is quickly progressing towards the desire for sustainable housing, low-emission, low maintenance houses that respect our environment, this is surely an idea that has great potential, especially in Nigeria where plastic waste is a frequent sight on our expressways and gutters.

A house was recently constructed from recycled plastic bottles in Kaduna. The technique requires the voids within the building material to be filled with either mud,sand or clay, to provide insulation and also to give the finished wall strength and support. It is said that the "three- room structure" in Kaduna  "is so sturdy that it could stand for thousands of years.'' Since the bottles take several hundreds of years to biodegrade this might as well be very true.

Not only does this mean that the house uses up a material which would instead be left to fill up our landfills or even worse litter the public environment, but it also means that housing can be made even more affordable for all. This new completed house will put good use to the thousands of bottles collected in the Nigeria’s bottle recycling programme which was launched in December 2010.

To encourage this initiative "Andres Froesse, founder of Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientales, was sent to Nigeria to train local masons in the bottle building technique”.
The Project Manager, Chris Vassilou, donated the land for the first bottle house building. "Features in the bottle house include solar powered with fuel-sufficient clean cookstove, urine filtration fertilization systems and water purification tanks, thereby, making it energy autonomous."..

"Advantages bottles have over bricks and other construction materials include:

Low cost;
Absorbs abrupt shock loads;
Bio climatic;
Less construction material;
Easy to build and;
Green Construction.

When you make a clay brick, the time and energy used right from mixing the clay to baking it in the kiln and taking into account the firewood used for that, you will see that the bottle brick is far more energy-efficient. The technology also reduces the carbon emission that happens during the baking of an ordinary brick.
The heat generation from cement factories can also be reduced as this technology uses only five percent cement. The foundation for the entire construction is obtained from building waste and so the mountains from which granite is blasted out can be saved too. PET Bottle can last as long as 300 years – longer than the cement used to bind the bottles together in the walls."

Information and quotes from http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/plastic-bottle-house-debuts-in-nigeria/

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Prefabricated and affordable housing case study

A lovely prefabricated house in South Africa, proving that housing can be affordable and attractive for all. This is definitely a welcome change from the typical block houses that were introduced in the past as a response to the rising need for housing.

The houses or "ABOD" above were designed by a company named BSB design. The design makes use of corrugated panels and bold colours to create an attractive yet cost effective design that is both durable and lightweight making it easily transferable.

I think case studies like this are relevant because they serve as tools for broadening the ways in which we view architecture and buildings. With more and more people unable to afford to build large houses for their ever growing families, this offers a great platform for development, considering that corrugated materials are already very common materials for building houses here in Nigeria.

I would like to see this idea developed to various scales, perhaps even a larger house with 2 floors, and a kitchen.

The possibilities really are endless.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Modern properties in Lagos by Haven Homes

''Haven Homes'' do look very expensive, but their adverts claim that they are not. I hope seeing more and more properties like this in Nigeria will begin to inspire the average Nigerian to reconsider how they view their homes and the future of housing in Nigeria.

Living standards for many across our country are much lower than this, but good housing needn't be this extravagant nor expensive. Let us look at this project as an example on the direction our housing can go in future but for the average Nigerian household small but noticable improvements should be the focus.

Having a building which allows plenty of natural light to enter the building through windows and openings is a sustainable alternative to having lots of artificial lighting surrounding the home. Also there are so many ways to personalise the exterior of one's home, with landscaping and gardening so as to compliment the shape and style of the home.

I am inspired by the video and by the design of the houses which I believe still retain an authenticity to our cultural roots, where we favour big motifs and ornament and bright and vivid wall coverings.
We may not all be able to afford a large sound system or such lavish digital interior systems and decorations, but once again let us look to what this design speaks of at its basic level. It exposes us to an alternative way of relating to one's home, not just four straight walls that contain over-luxurious items, but luxurious elements in the form of decisions made to decide the shape of the walls, the height of ceilings, the width of the windows. We have yet to reflect that we are living in the 21st century in most of our housing designs, as most of us replicate designs and styles from even 50 years ago! The way we live today does not reflect the way our own parents lived, we rely on our mobile phones for telecommunications, many of us even rely on the use of the internet for business exchanges, the need for an additional room for study or office space is growing, and for every option I have listed here we have a hundred other options in the way we can live today.

So whilst, I have yet to find a model that can be used for the average Nigerian household, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.


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