A feasibility study of utilising shipping containers to address the housing backlog in South Africa

Botes, Antoni Willem (2013-12)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

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Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The current housing backlog facing the informal residents of South Africa is daunting. With current research showing that the backlog is not shrinking fast enough, the stakeholders of the formal and informal housing sector are facing an immense challenge. Most houses constructed after 1994 utilised conventional brick and mortar construction, with alternative means of building homes taking up a negligible share in the total housing supply. The purpose of this study is to test the feasibility of container-based homes as an alternative to brick and mortar homes in South Africa’s low-cost housing supply according to the triple constraints of project management i.e. cost, time and quality. Social acceptance and environmental sustainability are also analysed as two secondary parameters that will influence container-based projects. These parameters form the basis of the three pillars of sustainability, i.e. economic, societal and environmental parameters, which indicates the feasibility of a new design implementation. Two test cases for the feasibility study were designed. The first case considers a modular single-storey residential home, equivalent to standard “Breaking New Ground” housing solutions. The second test case considers a multi-storey, medium-density residential building, capable of housing multiple families .The test cases represent possible container-based solutions, with traditional brick and mortar construction (single and multi-storey) acting as the control solution. The three sustainability parameters act as benchmarks of each solutions’ feasibility, with the control solution acting as the counter-performance example. The comparison of the economic parameter relies on the cost of each design case, its construction time and the quality of the end-product. The bills of quantities were measured against a conventional building type, and it was found that a single-storey solution will prove more costly than a small brick and mortar home. However, the multi-storey solution proves to be feasible when compared to a concrete three-storey structure. Regarding time, the construction of an Intermodal Steel Building Unit (ISBU) home is up to 3 times faster compared to a conventional house. The end-product quality will depend on the quality system used by the contractor and its correct implementation; thus it is not an important dividing factor when comparing conventional versus Alternative Building Technology (ABT) systems. The societal parameter of an ISBU solution rests on its acceptance by the beneficiaries. Traditionally, resistance has met ABT home implementation, as stakeholders consider them as inferior products. A comprehensive survey was carried out in an informal settlement to test this statement. The results show that the majority of beneficiaries prefer conventional homes, unless the ABT home resembles its conventional counterpart. The environmental sustainability of a new product relies primarily on the carbon footprint of the materials and methods used. This was tested by comparing the impact of an ISBU solution with a conventional solution. The “upcycling” (as opposed to recycling) of used containers provides a large environmental benefit when comparing it to newly constructed brick for conventional homes, and thus the impact is lower. The findings of the study show that a single-storey solution utilising containers proves ineffective, as it is more expensive per square meter than a conventional home. However, a multi-storey container solution is feasible, as it is lower in cost (than comparative conventional solutions), faster to construct, allows for higher density expansion of settlements and is more environmentally friendly.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die enorme behuisingsagterstand van informele nedersetters in Suid-Afrika skep 'n geweldige uitdaging vir die rolspelers in die formele behuisingsektor. Huidige navorsing toon dat hierdie agterstand nie vinnig genoeg verminder nie, en baie mense verkeer in nood. Die meerderheid van huise wat opgerig is sedert 1994 maak gebruik van konvensionele baksteen en sement konstruksie, terwyl alternatiewe maniere van konstruksie 'n nietige aandeel het. Die doel van hierdie studie is om die bruikbaarheid van skeepshouer-gebaseerde huise te bepaal in teenstelling met konvensionele baksteen en sement huise, spesifiek vir die lae-koste behuisingsgeval in Suid-Afrika. Dit word uitgevoer volgens die "drietallige beperking" beginsel van projekbestuur, naamlik koste, tyd en kwaliteit parameters. Addisioneel word die sosiale aanvaarbaarheid sowel as die omgewingsvriendelikheid van die konsep getoets teen konvensionele maniere van konstruksie. Hierdie parameters vorm saam die “drie pilare van volhoubaarheid”, wat betrekking het tot ekonomiese-, sosiale- en omgewings-aspekte. Twee toetsgevalle is ontwerp volgens argitektoniese en tegniese standaarde sowel as gemeenskap benodigdhede. Die eerste geval is ontwerp as 'n enkel-verdieping huis, met behulp van modulêre skeepshouers. Die tweede geval is 'n meertallige-verdieping, medium-digtheid residensiële gebou wat verskeie families kan huisves. Die toetsgevalle modelleer verskeie skeepshouer oplossings, terwyl konvensionele konstruksie oplossings dien as beheer gevalle. Elke geval word volgens die drie volhoubaarheids beginsels getoets, met die beheer gevalle wat dien as die teen-prestasie voorbeelde. Die vergelyking van die ekonomiese parameter berus op die koste van elke ontwerp, sy konstruksietyd en die eindproduk kwaliteit. Die lys van hoeveelhede is gemeet teen dié van ʼn konvensionele huis, en daar is bevind dat die enkelverdieping skeepshouer-geval veel duurder sal wees. Die meertallige-verdieping geval aan die ander kant, maak gebruik van baie kostebesparings metodes, en lyk uitvoerbaar. Die tyd-aspek wys dat die konstruksie m.b.v. “Intermodal Steel Building Units” (ISBUs) tot en met 3 keer vinniger te wees teenoor ʼn konvensionele huis. Die eindproduk kwaliteit hang af van die tipe kwaliteit stelsel wat die kontrakteur gebruik, sowel as die korrekte toepassing van hierdie stelsel; dus is dit nie ʼn skeidende faktor tussen alternatiewe en konvensionele boumetodes nie. Die gemeenskaplike aspek van die gebruik van alternatiewe konstruksie berus op die aanvaarding van die huisbewoners. Gemeenskappe het tradisioneel nie ʼn hoë dunk van Alternatiewe Bou-Tegnologie (ABT) behuising nie, aangesien hulle dit as swak kwaliteit bestempel. Om hierdie stelling te toets is ʼn opname uitgevoer in ʼn informele nedersetting. Die resultate wys dat die meerderheid inwoners die konvensionele opsie verkies. Daar is wel bevind dat die inwoners ʼn ISBU huis sal oorweeg indien dit ʼn visuele ooreenkoms toon met ʼn konvensionele huis. Die omgewingsvolhoubaarheid van ʼn nuwe produk berus hoofsaaklik op die koolstof-voetspoor van die materiale en boumetodes wat gebruik is. Hierdie aspek is getoets deur ʼn ISBU oplossing se omgewings-impak te meet teen dié van ʼn konvensionele huis. Die “upcycling” voordeel wat skeepshouers gebruik gee ʼn groot voordeel teenoor die konstruksie van konvensionele huise, siende dat min nuwe materiale gebruik word. Dus is die totale omgewings impak laer as die van ʼn konvensionele huis. Die bevindinge van die navorsing wys dat ʼn enkelverdieping ISBU oplossing onprakties is in terme van koste per vierkante meter, aangesien dit veel duurder as ʼn konvensionele metode is. Die meertallige-verdieping geval is wel uitvoerbaar, aangesien dit ʼn laer koste tot gevolg het, vinniger gebou word, hoër-digtheid behuising bevorder en meer omgewings-vriendelik is.

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