The Empower Shack Project is self-built settlement.
The Empower Shack is a dwelling designed by Urban Think Tank in collaboration with Ikhayalami. It is made out of materials such as wood and iron sheeting, and can be self-built. It has two storeys, but it could be expanded to three. The vertical building has a smaller footprint than typical informal houses.
The project aims to be scalable and applicable to answer South Africa’s housing shortage. It is on its pilot phase focusing within BT Section of Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
The project also focuses on developing the neighborhoods, and planning for infrastructure such as public spaces, roads and courtyards. It aims to be comprehensive, covering participatory spatial planning, ecological landscape management and integrated livelihoods programming.
*Please note that building designs are being included as “products” in the Habitat Sector of the Solutions Library to allow readers to learn from how projects were designed and constructed and how they are serving the occupants, whether effective or ineffective.
The approximated cost of a unit is 11,600 USD (11,557.20 USD) Converted on August 2018. The units are subsidized at 60% of the construction cost. Some residents have Land Release Credit, which means they will pay between 0 and 30% of the construction cost if they relinquish land for the project. The percentage depends on the household choice and the previous shack house.
Primary competitors in the area of the project include one storey buildings made of iron sheeting and wood frame.
People living in informal settlements or slums in South African cities
The houses are self-built by the residents. The framework is developed using computational tools that maximize the user’s input and transparency. It generates layouts according to individual and community preferences, and municipal frameworks.
The units are facilitated through Ikhayalami. The organization also negotiates the loan terms and repayments, depending on each household.
Indication of whether design can be replicated in multiple locations
Number of individuals. 1 family = 5 persons.
Number of days from start of construction to completion
Surface area of footprint
Number of occupiable floors (ground floor only = 1)
Primary materials used
Composite estimated R-value
As calculated by designer
As calculated by designer
Based upon primary structural system as per the International Building Code
Based upon Structural Occupancy Category and soil conditions of site; as per the International Building Code
List of suitable climates for use of this design
The design is a two-storey building with a sanitation core, balcony, living area, kitchen and bedrooms. The designers are experimenting with alternative configurations to adapt to the needs of different households.
A rusted iron sheet could be replaced.
The units should be affordable, easy to transport, simple and quick to build, and an upgrade to living conditions. The project also aims to improve the community infrastructure so that it is easier to provide power, sanitation, clean water and access to emergency vehicles, as well as reducing the risk of fires.
The user will be subjected to all the risks associated with a construction site: heights, tools, power tools, heavy objects, etc.
Miao, Y., Koenig, R., Bus, P., Chang, M., Chirkin, A., Treyer, L., 2017, Empowering Urban Design Prototyping: A Case Study in Cape Town with Interactive Computational Synthesis Methods. Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference CAADRIA, Suzhou, China, April, 2017, pp. 407-417
Unknown, though the project is being done in cooperation with the government.
At the end of 2017, a year-long evaluation project was begun to monitor the outcome.
The City of Cape Town signed a memorandum of understanding with Ikhayalami where the former would oversee the installation of water, sanitation, and road infrastructure while the latter was responsible for organizing the community, facilitation, and involvement of all stakeholders in the project.
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