|Assessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)|
|VI. Achieving a multiplier effect through shelter projects|
It is difficult to obtain evidence concerning the extent to which projects have helped to develop new construction techniques, or address the capacity of the local and national building-materials-supply industry to meet the required level and nature of demand. Yet, some experiences can be cited. In Indonesia, for example, the introduction of low-technology materials and construction systems have enabled the benefits of such economic development to move further down the socio-economic ladder to benefit low-income households (Herlianto, 1990:93). This is reinforced by relaxations in the enforcement of building codes, though the codes themselves have not been officially revised (Herlianto, 1990: 91). In the Kalingalinga project in Zambia, local block-making enterprises were established and successful experiments held, using earth as a building material. These proved to be almost too successful, in that open spaces were raided for earth.
In the other case-study projects and countries, there appears to have been no progress in using shelter projects to introduce innovations in building technology or materials. In Sri Lanka and Turkey, projects are not in general regarded as opportunities to experiment with new construction systems or techniques and projects have had no discernible effect on the building industry. The same applies to Zimbabwe, where the experience with the project approach has not succeeded in stimulating the construction industry to meet increased demand, or encouraged experimentation in construction techniques. Yet, it should be noted that some housing projects, particularly those initiated through public-private partnerships to address the needs of upper-middle and middle-income groups, have tried out new technologies and construction systems. The main result has been the development of more energy-efficient and less costly building materials. Furthermore, such projects have facilitated the development of new organizational arrangements where public-sector agencies have entered into partnerships with housing cooperatives and private construction companies. The approach introduced by Kent-Koop in Turkey is a good example of this type of development.
Projects in Zimbabwe have contributed indirectly to the development of the informal building-materials industry (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990:61). This was not, however, an intended outcome of the shelter projects. It happened rather despite the projects, since the formal-sector building-materials industry was unable to meet the demand. Project implementation and industrial production planning was the responsibility of different ministries with little or no co-ordination taking place. This experience also begs the question of whether industrial production can be efficiently managed by public-sector agencies. It is invariably an aspect best left to the private sector, despite apparent ideological reservations concerning this locally.
Yet, the greatest case of lost opportunity is probably that of Colombia. More than any other developing country, Colombia attempted to use housing as a means of expanding the construction industry and through it, the national economy. The failure to capitalize on its early efforts has resulted in the country slipping well behind most other developing countries in this respect.
None of the above discussion is to deny that there are important examples of innovation in building materials and construction systems being developed in other countries. It simply indicates that projects, so far, have not been used to test prototypes. Many countries also boast building research institutes that generate numerous examples of appropriate technologies, such as sand-cement blocks, pozzolana, and bamboo or sisal reinforced beams. The shortage would not appear to lie in the number of technical options, but in their dissemination and effective marketing to the builders and developers who need to be convinced of their merits. Another constraint may be that existing building regulations discourage, or even prevent, the adoption of new materials or construction systems, even on an experimental basis. It is unlikely that this problem can be overcome until building regulations are either based upon performance specifications, rather than prescribed, conventional solutions, or relaxed, so that builders can adopt incremental development processes. One option for resolving this problem may be to specify performance standards for new buildings that leave the builder free to figure out how conformity can be achieved using available and affordable materials and construction techniques. Another option could be to distinguish between initial and ultimate standards of development that could enable poor households to follow the traditional process of incremental development. There is a need to develop procedures that provide incentives to good practice rather than to punish non-conformity.