A South African company has reached the finals of a R7-million ($1-million) global challenge to solve the crisis of creating secure and affordable shelter for the poor. Over 100 presentations from around the world were submitted for the 2012 Hult Global Case Challenge, in the housing category – and just six, including PE’s Moladi Housing Technology, have made the cut.
Patented by PE inventor and Moladi founder Hennie Botes, the Moladi model was presented at the regional final in London earlier this month, by Kingston University, and the team is now bound, next month, for the finals in New York.
Started by Hult international business school, with the aim of finding global solutions to alleviating poverty, the Hult challenge focuses on energy, education and housing. The competition is linked to the Clinton Global Initiative – and one of the judges in New York is scheduled to be the former US president himself.
It’s a great feather in the cap for Moladi, and the company is very proud, Botes said.
"We got a call from the Kingston team leader Rachel Scotland earlier this year and she explained that they wanted to present Moladi in the Hult challenge.
"Of course we were very supportive. We sent her a power-point to complement what she already knew about us. and she created a video titled ‘alleviating poverty through housing’, which is exactly what drives us.
"She has focused on Africa, and has called for boldness. We believe her team will win.”
A tool and die maker by trade, Botes launched Moladi in 1986 on the back of two interlocking inventions: a plastic "formwork” to shape the walls, and a chemical additive to mix with the sand and cement. The additive ensures that, after the mortar has been poured into the formwork, and then set, the formwork can be removed and the brick-less walls will stand all that the weather can throw at them, Botes explained.
Like Henry Ford’s Model T’s that offered a quality guarantee, through mass-manufacturing to exact specifications a blue-chip type specimen, Moladi promises exactly that with its "Model M”, he said.
"It means that, from Mill Park to Motherwell, the standard remains the same. The size and the finishes deliver the degree of luxury but your walls should always be of the finest quality.”
The pre-planning and simplicity in the design also ensures that costs can be worked out precisely, before hand, so bonds are easier to obtain, he noted.
Cost is reduced because a single formwork can be repeatedly used. If the Moladi team tackles 50 houses, it will take 14 days to complete. But, with the carefully synchronised Moladi work plan, the next one can be finished a day later, and so on. In this way, up to 50 correct houses can be built in 64 days using just one formwork.
Multiply the number of formworks and the output increases exponentially so, with the same approach, in 64 days, with 100 moulds, 5000 correct houses can be built, he said.
The simplicity of the technique allows for skills to be transferred relatively quickly and easily. Efforts are made to use local members of each community creating each time not only jobs but, when the job is finished, because of the skills they take away with them, "housing entrepreneurs”.
Moladi construction is environmentally friendly because the additive mixed with the special stone-less cement creates "cork-like” walls, and their thermal properties ensure less heat loss in Winter, and less heat trapped in Summer. This means in turn less expenditure needed on artificially controlling the temperature, and a reduced carbon footprint, Botes said.
"It overtakes the old technique of making bricks and then having to transport that heavy load to the site, plus the breakages incurred and waste of plaster with the plastering phase.
"With Model M, only the formwork must be transported to the site. Local sand is used to mix the cement and, because of the properties of the additive, the proportion of cement needed in the mix is much less than normal.”
Moladi’s stated aim is to improve the quality of housing and at the same time to allow it to be rolled out much cheaper than the present cost. The vision also includes creating large-scale employment and training, with this positive cycle steadily strengthening and entrenching itself, he said.
There is huge work to be done to help the poor and get South Africa on a winning track, he said.
"There is R58-billion worth of badly built RDP homes to fix. Then there is the 2.1-million back-log of homes that must still be built. And you can add onto that another million "gap sector” South Africans who earn too much to get a state subsidy – and too little to get a bank-guaranteed bond.
"And then there are the schools and clinics and other essential buildings, especially here in the Eastern Cape.
"We say we will train the youth to build for the homeless and, in that way, solve several big problems at one time.”
The company is building houses around the world from South America to the Philippines, and in 10 African countries. Back home in PE, they are working on just one private affordable housing project in Bridgemead, but have so far not been able to forge any partnerships with government, despite their efforts to do so.
Nationally, this scenario might finally have changed for the better, with a positive meeting last week with the housing department.
Thinking holistically is what is needed, he said.
"At the moment our ministers are only looking at the problems in their departments. We can use Moladi and sustainable building to stimulate education and job creation and to deliver much needed infrastructure across the housing, health, public works and education departments.”
To pull together this "golden thread”, Botes envisages a Moladi College, and he is talking to the authorities about the possibility of establishing this facility at Coega.
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