Sustainable Housing for Rural Families in Africa

 
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Jul 16, 2010

Significant carbon savings of VN buildings

A report by experts at the London office of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), based on data provided by AVN staff in Boromo, indicates that a typical NV house of 25m2 floor space makes a saving of 2.0 tonnes of CO2- equivalents (CO2e) compared to the available alternative construction methods. Since the start of the AVN ’Earth roofs in the Sahel’ programme, one can estimate total savings of over 2,000 tonnes of CO2e. So the AVN Program, building houses with a very low 'carbon footprint' is making a small, but significant positive impact on the environment - an impact which will strengthen as the Program expands...

You can read below the summary report by ERM on the carbon footprint of NV houses.

SUMMARY

" A streamlined high-level carbon footprint assessment has been undertaken for AVN comparing production of four different housing types of 25m2 in size and providing a comparison to the production of Nubian Vault (NV) houses. Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a leading global provider of sustainability consulting and assurance services, has provided AVN with a pro-bono assessment of the carbon impact of the NV construction technique. Using data on village houses of 25 m2 provided by AVN field staff in Boromo, Burkina Faso, the calculations suggest that each NV house built can result in savings of approximately 2 tonnes of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) as compared to the current alternatives.

The carbon footprint of an NV house of 25 m2 is orders of magnitude lower than the alternatives, primarily due to the use of natural resources from surrounding areas in its construction and its extended lifetime. The approximate footprint of each housing type is: - 40 kg CO2e for an NV house (50 year lifetime) - 4,600 kg CO2e for a concrete wall + metal roof house (25 year lifetime) - 2,000 kg CO2e for an earth wall + metal roof house (10 year lifetime) - 700 kg CO2e for a traditional earth + timber roof house (10 year lifetime).

By the end of the 2009/10 building season, NV masons will have built the equivalent of 1,000 25 m2 vaults, mainly in rural areas. This implies that the carbon savings of the VN construction method since the start of our programme can be estimated at a total savings of at least 2,000 tonnes of CO2e. In fact, the figure is probably higher, as a proportion of these vaults have been built in urban and peri-urban areas, replacing a higher percentage of ‘modern’ metal-roofed buildings with concrete and cement mortar (rather than mud brick) walls.

METHODOLOGY, ASSUMPTIONS, AND DATA LIMITATIONS

A streamlined carbon footprinting approach was employed in this study which is based upon methods outlined for undertaking life cycle assessment (LCA) studies in ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. A streamlined carbon footprint or LCA seeks to shortcut the full process by limiting the scope of the study (i.e. carbon in this case), the impacts assessed and/or by judicious use of generic data and assumptions, delivering results more quickly and using fewer resources.

The carbon footprint results and savings calculated by ERM are calculated using a high-level assessment and are useful as an indication of the carbon burden of each housing type over its lifetime. This calculation has been based on the following assumptions: · In rural areas, in the absence of NV construction, 60% of houses would normally have earth walls and sheet metal roofs, 15% would have concrete block walls, using cement mortar, and sheet metal roofs, and the remaining 25% are traditional earth wall and timber roof houses, · Metal roofs and timber roofs need replacing every 7 years, that the average lifetime of a traditional house and a house with earth walls and a sheet metal roof is 10 years, and that of a house with concrete block walls and a sheet metal roof is 25 years · The estimated lifetime of a properly maintained NV house is 50 years (the structure and solidity of the roof, combined with stronger foundations and much thicker walls, explain the longer expected lifetime as compared to the alternatives). · The carbon footprint results and savings are based entirely upon production and lifetime data provided by AVN. Variations in this data significantly effect the results. · All housing construction is assumed to be undertaken using entirely manual labour and is assigned a carbon footprint burden of zero. · All locally sourced natural materials such as earth, clay, sand, gravel, stone and water are assigned zero burden. · The maintenance on a house considers the burden of replacement materials such as sheet steel, timber and plastic lining and not that of the actual maintenance process. · Where relevant, such as for natural resources, steel or timber, recycling or reuse has been assumed for the material when disposed and the materials disposal is assigned a burden of zero. · Concrete is comprised mainly of cement, water, sand and gravel. All ingredients except cement are assumed to be sourced locally and have no burden. The concrete is based upon Portland cement and assumed to be imported. · Fasoplast is estimated as having similar production burdens to PVC and is required to be transported an estimated distance of 1000 km. · Biogenic carbon is excluded from the results. · Transport of waste material to recycling, landfill or general disposal at end-of-life isexcluded. · Lorry transport within Africa is assumed to be using a lorry size less than 16 tonnes. · Emission factors used to calculate the carbon footprint of each life cycle stage have been based upon the ICE database for construction materials & Defra transport emission factors, using characterisation factors according to the IPCC 2007 data for a 100 year time horizon. · Biogenic carbon is carbon stored or released by natural non-fossil based sources. This has been excluded from the study as sequestration and release of biogenic carbon is assumed to occur in a cycle less than the 100 year time horizon considered

