Cover Image
close this bookJournal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies - Volume 3, Number 2 (HABITAT, 1994, 42 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Aim of the Network and its Journal
View the documentForeword
View the documentKenya: Koma Rock Housing Project in Nairobi*
View the documentTechnology Profile No. 1 - Fibre-concrete Roofing**
View the documentTechnology Profile No. 2 - Utilization of Agricultural Wastes***
View the documentEvents
View the documentPublications Review
View the documentBack Cover


December 1994

ISSN 1012-9812

Nairobi, 1995

The Aim of the Network and its Journal

The Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies has the objective of strengthening local technological capacity through facilitating information flow, regional cooperation and transfer of appropriate technologies in low-cost and innovative building materials sector in African countries.

The Journal of the Network, currently published biannually, aims to provide a channel for information that is available and could be of use by professionals, technicians, researchers, scientists as well as policy and decision-makers. It is a medium for information exchange and facilitator for acquisition of suitable technologies and know-how by needy countries.

Efforts are made to compile, process and publish articles and technical papers originated, mainly, in African region, however, as deemed appropriate and subject to availability, research findings and technological information from countries outside the African region are also included to stimulate interregional cooperation as well.


This Journal welcomes information or articles on low-cost innovations in building-materials technology. Information in the form of technical and policy papers, illustrations, news items and announcements of events can be sent from individuals or institutions in the private or public sector, from within and outside the African region. All correspondence on the Journal should be addressed to the Chief, Building and Infrastructure Technology Section, Research and Development Division, UNCHS (Habitat), P.O. Box 30030, Nairobi, Kenya.

The views expressed in this Journal do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. Mention of firm names and commercial products do not imply the endorsement of UNCHS (Habitat). The reprinting of any of the material in this publication is welcome, provided that the source is mentioned and one copy sent to UNCHS (Habitat).

National Network Institutions

Housing and Architecture Department
Ministry of Town Planning and Housing
Yaounde, Cameroon

Department of Civil Engineering
University of Addis Ababa

Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI)
Kumasi University

Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI)
College of Architecture and Engineering
University of Nairobi, Kenya

Lesotho Housing and Land
Development Cooperation
Maseru, Lesotho

Department of Civil Engineering
The Polytechnic
University of Malawi, Malawi

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering
University of Malta, Malta

School of Industrial Technology
University of Mauritius, Mauritius

Ministry of Local Government and Housing
Windhok, Namibia

Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI)
Lagos, Nigeria

Faculty of Engineering
Fourah Bay College
University of Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Centre Technique des Mataux de Construction
de la Cmique et du Verre
Tunis, Tunisia

Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development
Kampala, Uganda

Building Research Unit (BRU)
United Republic of Tanzania

National Housing Authority
Lusaka, Zambia

Ministry of Public Construction and National Housing

Kalyan Ray

Baris Der-Petrossian

Cover photo: Courtesy Africa Housing Fund, Nairobi.


Over the past eighteen years or so, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) has attached considerable importance to the building-materials sector in its efforts to find solutions to the worsening shelter crisis in most developing countries. As part of these efforts, the Centre has been promoting the development of small-scale building-materials production which use innovative and appropriate technologies based on local resources. The experience of the Centre and many other institutions worldwide has shown that durable, good quality and affordable materials can be produced easily if improved and innovative technologies are applied and if adequate marketing strategies are implemented so that people would feel confident to use these materials in their housing construction.

The importance of applying small-scale and appropriate technologies in the low-cost housing construction has been reflected in the Habitat Agenda adopted by the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). The Agenda, among others, is emphasizing the need for increased utilization of locally-produced materials so as to make the construction outputs affordable to low-income population.

It is in this context that the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies has been established to address some of the serious problems of shelter delivery through adequate and improved production and use of local building materials. Its objective is to strengthen local technological capacity and its journal seeks to compile and disseminate technological information, so that countries and individuals which need them can have access to available technologies in different countries.

As most of the readers might be aware, so far, each issue of this series of Journal has been devoted to a selected topic such as walling materials, low-cost binders, low-cost roofing materials, etc. The topic selected for this issue is: fibre concrete roofing (FCR). In addition to an article which describes the FCR technology, a case study of Kenya - in which a large-scale public-sector housing project has used fibre-concrete roofing tiles - has also been included so as to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of such alternative roofing material, especially, for mass housing schemes.

