Design with the Other 90%: CITIES is the second in a series of themed exhibitions that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, saving lives. The first exhibition, in 2007, Design for the Other 90%, focused on design solutions that addressed the most basic needs of the 90% of the world’s population not traditionally served by professional designers.

In Freedom Park, an informal settlement in the Mitchell’s Plain township in Cape Town, corrugated-metal and scrap-material dwellings are being replaced by low-cost, two-story homes built with timber frames and sandbag in-fill construction.

The design of the 10x10 Sandbag House borrows from indigenous mud-and-wattle building methods. A structural timber frame using EcoBeam technology (timber beams with metal inlays that provide tensile strength) is combined with sandbags reinforced with chicken wire and finished with plaster and timber cladding. The sandbags provide thermal insulation and, thanks to the EcoBeam technology, contributes to a system that is both wind-resistant (it is heavier than brick construction) and moisture-resistant. Moreover, the building method is cost-effective and energy-efficient, and requires little to no electricity and only minimal transport, since the EcoBeams are manufactured onsite. Little skilled labor is needed for construction, and local community members were involved in building the houses, demonstrating the possibility for replication in other communities. Given the small plot sizes allotted by the government for Freedom Park, the ability to build up rather than out ensures a solution that can accommodate density. Ten houses were completed in Freedom Park in 2009, and the building method can be scaled to help meet the urgent need for housing.

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