REFERENCES

- Defra: 2009 Guidelines to Defra / DECC's GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting (http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/reporting/pdf/20090928-guidelines-ghgconversion-factors.pdf) - ICE database: `University of Bath: Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) Version 1.6a, Prof Geoff Hammond and Craig Jones, 2008 (https://wiki.bath.ac.uk/display/ICE/Home+Page )

ABOUT ERM

Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is a leading global provider of sustainability consulting and assurance services. They deliver innovative solutions for business and government clients, helping them understand and manage their impacts on the world around them. ERM has 137 offices in 39 countries and employs approximately 3,300 staff. The ERM Foundation was established to harness the enthusiasm and expertise of ERM’s consultants to provide pro-bono and fundraising support for environmental and carbon reduction initiatives around the world."

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Jul 14, 2010

The Organic Approach

We arrived in Boromo and were picked up by Seri, the Co-Founder of the Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN), and were given our first taste what the project does when we arrived at our hotel. The hotel, owned by Seri, was created as practice buildings when Association la Voute Nubienne was working with its first group of master masons. We were later taken to see a school, church, and house, which were built in a nearby community.

The organization takes a very organic approach. They have several cultural coordinators whose job it is go into villages and work with the communities to sensitize citizens to the benefits of the Nubian style houses with earthen roofs, which include minimizing deforestation for wood roofs, saving money from importing tin roofs, and the temperature control Nubian roofs provide. After some time, if at least 5 families show interest in having a house constructed, a team of five masons will be assembled. The masons are ranked by skill level, four being a master mason. There are always two, level-one masons on the team and they are people from the village where the house is being constructed whom are interested in learning the trade. Over time they work their way up the ranking, themselves becoming master masons and potentially starting work in a new village.

Irene, the Assistant Director of AVN, told us that the end goal is for there to no longer be a need for AVN, because as more people realize the benefits of these houses and demand grows, the number of masons will be expanding as well. This model is not only meant to spread more sustainable houses, but also create jobs for those interested in learning masonry. The organization has taken a sustainable approach to introducing a new style of superior architecture to help protect the environment and improve lives of citizens of Burkina Faso.

Sarah and four other In-the-Field Travelers visited more than 30 GlobalGiving projects in Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Follow their adventures at http://itfwa.wordpress.com/.

Mar 3, 2010

Zambia Program gets off to a good start

Sister Grace
Sister Grace

I mentioned in my last Update in December that, through AVN-Belgium, we have launched a program in Zambia, in collaboration with the Belgian NGO, Abantu-Zambia. The program centres around the construction of VN houses in a cluster of sixteen villages in the Chibombo District, north of the capital, Lusaka.

This has now got off to a really good start. A local coordinator, Sister Grace (see photo) has volunteered to organise the program in the field; 65 potential clients for VN houses, and 18 potential VN masons, from nine villages, have been identified.

The first two villagers in the program, Christoper Phiri and Jaspan Moobela (see photo) arrived in Boromo, Burkina Faso, in mid-December, for a 5-month apprenticeship in vault construction. This is the first time they have been away from home, and it was no easy matter arranging passports, visas, and travel (bus to Lusaka, a plane to Addis Ababa, another plane to Ouagadougou, via Lomé, and a 3 hour bus journey to Boromo - altogether this took some 30 hours!).

They are learning fast, and will be returning to Zambia in May, accompanied by two Burkinabé master masons, to start a training and construction program in their villages.

By good fortune, Austin Hawkins, a young American on a J.Watson Fellowship studying earth architecture, has been spending a 10-week attachment to AVN in Boromo : Austin speaks excellent French, so he has been able to help interpret for Christopher and Jaspan, and he has also translated the VN masons' manuals into English for them. A real cultural mix, and for sure another positive aspect of the AVN adventure! You can see a video interview with Austin on our You Tube channel.

Village houses in Zambia are traditionally made of adobe walls with a conical grass thatch roof on timber beams (see photo); although these seem very picturesque, they have many drawbacks (the roofs are often infested with insects and termites, they have to be replaced every 2-3 years, they often catch fire, and it is the women in the family who are responsible for the drudgery of their maintenance). And, in any case, bush timber and grass is getting increasingly scarce, so many families have to resort to expensive, badly insulated, sheet metal and corrugated iron roofs, which only last a maximum of ten years anyway.

So, one can understand why so many villagers in the program area are keen to have VN houses with solid, safe, roofs which will keep their houses cool during the day, and cosy at night.

AVN-Belgium is raising funds to support this program: any contributions you might care to make will go towards this fund.

