Informal Settlements: Housing units not in compliance with current planning and building regulations, usually constructed on land that occupants have no legal claim to.

South Africa like many developing countries is an unequal country, meaning while some are extremely rich, some are extremely poor. According to our Gini coefficients which measure how evenly wealth is distributed in South Africa. South Africa scores a 63.0 bear in mind a score of 100 expresses total inequality. A score of 63.0 means that a group of people has all the income and others have none. As of 2020, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.

Background information on Informal Settlements

Due to apartheid when Government policies segregated people based on race from equal opportunities in terms of employment, education & housing among other things, non-whites who left their homelands were therefore forced to look for alternative accommodation in the cities or close to the cities. To accommodate their salary the accommodation will be of low quality or hostels or backrooms.

Apartheid behaviour post apartheid-era

Today, apartheid ended 26 years ago. However Informal Settlements are mushrooming everywhere across the country at an increasing pace despite the construction of approximately 3 million free RDP houses since 1994.

We are still to see more informal settlements because a large majority of people are migrating to cities for better opportunities. It’s called Urbanization. Due to the lack of infrastructure in rural areas, very few job opportunities exist. People are forced to migrate to cities usually with very little education leading to them securing low paying jobs and leading to them erecting shacks on private or municipality land illegally thus creating informal settlements.

Another factor which is rising is the excess of foreigners coming into South Africa from poorer nations with no skills leading to them erecting shacks. Such examples are visible in informal settlements like Plastic View in Pretoria.

Until infrastructure, education & economic opportunities are accelerated in rural areas & townships informal settlements will continue to rise.

How can 3D printing disrupt the development of informal settlements

An illustration of 3D printed homes

Human has for decades used printers to create newspapers, gazettes & flyers at a faster pace than it would take humans to do. Human has used the computer to do tasks faster than humans. The introduction of 3D printing is a game-changer in the world. Anybody sitting from home can manufacture almost anything using 3D printers. Including a House.

A breakdown of 3D printing

With 2D printing, one would open a document and modify its content and send it to a printer and specify the amount of copies and it’s done.

With 3D printing, one would use a CAD (Computer-aided design) file modify its content and upload it to the 3D printer which will then lay material layer by layer till its completion.

Why do we want to print 3D homes in SA

As mentioned earlier, the mushrooming of informal settlements will not end soon due to several factors

  • There are no houses that accommodate low earning people (R1500 – R7000)
  • South Africa still has people who earn relatively low salaries
  • The cost it takes to build traditional homes
  • The pace of housing developments
  • Recent legislation discouraging real estate developers from acquiring land and building houses
  • Development cannot keep up with migration rates

To counter this 3D printing offers the following solutions

  • Saves time – It can take less than 24 hours to create a home
  • Saves material
  • Very little labour
  • Cheap strong homes
  • Affordable
  • The more printers the faster the development
  • Very little environmental impact

Therefore we can accurately say that 3D printing is important in building houses to beautify informal settlements and uplift the community which in turn hopefully encourages the community to invest in their community through entrepreneurship.

Hopes for the future

We hope the following

  • Local engineering companies can manufacture these 3D printers
  • Whoever gets to adopt it first, doesn’t chase profits
  • Housing development is followed by radical economic empowerment of the citizens through infrastructure development
  • South African companies & citizens are the ones who adopt this technology
  • The end to corrugated iron as homes

Some resources for your further perusal

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