It is hoped that the contents of this Journal would be of interest to the readers and we look forward to receive any feed-back or suggestions.

The efforts of Mr. Baris Der-Petrossian of the UNCHS (Habitat) Research and Development Division in drafting, compiling and processing papers and finalizing this issue of Journal is thankfully acknowledged.

Dr. Wally N'Dow
Assistant Secretary-General
UNCHS (Habitat)

A woman preparing concrete mix for producing FCR tiles - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund

Kenya: Koma Rock Housing Project in Nairobi*

* This is an edited and summarized version of an unpublished report prepared by Dr. Jill Wells. Reader and Director of Research. School of Construction Economics and Management. South Bank University. London, United Kingdom.


Koma Rock is a large, public sector housing estate which is located on the eastern outskirts of Nairobi. The project is of interest for a number of reasons. Most important is the fact that it is the largest known commercial housing project to date where natural fibre-concrete roof tiles (FCR) have been specified for the roofing.

Natural fibre concrete roofing tiles (sometimes known as sisal cement tiles) are a relatively new material produced by an "intermediate" type of technology. Although the technology was originally developed in order to provide a low-cost roofing material for use by the poor, and may eventually succeed in this aim, attempts to introduce new materials into the low-cost housing market have generally not been very successful. There is, in fact, increasing evidence to indicate that the poor will not buy new building materials unless they are first tried and tested by those more able to take the risk. That means the richer individual members of the society and the institutional building clients.

The specification of fibre-concrete tiles on a major, high-profile, public sector housing project such as Koma Rock is, therefore, of particular significance. If the product performs satisfactorily, confidence in the material should develop and more potential clients be encouraged to buy. Publicity from the project could also have a catalytic effect on the market for fibre concrete tiles, both in Kenya and outside. The Koma Rock housing project, therefore, represents a major landmark in the dissemination of fibre-concrete tile technology.

As such, the project has already received considerable attention and several brief reports and articles have been written. However, the project has not yet been studied objectively and systematically with a view to drawing out essential lessons for the guidance of others attempting to disseminate the technology through formal sector building programmes.

The present study, therefore, has two major aims. The first is simply to document in detail the way in which the project was implemented, the problems encountered and how they were overcome. The second is to assess the achievements and limitations of the project, in order to pass on any lessons that may be learned. A detailed account of project implementation will be found in Part I of the report and the evaluation of the project is given in Part II.

Specific objectives for evaluation include:

(i) the constraints to the introduction of new and labour-intensive technologies in institutional housing projects;

(ii) the broad social and economic benefits to be gained from the wider use of FCR tiles as an alternative roofing material;

(iii) the impact of the project upon the development of the market for FCR tiles in Kenya.

The major part of the data for the study was collected through structured interviews with all of the major participants in the Koma Rock Project. The interviews took place during a two-week visit to Kenya in February 1992, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Additional help was provided by the Swiss Centre for Appropriate Technology (SKAT). The support of these two organizations is, therefore, thankfully acknowledged.

Houses at Koma Rock covered with FCR - Courtesy ITW, Nairobi



Fibre-Concrete Roofing (FCR) Tiles

The most common roofing material in use in developing countries is the galvanized, corrugated iron (GCI) roofing sheet. Some countries also produce asbestos cement roofing sheets. Both of these materials are manufactured in large scale plants, using capital intensive technologies and in most countries, a significant proportion of the inputs (materials, fuel, technology) have to be imported. The need for a cheaper substitute material for roofing which requires less resources and foreign-exchange and can be produced on a small scale, using labour-intensive techniques, has been felt for a long time.

For more than a decade many countries have been experimenting the use of natural fibres (sisal, jute etc.) to replace asbestos in the production of corrugated roofing sheers. These experiments have not been very successful. Although natural fibre concrete roofing sheers can be made without any significant investment in equipment, the sheets are extremely brittle, difficult to transport and susceptible to even slight imperfections in the roof structure. In addition, the natural fibres soon decay in the alkalinity of the cement.