Thanking you once more for your support, Tony Kaye

Jaspan & Christopher arriving in Boromo
Jaspan & Christopher arriving in Boromo
Zambian village house
Zambian village house

Links:

Dec 9, 2009

Growing international recognition

A lot has happened at AVN since my last Update – it’s difficult to know where to start....

For sure, the international recognition for our work is growing by leaps and bounds:

(1) We were one of eleven “...outstanding finalists” for this year’s World Habitat Awards.

(2) The bid which we submitted to the World Bank’s Development Marketplace Competition on ‘Adaptation to Climate Change ‘ (DM2009) was one of the 26 projects which received funding at the Marketplace event in Washington DC this November (note that there were over 1700 submissions to this competition, and AVN’s was one of the 100 short-listed and invited to Washington); the prize funds will be used to match a similar grant from the French Ensemble Foundation, to trial our new strategy for scaling up the apprenticeship and construction Program (DPPV: Deployment of the Program from a Pilot Village). (3) AVN’s structure is being reinforced with the addition of a new offshoot: AVN-Belgium, which is now formally established there as a ‘not for profit’ NGO.

(4) AVN-Belgium’s first program, in collaboration with our team in Burkina Faso and with Abantu-Zambia, is scheduled over three years, and involves training of apprentices from Zambia in the VN technique in Burkina Faso, and the deployment of a team of VN masons from Burkina Faso to Zambia for 5 months each year, during the Zambian dry season (which, fortuitously, coincides with the rainy season in Burkina Faso); during the first three years of this program, it is planned to build about 70 houses in the construction zone of 6 villages, and to train 16 VN masons and 32 apprentices.

The other bit of good news is that we have been formally recognised by Global Giving as being a ‘green’ program. Soon, we hope to be able to provide accurate data on the carbon savings associated with the VN technique (as opposed to the alternatives of traditional Sahelian timber-based roofing, and ‘modern’ methods using concrete blocks, sawn timber joists, and sheet metal roofing). The assessment of the relative carbon footprint of VN housing is being carried out by for us pro bono by by staff in the London office of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), leading global experts in the field of environmental impact assessment.

.

Links:

Aug 24, 2009

A success story from Mali: the multiplier effect of building a mosque

The completed mosque in Mamarila-Sanogola
The completed mosque in Mamarila-Sanogola

This week sees the start of the holy month of Ramadan, so it seemed appropriate to bring you some news about the work of AVN in Mali, a predominantly Muslim country.

Championed by the local Imam and the religious community, the first VN mosque in Mali was built during the 2008/09 season, by the villagers of Mamarila-Sanogola (Koutiala district) under the supervision of VN masons from Boromo, Burkina Faso. It is composed of three main vaults, each 6m x 3m25, oriented North - South, and two smaller vaults and the minaret at first floor level. An external staircase gives access to the minaret and roof terrace. The workmanship is to a high standard, both for the basic structure (completed in 25 days), and the internal and external renderings and finishes (completed in a further 10 days). Furthermore, this building only cost 200 000 FCA (430$) in cash (mainly for salaries paid to the VN masons from Boromo) because the villagers themselves volunteered much of their time, skills, and labour, for brick-making, digging foundations, building, and rendering.

But the story does not stop here: far from it. When villagers began to realise that VN construction methods - as demonstrated by this mosque - were less costly than any other available alternative, and resulted in comfortable and safe buildings, the news quickly spread, During the 08/09 building season, a second mosque was started, and three houses built, in two neighbouring villages (Dendjola and M’Pébougou) - in the process 10 local apprentices were trained under the supervision of the masons from Boromo. These apprentices, now capable of building VN vaults on their own, already have orders for 13 houses and a third mosque in the original three villages, and - in seven other villages in the district - orders for 5 more houses, another mosque, and a school. Each of these projects will involve training of further local apprentices in the VN technique - a veritable snowball effect (however inappropriate this metaphor may seem for Mali’s torrid climate...).

What is happening in this cluster of 10 villages is a very successful example of AVN's 'pilot zone development program', in which a local champion (in this case the Imam of the first village) asks for an input from AVN - in the form of trained VN masons and construction advice - and persuades key members of the local community to support him. AVN, at this point, draws up an agreement with the local community for a four-year program of apprentice training and construction, and the program then takes off under its own steam. If succssful, the end result will be a significant number of VN buildings - houses and community-use ones such as schools, mosques, dispensaries - as well as a pool of trained VN masons who can then use their newly acquired skills to earn a living for themselves and their families, and provide economically accessible housing for clients in their villages.

Any donations you can provide at this time will be used to help develop and expand this pilot zone program to other rural communities in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Interior of the mosque
Interior of the mosque
Villagers outside the mosque site
Villagers outside the mosque site

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Project Leader

Tony Kaye

Milton Keynes, n/a United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Sustainable Housing for Rural Families in Africa