UNEP proposes smart housing to tackle rising urbanisation in Africa
The smart housing prototype is a 3D-printed modular structure made from biodegradable bamboo.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with UN Habitat, the Yale Center for Ecosystem in Architecture and associated partners, has proposed smart housing to address the challenge of housing in Africa. In a statement released on Monday, UNEP said about 200 million Africans live in informal settlements, often without access to energy and sanitation.
The smart housing design, which was unveiled last month at the fourth UN Environment Assembly, is a 3D-printed modular structure made from biodegradable bamboo. The prototype shows how agricultural waste from bamboo, coconut, rice, soy and corn can be turned into construction materials.
The design shows how solar energy and water systems make homes self-sufficient and achieve zero-carbon. It also highlights how micro-farming can be achieved with plant walls. All the features are integrated in the design. They will be monitored and managed by sensors and digital controls.
“As the housing sector grows – and it must grow if we want an equitable world – we need to reduce its environmental impact, not raise it," said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “Smart design is the only way to meet our housing needs and stay within planetary boundaries.”
The global housing sector, according to UNEP, emits almost a third of the global greenhouse gas emissions and uses up to 40 per cent of the planet’s total resources.
“As urbanization gallops forward, people around the world are tired of seeing precious natural habitats paved over with toxic, energy-intensive materials such as concrete and steel,” said Anna Dyson, Director of Centre for Ecosystem in Architecture at Yale University. “In the 21st century, global construction practices must innovate towards nature-based solutions for future cities. Our research consortium with East African collaborators is devoted to advancing state-of-the-art locally produced building systems.”
According to UNEP, the prototype is on display at the UN Environment headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya. The location was chosen because the research keys into the Big Four Agenda of the Kenyan government, which includes affordable housing. Over the next five years, the Kenyan government plans to build over 500,000 affordable houses across the country to meet the ever-growing housing demand.
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