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Sand houses are sustainable in: Energy- sand regulates temperatures,reduced heating and cooling. Water- improve reservour Easy to build



Most water Reservoirs in Zimbabwe are silted. Temperatures soar as high as 42%. Strong winds destroy dwellings. The sand structure mitigates the above challenges as use of sand for construction will desilt parts of rivers while creating temperature regulating dwellings in remote and peri urban areas. Sand also settles and absorbs shocks from violent weather conditions.

The house of sand has an ordinary brick and mortar foundation, with a wall of sand bags or pet bottles filled with sand, no cement in between the bags. Steel pillars support the structure. It does not need special expertise. The Green building Council of Zimbabwe (GBCZW) proposes to train communities in remote and peri-urban area on the construction of sand dwellings. This will improve water reservoirs by desilting rivers; create temperature efficient- sustainable buildings besides providing skills to the communities and reducing emissions from brick and cement manufacturing as use of brick and cement is reduces in these structures.

Through these trainings, the GBCZW will also lobby Government to review the Building by laws to focus on a sustainable built environment. Finally participants are trained on the 5-star green rating system on how sustainable a building is.  A model sand structure was constructed at a remote school in 2015 by the GBCZW.

What actions do you propose?

The physical activities for the project include the following:

Training and workshop notifications: Notifications on the training/ workshop program to affected areas of Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland, including their respective Local Authorities/ Municipalities. The Local authorities will in turn recruit the trainees and prepare venues and sites for practical work for the GBCZW to conduct the training.

Sand extraction- communities manually or use simple equipment to extract sand from accessible areas of silted reservoirs and cart it to nearby building sites. This activity improves water supply for domestic irrigation and watering livestock in case of long draughts. It will therefore provide fresh food as each family will be able to irrigate crops plants and vegetables for subsistence. Such gardens have been stopped over the year as siltation diminished water reservoirs.

Theory classes: The communities will be taught about sustainable built environments in light of the effects of climate change. This will include waste management and effect of emissions from rotting waste on wellbeing and the environment, Utilization of plastic pet bottle waste for construction of sand buildings and the Reduce-Reuse- Recycle- Rethink waste management concept. The remote built environments in Zimbabwe are littered with piles of rotting waste, some of which can be re-used or recycled. Use of sand bags instead of pet bottles will be elaborated and the advantages of sand structures.

Practical training: The youth and other willing adults receive practical training on the construction of sand dwellings using sand bags, and pet plastic bottle waste. These structures are plastered and painted like any other building. Provision of tree plants for tree planting to improve the environment.

Lobbying For Policy: As the GBCZ works with Local Government authorities in this project, lobbying will be done for review of Council by laws and building by laws for the creation of sustainable built environments, adoption of the 5-star Africa Green rating system and best practice waste management policies at household and national levels. Currently, the local authorities are charging fees for extraction of sand. The planned lobbying will allow for free extraction of sand.

Social impact of project includes empowerment of the community youth, sustainable villages and sustainable household food supply. Live stock has previously perished due to draughts in previous years. This project will sustain water supply for the communities’ live stock.

Economic impact : The sand structure is about 20% less expensive to construct than the brick and mortar, significantly reduces the need for additional heating and cooling during extreme weather conditions (energy efficient). It is very stable in case of violent weather conditions thereby maintaining sustainability. It empowers communities with skills, knowledge on effect of climate change and food supply at house hold level.

Environmental impact: Reduces emissions through best practice waste management and tree planting.

Who will take these actions?

The GBCZW will coordinate the programs as owners of the project and provide skilled trainers on building, waste management, environment and any other training requirements

Government: The Local authority will assist with the notifications to communities appropriate for training. Municipalities and Rural District Councils will be the focal points for coordination. They will also provide the spaces for practicals.  Government lobbying on policy will begin from the respective national authorities.

Business: They form membership for the GBCZW, provide GBCZW administration funding through annual membership fees. Provide expert trainers in various fields of the program including reporting, monitoring and evaluation.

Where will these actions be taken?

This will be initially in Zimbabwean’s 3 dry provinces with silted reservoirs and very high or very cold temperatures in due seasons. The success stories on people wellbeing, economic and social developments of the marginalized and generally how effects of climate change were mitigated will be shared with other national Green Building Councils (GBCs) in Africa, through to the World Green Building Council.

The programs will be shared through the annual GBCs conventions where sustainable initiatives in built environments are shared and adopted where appropriate, depending on the respective climatic requirements for various regions.

What are other key benefits?

Other desirable outcomes include:

Environment: Manufacturing of cement and bricks will be reduced thereby reducing emissions; Power generation reduces as the sand dwellings are energy efficient, The culture on waste management will improve, from a tender age. Carts will be used for transportation of sand to reduce emissions.

Social:  Communities will understand effect of climate change and will motivate change at grass root level, benefit from building skills and all this will get societies empowered. Trained individuals can be hired to rate national buildings when Government adopts the rating system.

The adoption of the 5-star Africa Green rating system will transform the built environment to sustainability.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The total estimated cost is US$ 220,000 broken down as follows;

Preliminaries (meetings, assignments, calls)        : 5,000

Recruitment for training/ advertising                      : 20,000

(transport, lodgings, meetings)

Stationary & materials                                : 120,000

Trainers                                                        ; 30,000

General labour                                             : 45,000

Total                                                               : US$ 220,000.00

Time line

June 2018 to May 2019

Related proposals

Projects on emissions reduction,

Energy efficiency and Empowerment of the marginalized.




Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA),

Ministry of Environment - Zimbabwe (Department of Climate Change)