Breadline Africa (BLA) is currently one of the largest suppliers of converted shipping containers and prefabricated structures for poverty relief in South Africa. Currently, more than 760 structures are in use as classroom, kitchen, toilet, and library facilities at community-run projects in resource-poor communities.
Last year, Breadline Africa implemented its Alternate Infrastructure Project to identify and test more environmentally sustainable infrastructure solutions that are also appropriate for the environments in which it works. In March 2022, a sandbag structure was the first to be completed at Ilithalethu Educare Centre in Khayelitsha. Located in the Enkanini informal community, the (modular) sandbag structure made it possible for Breadline Africa to work at a site that did not allow for a container to be brought in on a large vehicle. Two unsafe classrooms were demolished, and a 40m2 eco-beam sandbag structure was built.
Project Manager, Alex Laugksch, explains that the sandbag structure was the first of five alternate building methods that will be tested this year. “Our second structure is somewhat more unconventional in that we worked with a boat building company, Helderberg Marine, to build an Aventure Composite (fibreglass) kitchen and toilet structure for Sijongephamibili Crèche in Strand, Western Cape. Although not the most sustainable building material because fibreglass takes a lot of energy to produce, it is an environmentally friendly building material; it is extremely durable and generally a lesser contributor to landfills as it does not create a huge amount of waste,” says Alex.
An innovative design feature of this structure is the in-built rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater runs from the gutters into a storage tank that is located under the floor. The tank is about 400mm high and runs under the entire structure. So, the 15m2 structure has 6,000 liters of water storage. Water is then pumped up using a small electrical pump for use in the kitchen and toilet facilities.
The placement of this structure generated excited interest from members of the community and is a huge improvement from the original toilet and kitchen facilities on this site.