The Western Cape has added welcome impetus to a growing trend by provincial governments to embrace alternative building technologies (ABTs) as a cost-effective and sustainable solution to housing local communities, says Brent Harris, CEO of Vela Building Solutions – one of Southern Africa’s leading innovators and suppliers in this field.
His comment follows the Western Cape’s Department of Human Settlements invitation to contractors to submit tenders for the construction of some 2,000 ABT-built homes (in single and double-storey format) in Delft Symphony Precincts 3 and 5 in Cape Town.
(The project will be financed by the Department of Human Settlements Provincial Housing Subsidy Scheme.)
“This is one of the largest, if not the largest, single ABT housing developments yet undertaken by the public sector in sub-Saharan Africa. It is bigger, even, than the 1,600 homes that Vela’s Modular Building Solutions division is supplying to the Government of Angola for a community settlement in the south of that country,” says Brent.
“Both projects confirm that more time-effective and cost-efficient alternative construction methods and materials (as a substitute for traditional bricks and mortar) are urgently required to address not only the housing needs of expanding, and steadily urbanising, regional populations, but also the associated community infrastructural requirements, such as schools, crèches and clinics,” he adds.
As a result, Vela Building Solutions has doubled capacity at its Gauteng production plant, and opened an office in Cape Town to help streamline and co-ordinate its activities in the Western and Eastern Cape.
In the Eastern Cape, for instance, Vela’s Modular building technology is being extensively applied to the construction of new and upgraded public sector schools, as well as the replacement of old-era mud brick schools.
Benefits of modular
Vela’s Modular Building Solutions provides a modular solid-walled, rapid building method that delivers a high-quality permanent house (or other structure) at relatively low cost – by seamlessly applying the efficiencies of factory production to on-site construction that uses low skills.
This not only results in competitive pricing and fast-track construction, but also counteracts the effects of the shortage of skilled workers, non-availability of building materials in remote areas, and the need for maintaining construction quality.
Ideally suited to Government-financed community housing projects, Vela’s Modular system consists of 1,2m-wide structurally insulated interlocking panels that vary in height up to 3m and are 110mm thick (excluding plaster). The panels consist of fire-rated magnesium oxide outer boards with a solid inner core of polyurethane.
The thermally efficient and fire resistant panels are provided with pre-fitted aluminium or steel windows and door frames, and can be economically transported, flat-packed, over long distances.
Once erected and plastered, there is no visible difference between a conventionally built structure and the Modular unit.
The Modular Building Solutions system is certified by SA Agre’ment, and is compliant with the US (IRC R614) building code.
(Both images extracted from the Vela Building Solutions website)