ADAPT Egypt - Participatory Urban Renewal and Housing Construction

ADAPT Egypt - Participatory Urban Renewal and Housing Construction

Organization type: 
for profit
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ADAPT offers low-cost housing solutions for poor communities (also environmentally-adapted), by producing appropriate building material, adopting local building techniques and a participatory community approach. The idea is focused on low-income housing shortages and inhumane living conditions in ‘informal’ areas (also remote rural/desert locations or marginalized communities)

About You
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name

El Miniawy



Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name


Organization Phone


Organization Address

31, Ahmed Fahim El Bayoumi st., St. Fatima, Heliopolis - Cairo

Organization Country


How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

What makes your innovation unique?

First, ADAPT is producing new, inexpensive, sustainable, local building products by introducing lab-testing technology. ADAPT uses abundant local building ingredients (e.g. clay, stone) along with treated waste products to produce environmentally-friendly building materials - high quality (certified by the Egyptian government) and low cost (30 per cent below standard alternatives). ADAPT has developed a sizable range of ecological material mixes (also paints, plasters) that can be used by builders and urban developers in the industry. In restoring an organic cycle between human and earth, building material used by millions of informal builders and residents would be environmentally sustainable (also energy-conserving) and affordable. Second, as part of the business model, ADAPT partners with local master builders and masons in the informal sector (a network of over 600 builders). We use their experience and knowledge of building in each particular environment. E.g. ADAPT has a certified blue-print of a 4-story housing unit design that can be built in the desert, without the need for air-conditioning in the summer contributing to energy conservation and lower living costs.
Finally, a crucial part of ADPAT’s business model is community participation. The model insists on training (in the use of local material/techniques) young people in each community that ADAPT builds in. Youth act as a catalyst for disseminating ADAPT’s sustainable, ecological and affordable building methods.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Economic/ Poverty alleviation
In Algeria for example, results indicate an expansion of housing settlements that were built there from the late 1980s to 2004, at more than 20,000 units constructed by communities in Algeria using ADAPT’s mechanism by residents or changes in government policies in low-income housing in Algeria. Impacting more than 200,000 beneficiaries in Algeria.
In Egypt, we upgraded areas encompassing over 10,000 affordable housing units to date. In Egypt, where most of ADAPT’s work is of a more public nature (public spaces and community facilities), over 100,000 people have been trained and aided in low-cost housing methods with the participation of local inhabitants.
By producing adaptive building material innovations, the company encourages a more rationalizing and scientific approach to construction in the region. Building material used by millions of informal builders and residents would be environmentally sustainable (also energy-conserving) and also affordable.
In working with the informal or low-income market, ADAPT facilitates a relationship between the poor squatters and local governments. Whether ADAPT does so by partnering with entrepreneurial master builders, encouraging participation of the community in building and renovating shared spaces, training youth or partnering with CSOs (Women, Youth volunteerism), social impact is a key driver behind ADAPT’s vision when working in the informal sector. ADAPT’s Executive Director, Sanaa Tobah, established and manages “El Bidaya” (The First Steps), an independent literacy center for children in one of the poorest areas in Manshiet Nasser. Hany El Miniawy is a member of the Board in an advisory capacity.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Affordable Housing and Urban Renewal: A projected un-met demand of more than 5 million middle and low-income housing units in the next 10 years in Egypt. The poor have land but no deeds or titles and lack access to permits to build and therefore live in constant uncertainty and fear of demolition. In addition, largely due to law 25/1992, the provision of government services like potable water, garbage collection, or health and security to illegal areas is prohibited. The government faces a complicated problem dealing with squatters and need policy solutions; people need recognition/solutions to the status quo.
Appropriate Resources, Architecture: While 90 per cent of residents in the informal sector build their own homes, they do so without technical assistance, planning or consultation regarding cost or resistance-tests on materials utilized. Technical inefficiencies means construction materials such as cement, which pollute air and soil resources, or expensive imported materials, are over-used in an inappropriate building cycle, due to the lack of updated knowledge/technology informal masons could benefit from.
Business Model: In Egypt current construction models used by large public or private developers have a high cost structure when catering to low-income housing projects. They may rely on a labor pool and use expensive material such as cement or steel or material that needs to be transported or imported from distant markets. Due to low margins (of their current business models), the poor and low-income markets are not seen as profitable segments by large developers in the private sector currently.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

