C.A.R.T. - Centre for Appropriate Rural Technology

Building Yard

Houses in Sicambeni are traditionally constructed as Rondavels. These simple structures consist of one large circular building, approximately 15 metres in diameter with thatched roofing. The preferred building methods are that of using wattle and daub or using hand moulded clay bricks. Western influence has meant that many houses are now built to resemble the square buildings seen on TV, growing in size and taking on more elaborate designs yet still using the same building methods and substituting thatch for corrugated tin.

This change has lead to a loss of stability and longevity within the structures as well as an increase in building costs. The end result is that now many families live in houses that are quite literally falling apart and simply don’t have the money of the skills to rebuild. As with all methods used by the center our building techniques are designed to be cost effective and easy to replicate. All materials are sourced locally and no external workmen are used – everything comes from within.

We use a hand-operated mechanical press to make stabilised bricks. Clay based soil dug from the land is used to form the base of the bricks, this is mixed with a small amount (5%) of cement to stabilise the brick. Although building without the cement is possible we aim to produce strong houses with longevity. The mix is compressed and left to sun dry. The roofs of the buildings are made from wood cut from the local forest and local grasses to thatch the roofs.

So far 5 rondavels and the ablution block have been built using these methods. (Although we chose to roof the Ablutions using corrugated tin as part of our solar shower project). Currently we are building the learning center, nutritional kitchen and chicken house using these methods.

The techniques described above have been taught to members of the local community who are in turn passing that knowledge on to others. The hand press is available for the community to use and make their own bricks to upgrade and improve their housing.