In an attempt to overcome these problems, extensive research and development work was undertaken in the early 1980s by JPM Parry of Intermediate Technology Workshops (ITW), a private company based in Cradley Heath, The United Kingdom, in close association with their workshop at Karen in Nairobi. The sheet technology was scaled down, long fibres replaced by short chopped fibre, and a simple process of electric vibration introduced. The final result was the fibre-concrete roofing (FCR) tile, a 6 mm thick pantile consisting of a mixture of ordinary Portland cement, sand and a small amount of chopped sisal fibre. By 1984, ITW Karen had begun to produce FCR tiles for sale on the open market in Kenya, as well as serving as a training centre for tile technology; while ITW Cradley Heath began the production and export of tile-making machines (small electric vibrators) and plastic moulds.

FCR tiles ready to be cured - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund Nairobi.

The suitability of FCR tile technology for small business development, as well as its potential to generate employment and save on foreign exchange, was soon recognized by the aid community - not least in Kenya. In the mid 1980s the appropriate technology unit of the charity 'Action Aid' purchased Parry equipment and began training youth groups in the production of FCR tiles. The tiles were produced under the supervision of Action Aid's field staff and mainly used on Action Aid's own school buildings in the rural areas (i.e. a 'captive market'). Some attempt was also made to sell tiles on the open market, but with limited success. A few of the youth groups did, however, eventually succeed in establishing themselves as independent producers, selling tiles to the public at large. Action Aid has also been instrumental in promoting the local production of tile-making machinery and equipment (concrete moulds). For more details on Action Aid as Kenya's efforts in developing FCR technology refer to UNCHS (Habitat) Journal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies, Volume 2 Number 3, August 1993, page 9-21.

Following a slightly different approach from Action Aid, the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) in 1985 launched a programme for the 'accelerated dissemination of FCR tile technology in Kenya'. The aim of the programme was to disseminate the technology as widely as possible throughout Kenya, focusing particularly on the rural areas. Dissemination was to take place through normal commercial channels. The vehicle for dissemination was the small-scale entrepreneur, who was offered assistance in the form of technical and business training, and helped in obtaining access to credit. The programme was undertaken in collaboration with ITW (Kenya) who provided the technical training at their workshop in Karen. The project was partially successful in so far as it succeeded in 'transferring the technology' to a small number of private producers; but it was never funded to completion. When the project was evaluated in 1987 it was clear that the expansion and proliferation of small tile-making businesses (in some instances even their survival) was being seriously constrained by the failure to develop a significant market for FCR tiles.

Studies of the marketing problems faced by small, independent, tile producers, in Kenya and elsewhere highlighted a number of factors. Most significant in Kenya is the fact that FCR tiles are not cheaper than 28 gauge GCI sheets, their main competitor -although they are cheaper than all other types of roofing material. There are also a large number of alternative roofing materials available in Kenya (clay tiles, conventional concrete tiles, asbestos tiles etc.). To carve out a market share for FCR tiles, in competition with established producers, clearly requires a lot of effort and probably more money than the small tile-producers possess.

Testing the trial production of FCR - Courtesy ITW, Nairobi

A further problem is created by the fact that the FCR tile is a new product. The conservative nature of the market for building materials in general, and roofing materials in particular, is legendary. And such conservatism is not without justification. Nobody will buy a new roofing material unless they are absolutely certain that it will keep out the rain and last for a minimum number of years. Individual Householders, especially those on low incomes, are probably least able to take such a risk. It may, therefore, be argued that a new product such as FCR tiles should be introduced first on an institutional housing project. If the product performs satisfactorily, confidence in the material will be developed. If in addition the project is high-profile and highly visible, then a certain amount of free advertisement will also be generated, which could have a catalytic effect upon the development of the market for tiles. Koma Rock is such a project.

The Koma Rock Project

Koma Rock is destined to be a huge housing estate situated on the eastern outskirts of Nairobi, some 18 kms. from the city centre. It is planned eventually to construct up to 10,000 houses on the site, in a number of phases. The financier of the project is the Housing Finance Company of Kenya (HFCK), which is owned 40 per cent by the Government of Kenya (GOK) and 40 per cent by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC); the final 20 per cent is now being floated to the general public. The client/developer is the Kenya Building Society (KBS). Hence this is essentially a 'public sector' housing project, with large element of external finance. Both factors ensure that it is 'high profile'.

