The Nubian Vault : Mud roofs for the Sahel

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The Nubian Vault : Mud roofs for the Sahel

France
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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In the sub-Saharan region of Africa, and other parts of the world with similar climatic conditions and environments, this project aims to promote the construction of timberless vaulted mud brick houses which are environmentally friendly, affordable, and comfortable (compared to houses using expensive imported sheet metal roofing and timber beams), using a well-proven and easy to implement technique ('la Voute Nubienne', or VN). The VN technique, based on age-old methods from the Nubian region of Egypt, is relatively unknown in the Sahel. The project operates through demonstration (people seeing the VN houses being built and lived in), ?sensibilisation? (meetings, demos, films?) and on-the-job training of new apprentices on VN building sites. This training method is based on traditional, culturally embedded , methods of apprenticeship and skill development. The project is in many ways a text book example of South > South technology transfer. For more details, and a rich slection of photos and reports on the project, please consult our website at http://www.lavoutenubienne.org The site is available in French and English versions, and provides details of construction methods, basic house plans, photos of the exteriors and interiors of completed VN buildings, and technical reports.

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Your idea
Focus of activity

Community Involvement

Start Year

2000

Positioning in the mosaic of solutions
Main barrier addressed

Low individual purchasing power

Main principle addressed

Leverage resources that are abundant at the local level

On-the-job training of local builders in mud brick, timber-less, vault construction for comfortable, ecologically sound, affordable housing.

Innovation
Description of housing product/service offering:

In the sub-Saharan region of Africa, and other parts of the world with similar climatic conditions and environments, this project aims to promote the construction of timberless vaulted mud brick houses which are environmentally friendly, affordable, and comfortable (compared to houses using expensive imported sheet metal roofing and timber beams), using a well-proven and easy to implement technique ('la Voute Nubienne', or VN). The VN technique, based on age-old methods from the Nubian region of Egypt, is relatively unknown in the Sahel. The project operates through demonstration (people seeing the VN houses being built and lived in), ?sensibilisation? (meetings, demos, films?) and on-the-job training of new apprentices on VN building sites. This training method is based on traditional, culturally embedded , methods of apprenticeship and skill development. The project is in many ways a text book example of South > South technology transfer. For more details, and a rich slection of photos and reports on the project, please consult our website at http://www.lavoutenubienne.org The site is available in French and English versions, and provides details of construction methods, basic house plans, photos of the exteriors and interiors of completed VN buildings, and technical reports.

Description of innovation:

The VN technique is the first major and replicable instance of the construction of timberless vaulted buildings in sub-Saharan Africa. The unique nature of the VN project, which differentiates it clearly from earlier initiatives, lies in several key aspects: - the simplicity and standardisation of the VN technique - the speed with which local, generally illiterate, builders familiar with mud brick construction can learn to construct the vaults (2-3 months of on-the-job apprenticeship on a VN building site) - the notion of a geographic zone, of a radius of around 50km, within which the project?s campaign is centred each year, with a trained VN master builder responsible for coordinating work in the zone and liasing with potential clients - the complete integration of the technique into local economic circuits, with little need for external financial resources (most of the cost of construction is attributable to labour) - the comfort of the VN houses, well insulated from extremes of heat and cold, and able to incorporate traditional features such as flat terraced roofs into their construction - the durability of the houses: since the first VN houses were built eight years ago, not a single one has collapsed or been damaged by the seasonal rainy periods. At a technical level, several innovations distinguish the VN technique; for example: - strict specification of building requirements for foundations, walls, openings, and the actual vaults - the use of a stranded wire stretched between the two gable walls, along which runs a ring with a standard length of cord, to define a constant radius for each vault - the use of oil drums as temporary supports for forming window and door arches - the use of plastic sheeting over the roof, covered by a final waterproof rendering to protect it from solar degradation, to reduce the annual maintenance load for the roof - the option to easily convert the completed vaulted roof to a traditional flat terrace roof.

Benefits to clients:

The delivery model is based on the selection of geographical zones (around 50 km diamater) within which each annual VN campaign is focused. Publicity is through meetings, community associations, and by demonstration - when villagers see a VN house being built, they get interested, and will approach the local VN builder for advice and help: when a client decides to go ahead with a VN home, some initial help is provided with labour, and two or more local builders will be taken on as apprentices to learn the technique. The most significant criterion of the success of the project's delivery system lies in the almost exponential growth, year on year, in the number of vaults constructed and the number of VN builders trained and apprentices in training. In the first year of formal existence of the project (2000), 7 vaults were built and 3 builders trained; during the current campaign (2006) 72 vaults have been built, and there are now 36 experienced VN builders (including 14 who also act as trainers), and a further 35 undergoing training. In total, some 200 vaults have been built since 2000; 80% of these are in low-cost low-cost rural homes (the average home has two vaults). In addition to homes, the VN technique has been used to construct larger buildings for community use, including a church, a mosque, a library, several low cost hotels / guest houses, and a house for a women's association. These other buildings, because of their community focus, and community involvment in their construction, provide valuable word-of-mouth publicity for the project.

