Building houses the unconventional way

Bricks originally meant for Mars will be used in Namibia to build affordable homes.

11 May 2021 | Infrastructure

RIVALDO KAVANGA

WINDHOEK

The Standard Bank Group, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Shack Dwellers Federation are busy with a pilot project that will use encroacher bush for mushroom farming.

The project aims to turn blackthorn bushes into a substrate to grow mushrooms on, and then use the mushroom by-product to make bricks.

The technology was originally developed for the American space agency NASA.

According to the partners, who recently visited the groundbreaking BioHAB facility at Brakwater, houses built with these bricks will be low cost and very durable.

By pressing and baking the waste from mushrooms, a material stronger than concrete can be made.

The project will not only offer a solution to homelessness, but also create jobs, produce food and combat bush encroachment.

First Lady Monica Geingos believes the technology can be a global game changer in how we use building material.

She said the project would enable the building industry to explore different methods to solve the country’s housing crisis.

“Problems unique to the informal settlements cannot be resolved by using conventional ideas, processes, regulations or laws,” Geingos said.

The project is a community-led partnership established by the Standard Bank Group, MIT and the Shack Dwellers Federation.

World first

The BioHAB is the world’s first building constructed with this sustainable technology.

The BioHAB is an initiative by Stand Bank and MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms to grow nutritious food and affordable housing from mushroom mycelium.

Outgoing Standard Bank CEO Vetumbuavi Mungunda the BioHAB initiative complements the bank’s Buy A Brick initiative that looks to build homes for the homeless.

He said the Buy-a-Brick project does not only focus on building houses, but also identifies new building methods and building materials.

“Buy-a-Brick has been on a journey of about 15 different technologies that were not approved for a number of different reasons. The minimum requirement is that the building material should come from Namibia,” he said.

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