Producing local Materials Mixes and adopting heritage Techniques: Using demolition instead of upgrading as a solution to informal settlements, the government is often at a loss in addressing the problem. Hired by the government, ADAPT manages to bridge the gap between informal residents and the government providing win-win options and solutions to both parties. ADAPT subsidize their operating costs, including equipment, raw materials, labor, training, site preparation, testing the raw material in soil mechanics labs and fees for certifying lab results. Since the cost of their buildings are 30% to 50% lower than the norm, ADAPT should get the government to finance most if not all of their projects in the informal sector. Source of funding would be a barrier because of lack of consistency. Informal residents themselves aided by access to microfinance would be the optimum source of funding for ADAPT’s informal sector renewal projects/business growth.
Training Mechanism: ADAPT seeks to educate, train and influence the use of heritage building techniques and local materials in mass construction in the region as an important step towards green, energy-conserving, sustainable housing production. Training youth in the community is key to the business model to spread use of new material mixes and adopted building techniques. Mobile centers have been used to provide technical assistance, advice etc. Also education reform with university students.
Community Participation (Bottom-Up Approach): To tackle the financial cost structure of low-income areas, we use a ‘bottom-up approach’. ADAPT seeks to first understand the urban, social fabric, by meeting with homogenous groups of community members (women, youth, male community leaders) and identifying priorities and problems. Enlisting leaders from each group to work on the building project. Engagement of community members and other partners (local CSOs, Indigenous groups etc.) has implications on cost management of construction, social contracts (trust) come into play keeping prices low and quality high. Participation also creates employment in informal areas. “On-job training” process or apprenticeship with master builders gives the youth employment, new skills and a personal role of participation and empowerment. Also, hiring community master builders generates income and launches new careers for poor entrepreneurs.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Overall, looking to influence the youth to appreciate and consider alternative approaches, new methodologies in architectural design and community development; and to look at the reality of their environment and communities in which they live and will work.
Continuation of practical projects with University students of Architecture in Egypt. Presently working with more than 3 major universities within the country to implement a program for their Graduation Projects which must include planning and design within an informal area close to their university. E.g. Cairo University works with Giza areas, Also in El Munufiyah (Lower Egypt) and Beni Suef and El Minya in Upper Egypt.
Writing a book which gathers the same theme as mentioned, addressing and sharing our experience, know-how and areas we are still learning about in terms of source and type of education needed in Egypt today, housing and the use of heritage with modern science in construction.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

ADAPT's concepts have been well-received by public policy makers (through demonstration effects, visits etc.) but not implemented as official policy yet, not really felt to be part of the heart and mind of current administration in Egypt. In Algeria by contrast, ADAPT's urban housing settlements have made direct impact in public policy changes made by the government in their official designs for public housing in remote desert areas and otherwise.

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

ADAPT's participatory urban renewal projects' business model is largely dependent on these different partnerships.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

ADAPT Egypt is a private architectural consultancy firm that earns revenue from various types of construction projects in the market. Private housing, Rural/Urban community development, Public housing, Tourism, Cultural monuments. Participatory Urban Renewal is also a segment of our overall business. To date, revenue gained from private housing business for example, is used to subsidize my and my partner's (Mrs. Sanaa Tobah) time to work pro bono on Participatory urban renewal projects as they arise.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Hany El-Miniawy, founder of ADAPT, is an architect driven by applying construction solutions that are adaptive to local environments. His innovations are grounded in principles of acknowledging and working with realities that are at hand. He found a source of learning and creativity when working in remote desert locations in Algeria at the start of his career in 1977. Inspired from that time by his colleague, late Architect Hamdy Diab and by the Algerian people with and for whom they were building. They constructed two urban settlements, located in the 45C heat of the Algerian desert and found that building material brought to remote sites from markets as far as 500 km away was a burden to the cost of the project as well as to the surrounding environment. He and his brother, Abdelrahman El Minawy continued their construction projects successfully in Algeria over the 15 years of experience gained there.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

El Miniawy as a social innovator is motivated by a very grounded approach to connecting with people and serving as a bridge in different capacities. His innovations bridge cultural heritage with modern science, his business model works by making new socioeconomic links (or reviving old ones). He feels strongly that an individual cannot experience true emancipation or happiness without overall community emancipation in one's environment.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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