Unlocking the Potential of Local Circular Materials in Urbanising Africa
Africa is the fastest-growing region in the world. Unfortunately, current construction in Africa is highly dependent on imported construction materials with high negative environmental impacts. The new SBC publication Unlocking the Potential of Local Circular Materials in Urbanising Africa and video present a building concept for high-density neighbourhoods that promotes the use of responsibly sourced local materials.
Africa is the fastest-growing region in the world. Its population is projected to grow 220 % from 2020 to 2100, from 1,3 billion to 4,3 billion people. The need for new construction is enormous, especially in cities. It is projected that in 2050 80 % of the buildings in Africa have been built after 2015.
Unfortunately, current construction in Africa is highly dependent on imported construction materials with high negative environmental impacts. The new SBC publication Unlocking the Potential of Local Circular Materials in Urbanising Africa and video present a building concept for high-density neighbourhoods that promotes the use of responsibly sourced local materials. We are looking for opportunities to implement the concept in suitable demonstration projects.
This publication’s focus is on the sustainable use of building materials in urbanising Africa. African countries face challenges with poverty, unemployment, rapid population growth and urbanisation, and housing backlogs resulting from the construction sector’s failure to meet the demand arising from the exponential growth of cities. This sector is growing fast and is often reliant on an informal unskilled workforce and imported materials that have high negative environmental impacts. Traditional bio-climatic construction is being replaced by modern con - struction at a fast pace, and the resultant changes in the African construction material palette have many disadvantages.
The publication gives a comprehensive review of construction materials available in Africa, including traditional materials, mainstream industrial materials and emerging circular materials. This includes a review of the environmental, social and economic impacts and the possible uses of these materials and whether the production of the materials can be upscaled to respond to the rapidly growing demand for construction materials.
After the section on materials, the focus shifts to the urban context and presents a proposal for mid-rise construction. A concept of flexible high-density construction is presented – which is suitable for sustainable mixed-use neighbourhoods and simultaneously supports the use of local sustainable materials. The flexible and scalable approach we propose promotes the use of local materials and labour. Hence, the utilisation of existing industry and competence set the framework in which to introduce ways local circular materials can replace conventional non-cir - cular materials that often need to be imported.
Finally, we discuss how our proposed concept could be mainstreamed and the obstacles that need to be tackled and by whom. This section outlines how to support the rapid and efficient adoption of circular economy principles in the built environment and how factors such as cross-disciplinary cooperation, business models, roadmaps, legislation, standards and increased awareness can work together to integrate circularity into building practices.