by Margot Gutteridge

Greener homes

'The Green Shack' may be answer to food security in townships

'The Green Shack' may be answer to food security in townships
Green Shack_Vertical Garden

The Ackerman Pick n Pay Foundation has partnered with the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA and designer Stephen Lamb who, in collaboration with Cape Town artist Andrew Lord, has developed a pilot project that aims to demonstrate how informal dwellings can be changed into safer places of temporary living by addressing the issues of groundwater flooding, shack fires, thermal insulation and food security.

 

Known as The Green Shack, this low‐tech design can transform temporary shelters into flood-proof, shack-fire resistant homes that can also feed a family with fresh, organic food.

 

Lamb’s company, Touching the Earth Lightly, has co‐funded the piloting of The Green Shack, which relies on a cheap, natural low‐tech, innovative, simple design that can be replicated on a large scale. The design suggests that government can address the need for informal housing and for food security in the same physical space.

 

So how does it work? Two sun‐facing walls of the shack are wrapped with vertical organic vegetable gardens supplied by a slow‐release, gravity‐fed drip‐irrigation system. These two walls act as a living food wall, a fire break and also as a temperature regulator. Rainwater is captured off the roof and stored on site. The remaining two walls are made of a double layer of corrugated iron, forming a cavity wall filled with sand bags.

 

A successful example of the Green Shack has been trialled in the Mshini Wami informal settlement in Cape Town, and a replica was on display at the CTICC at the 2013 Design Indaba.

 

“As a food retailer, the issue of food security is constantly top of mind for us given the havoc climate change has wreaked locally and on a global scale,” said Suzanne Ackerman-Berman. “It doesn’t only come down to the availability of food, but also accessibility to it, for example people not being able to afford food or for some reason are unable to get to a retailer. The Green Shack offers a practical and secure solution: shack dwellers can grow their own organic vegetables and, thanks to the design, they can be kept securely when the occupants are away or asleep.”

 

A simple four‐wall, corrugated‐iron structure forms the basis of The Green Shack, but this is augmented by several innovative features. It is raised off the ground (using compacted aggregate) to prevent flooding, and daylight is supplied by light bulbs made from upturned, recycled plastic bottles that are filled with water and which transmit light into the shack without the need for windows, which often offer an invitation to criminals.

 

It is hoped that The Green Shack pilot project will create opportunities for livelihoods and nutrition, while educating communities about sustainable living. “No one wants to live in shack and no one should,” said Lamb. “But the reality is that millions of people do, and they have been waiting for over a decade for formal housing. We want to change the space of ‘waiting’ into safer, more resilient spaces of living, until such a time that formal housing becomes available.”

Green Shack_Interior
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