Phase I of the project, consisting of 1750 houses, was begun in 1988 and completed in April 1990. An additional 38 'in-fill' houses were added in 1991. At the time of writing this report (August 1992) work is underway on a further 240 houses, to be financed out of money saved (due to devaluation etc.) on phase one. Thus in the first phase of the project over 2,000 houses will have been built.

The houses are built for sale to the general public, with the target market being the lower and middle-income groups. This is the first time that the KBS has attempted to reach this market, hence a deliberate attempt was made at the design stage to keep down the construction costs. The houses are built to a variety of designs (detached, semi-detached, terraced) of one or two storeys. The walls are of concrete block or locally quarried stone. Two hundred and fifty of the houses are roofed with asbestos cement sheets; the remaining 1750 have roofs of red FCR pantiles.

To roof 1750 houses with FCR tiles requires the production of 1.2 million tiles. Yet this is a small-scale, labour-intensive technology. The average tile producer with one vibrator can make 300 tiles per day in one eight hour shift. To produce tiles at the required rate (for completion in 14 months) would therefore necessitate the full-time involvement of at least 12 small producers. But in 1988 there were not 12 FCR tile producers in the Nairobi area. In specifying FCR tiles for such a large project, it would seem that the architects were taking a very great risk.

The degree of risk would appear to be compounded by the fact that, although by 1988 a specification for FCR tiles had been drafted by the Kenyan Bureau of Standards, this was not yet on the statute book. The use of FCR tiles in the 'scheduled areas' of Nairobi could therefore be interpreted as illegal. Previous attempts to introduce the tiles in the city had met with strong resistance from the Nairobi City Commission.

There is also the problem of quality control. Being essentially a hand-made product, FCR tiles are particularly subject to variations in quality. The production process consists of a number of stages - mixing, vibrating, moulding, curing. Failure to strictly adhere to the 'ideal' procedure at each stage (e.g. failure to clean the moulds, having too wet a mix, placing the wet tile incorrectly on the mould, inadequate curing etc.) can result in the production of faulty tiles. The only sure way to prevent the use of sub-standard tiles in construction is to test each and every tile. Hence the testing of 1.2 million tiles had somehow to be accommodated in the procedures for implementing the project.

The Contractual Arrangements

The design and construction of the initial 1750 houses was divided into two separate groups of contracts. One thousand two hundred and three houses were designed by a Kenyan firm of architects; the contract for construction of these houses was given by competitive tender, to a local constructing firm. A further 547 houses were designed by a European owned firm based in Nairobi, and the contract for construction was given to another local contractor. Both contractors are large local firms.

On both contracts ITW-Kenya were the nominated subcontractors for the supply and fixing of the roofing. In order to undertake the contract ITW was transformed from a partnership to a private limited company, registered in Kenya. The total tender value of roofs completed by the end of 1991 was almost 19 million Kenyan Shillings. Due to increase in the price of cement (for which a fluctuation clause was operative) the final contract sum was approximately 23 million Kenyan Shillings.

A 10 per cent retention was enforced on the contract and a six months defects liability period. In addition, a 10 per cent bond was required on the total contract, a part of which should have been paid by the roofing subcontractor. Hence the contractual arrangements were such as to pass on to the nominated subcontractor for the roofing (ITW) a significant share of the risk involved in the use of a non-conventional roofing material.

Implementation of the Contract

The subcontract for the roofing was signed by ITW on 7 February 1989 and completed on schedule in April 1990. Thus, 1.2 million tiles were made, tested for quality and fixed in place in a period of just 14 months - a production rate of 35 roofs per week, or 3 to 4000 tiles per day. How did they do it?

