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Sustainable housing for low-income communities: lessons for South Africa in local and other developing world cases


  • Nicole Ross
  • Paul Anthony Bowen
  • David Lincoln


South Africa's housing backlog continues to grow amid delivery focused more on quantum than on a consideration of the principles of sustainable construction. South Africa needs to move away from its existing poor environmental and housing conditions in the informal and low-income settlements and address its housing backlog by considering all the principles of sustainable construction. Using a case study approach, nine sustainable housing projects across the developing world and South Africa are assessed to draw best practice lessons for the construction of sustainable housing for low-income communities in South Africa. An evaluation framework comprising 49 indicators drawn from the literature is used to assess each case's application of seven principles of sustainable construction. Many sustainable practices have successfully been implemented in the projects reviewed, including energy- and water-efficient systems, the reuse of old buildings, the use of non-toxic products, the preservation of natural vegetation, and the provision of settlements that are dense and well located. Barriers to the implementation of sustainable practices were identified as low levels of user support; initial high costs of certain sustainable measures; and political factors. The 'minimization of materials' was the most widely adopted sustainability criterion, whilst the 'reuse of materials' was the least. User support and acceptability, together with adequate funding, are crucial to the success of sustainable settlements. The results provide lessons for South Africa to address the needs of the poor using a comprehensive sustainability approach.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicole Ross & Paul Anthony Bowen & David Lincoln, 2010. "Sustainable housing for low-income communities: lessons for South Africa in local and other developing world cases," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(5), pages 433-449.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:conmgt:v:28:y:2010:i:5:p:433-449
    DOI: 10.1080/01446190903450079

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