Key operational partnerships:

The VN Association brings together the various private initiatives, underpinning their efforts, and acts as a relay between institutional or private clients who approach the Association, and the trained VN entrepreneurs and builders in Burkina Faso and neighbouring countries. To help in the development and expansion of the programme, The VN Association also carries out fund-raising work, maintains this website, produces publications and reports, and handles enquiries from the media and elsewhere. Key operational partnerships have been established with: - Acroterre (Association des Constructeurs pour la Rehabilitation et l?Optimisation de la Terre, Grenoble, France)acts as an adviser to the project. A proposal for co-financing, drawn up by this NGO, was accepted by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who agreed to provide a financial subsidy over three campaigns (2002/2003, 2003/2004, and 2004/2005) - The city of Grenoble and the district associations of Villeneuve and Beriat St Bruno, who have financed the construction of a VN library and a women's association house in Ouagadougou - The Sidi Landa Association of PIAMET(Parc International des Arts Modernes et Traditionnels), and its President, Konate Boumav?, in Boromo. This local association has contributed to the start-up of the project, and continues to support it in the field. Plans for new partnerships are making good progress.

Impact
Financial model:

The VN Association provides some pump-priming support to initiatives in new zones in Burkina Faso and Mali: this comes in the form of payment of a proportion of the salary of a trained VN master builder, and in provision of lodging and maintenance for apprentices working on homes for new clients. The Association also purchases the plastic sheeting needed for providing extra waterproofing during the rainy season. The Association encourages the involvement of the local community and local informal economic circuits in making and transporting the mud bricks and helps trained VN builders to set themselves up as independent entrepreneurs. Once this has happened in one zone, the Association pulls out and moves to another zone: in fact, a sucessful example of a 'snowball' approach.

Costs as percentage of income:

95%

Financing:

The project costs are mainly to do with organisation and scaling up of the project. As the programme develops, actual building costs are mainly, and increasingly, met by the clients, with the VN Association restricting its financial input to provision of a proportion of labour costs and training for the first buildings in new zones, and for the provision of plastic sheeting for roof insulation. For example, in 2001, of 50 salaried months of labour, half were paid by the VN Association, and half by clients; but in 2006 so far, of 426 salaried months, all but 18 were paid by VN clients. Clearly, the less financial support is needed, the closer we are getting to a self-sustaining market economy for VN buildings.

Effectiveness:

<ul><li class="entry-label">Project outcomes: <span class="entry-text">The direct beneficiaries of the project include: - the 36 builders so far trained in the VN technique, able to work for clients and become independent entrepreneurs on their own account - the 35 current apprentices who are paid during their on-the-job training period whilst they learn how to build VN houses - the 100 families living in VN homes (and using VN constructions for their agricultural and other commercial activities) and who benefit from much increased levels of comfort compared to the tin roof houses or shacks which are often the only alternative - those involved in ancillary activities such as fabrication of mud bricks, transport of materials, extraction of rocks for foundations etc - local associations and NGO?s who have erected comfortable VN buildings.</span></li><li class="entry-label">Number of clients in past year: <span class="entry-text">VN homes were constructed for 40 families in Burkina Faso during the 2005/2006 campaign, and 35 apprentices were in training on these VN building sites. In addition, the first VN mosque has been built, near Ougadougou, paid for by a local family, but with extensive involvement of the local community in providing labour.</span></li><li class="entry-label">Percentage of clients that are poor or marginalized: <span class="entry-text">60%</span></li><li class="entry-label">Potential demand: <span class="entry-text">On a 20 year horizon, if successful scaling-up can be achieved, we would hope to see, cumulatively, something like 10,000 trained VN builders, and some 400,000 homes built in the Sahel regions by 2030. Recent enquiries coming from outside the Sahel suggest that the Association will need to investigate the applicability of the VN methods to different socio-economic contexts (e.g. in the Maghreb, not only for social housing, but also for agricultural buildings, and residential villas and hotels), and to different climatic conditions (e.g tropical countries such as Madagascar, southern Benin, and Sao Tome et Principe). Studies analysing the economic and technical factors concerning the adaptation of the VN methods to these new contexts will need to be undertaken in the future before an appropriate response can be made to such enquiries. </span></li></ul>

Scaling up strategy:
Stage of the initiative:

<i>Scaling Up</i> stage.

Expansion plan:

In Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo, we are already experiencing, and are assuming for the future, an exponential growth in the number of vaults constructed and in the number of VN builders trained. By 2009, it is expected that the total number of vaults built will reach 650, with 110 VN builders trained. In parallell with this work in the field, the VN Association is confident that funds will be found from various agencies for promoting the development and growth of the project, and the opening of new construction zones.

Origin of the initiative:

In 1998, Thomas Granier, a builder from France, and Seri Youlou, a farmer from Boromo, Burkina Faso, were asked by Bomav? Konat?, the founder of PIAMET in Burkina Faso, to develop the original prototype VN buildings. The interest aroused by these prototypes led to the setting up of the Voute Nubienne Association and the 'Mud roofs for the Sahel' programme on a formal basis in 2000.