Construction Information Map: Support for Sustainable Architecture Projects in Developing Countries – Angola Case Study

Construction Information Map: Support for Sustainable Architecture Projects in Developing Countries – Angola Case Study

Júlio Londrim Baptista (University of Beira Interior, Portugal), Jorge Tavares Ribeiro (University of Lisbon, Portugal) and Cristina Delgado Henriques (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4186-8.ch013


All developing countries face a construction and serious housing problem, with deep economic and social consequences in the landscape. Promoting and implementing effective and rapid initiatives in rural areas to attract the population and keep them in their places of origin can solve this problem endorsing a reduction of the migration to urban areas. A digital research tool was developed with the purpose of illustrating the compatibility of local natural materials with global industrial technology, creating conditions for the development of versatile and locally sustainable building systems in rural areas of Angola. As a product of this research, a new map with construction information serves as a guiding database to support the sustainable architecture and construction project, which flexible structure allowing it to be used (with appropriate adaptation) in other developing countries.
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Although there is a great diversity of political, demographic, historical, social, and economic contexts among developing countries (DC) from different regions of the globe, their cities offer similar challenges such as those called by push-factors (Kotter, 2004, pp. 1-2): high unemployment, lack of adequate housing in quality and quantity, poor infrastructure, inadequate services, unsafe urban environments, malnutrition of a large part of the population and poor health policies (Beall & Fox, 2009, pp. 3-4). In addition to these factors, the high birth rate – reinforced by pull-factors such as the economic opportunities, attractive jobs, better education and a modern lifestyle – is the catalysts for mass flows that significantly increase migration from rural to urban areas (Kotter, 2004, pp. 1-2), especially to peri-urban areas (United Nations Human Settlements Program UN-Habitat, 2014). Searching for better living conditions, the massive influx of rural population to urban areas gives rise to informal settlements with exponential and disorderly growth and without infrastructures and equipment (Davis, 2007). The serious problem of construction and housing that these countries face, with deep economic and social consequences, is all too evident. Therefore, a decentralization strategy based on sustainable planning “taking into account the environment-socio/cultural-economy trinomial, in the different scales of intervention, from the macro to the microscale” (Daio, 2011, p. 79) is pertinent. A strategy that has as a priority to alleviate the strong demographic pressure to which the urban centers are subject, creating new centralities in the interior of the DC, to stop the migration of population from the interior to the urban littoral. Three basic approaches to solving the problem are identified and discussed: massive construction, vernacular construction, and key-in-hand solutions.

In a global world, the role of new technologies suitable for construction becomes as valid in industrialized countries (IC) as in DC. It is also possible to associate industrial and vernacular technologies, enhancing both for the construction projects that demonstrate economic viability, longevity, aesthetic quality and design adapted and adjusted to each geographic and social context. In this sense, some programs and experiences show that by using local materials, complementing local production with global industrial technology adapted to local conditions, may give rise to materials that ensure a minimum of quality and dignity and is also appreciated by native DC populations. Materials that have durability allow rapid construction, demonstrate geometric uniformity and maintain quality throughout the entire production line and are therefore positively accepted by producers and end users. In addition to responding to local needs, these new technologies can help to create local entrepreneurs (Fisher, 2007, p. 33), through the economic development boosted by local production and marketing of these products.

Focusing on rural areas, the problem lies not in the questions raised by high population densities, but in avoiding the migration to urban areas. Cultural rootedness and constructive effectiveness that enable the population to improve their living conditions in harmony with economic development through the exploitation of local resources are crucial. In rural areas, there is still a lot to explore, from the agricultural sector to livestock and fisheries, but it is considered imperative to define programs that maintain, strengthen or reestablish the population's connection to the local ancestral memory.

Typically, in DC there are no systematic studies on architecture targeting rural populations. There are no proposals for the different “geographical contrasts” in relation to construction methods and building materials, climatic conditions, as well as housing programs according to the ethnic and social specificities of the use of the living space (Baptista, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flexibility: Use of standard size construction modules that can be easily adapted and modified to meet regional and cultural characteristics best.

Turnkey Solutions: Pseudo-ecological constructive solutions of fast construction and apparent low-cost that do not attend to the culture and the local and regional characteristics.

Construction Information Map (CIM): A multidisciplinary database with relevant information to help define the guiding principles of the sustainable construction project in a given region.

Local Technology: Slow production of materials, usually using manual processes, that incorporate experimental knowledge. Although they have normally reduced environmental impact, they have reduced performances and durability.

Global Technology: Advanced production technology of standardized materials that benefits and takes advantage of economies of scale. Materials produced with low unit cost and, despite the high energy incorporated, with a reduced unit ecological footprint when distributed worldwide.

Mass Construction: Low-cost, formally standardized, and fast construction, usually with low-quality materials and unsuitable for local specificities.

Vernacular Construction: Construction that uses ancestral experimental knowledge, usually slow, using local materials and adapted to regional characteristics.

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