Crucial to an understanding of this project is recognition of the fact that ITW did not make any tiles for Koma Rock themselves, despite having significant production capacity at their workshop in Karen. All tile production was subcontracted. The biggest subcontractor was the Humama Women's Group from Mathare Valley (see below) who produced 75 per cent of the tiles (approximately 800,000 tiles). The rest were produced by six small private producers (approximately 100,000 tiles each) - some of whom were established under the ITDG programme mentioned above. The producers were paid for each tile that was accepted, but nothing for the 20 per cent (on average) that were rejected. Hence the risk of losses from poor quality production was passed on to the tile producers. This approach also forced the producers to be more careful during the production process and adhere to specifications and instructions for tile production.

An aerial view of the phase I of the Koma Rock Housing Project - Courtesy ITW, Nairobi

All tiles were made on the site at Koma Rock. There were a number of reasons for this decision. First, to avoid transport costs, as well as additional costs involved in breakages during transport. Secondly, to avoid the payment of sales tax (now called VAT) on the product. (At the time sales tax was 17.5 per cent, but construction products made on site are exempt). Thirdly to secure a closer control over the production process and the quality of the tiles.

In order to set up tile production on the site, ITW invested a considerable amount in the construction of infrastructure - a large production shed, water-supply tank, power supply, curing tanks and racks for the storage and inspection of the tiles. They also purchased raw materials (cement, sand and sisal) and a vehicle to deliver the materials to the site in bulk. ITW estimate the total capital required 'up-front' (investment plus working capital) to get production started to be about 2 million Kenyan Shillings. This sum was borrowed from a local bank, based on security in the United Kingdom and Kenya.

One month after the necessary infrastructure was in place, tile producers moved their equipment onto the site and began production. They were given the option of purchasing raw materials from ITW and all opted to do this. The cost of the raw materials, plus a small mark-up, was deducted from the monthly payments for accepted tiles. Tiles were produced in bays, and each producer had an identifying mark on his/her tiles, so that they could be traced back to producer groups. Four inspectors worked full-time on the testing of tiles. All tiles were tested for geometrical fit (with a wooden template) and surface defects. Ten tiles from each batch of 200 were tested for strength and porosity, after 14 days curing. The best producers managed to get 90 per cent of their tiles accepted, but some only reached 70 per cent. On average, 20 per cent of the tiles were rejected. Rejected tiles remained the property of the producers.

The roofs were constructed in the order of rafters, battens, bulk fixing of the tiles, finishes. There was one general foreman in charge of roof construction, plus one other foreman on each of the two sites. The foremen had been trained by ITW and worked with them for many years. They in turn trained the men on site. Carpenters were used for the battens and 'casuals' for the tile fixing.

Although there was a 'clerk of works' on the site, he apparently had little to do with the roof construction. The architects rarely appeared. Hence ITW were solely responsible for the quality of the completed roofs, under the conditions of the contract.

Humama Women's Group

Humama Women's Group, responsible for 75 per cent of the tiles production, is essentially a self-help group of women from the Mathare Valley, one of Nairobi's oldest squatter settlements. The group was farmed from the merger of four smaller womens groups, known as Heri, Upendo, Mako and Machuma, the initials of the smaller groups being taken to make the name Humama. The group has 240 members, all of whom are women and many of them single mothers. Most have been the victims of periodic eviction from their homes. The provision of permanent and secure shelter for the members is therefore the primary objective of the group.

Humama were assisted to form a cohesive and committed group by the social services staff of the Undugu society (a Nairobi based charity society). In a search for income earning opportunities, the leaders of the group approached the African Housing Fund (AHF) of Shelter Afrique with a view to obtaining a loan to enable them to purchase equipment and set up an FCR tile-making factory. AHF were sympathetic. A loan was secured, for equipment and working capital, of 1.3 million shillings, repayable over 54 months at 5 per cent per annum; and help offered to secure a permanent plot of land for the women to set up their tile production plant and eventually build their own homes. AHF in turn approached ITW who agreed to subcontract the supply of tiles for the Koma Rock project to Humama, as well as to provide technical training in tile making for some of the women. Ten women subsequently attended training courses at ITW workshop in Karen. Others attended business training courses; and Technoserve (a non-profitable, non-governmental organization) was employed to provide management services to the group, with the aim of eventually developing it into a self-managed, self-supporting company.

Parry equipment was purchased on behalf of Humama - 9 electric vibrating tables and a total of 4,200 moulds, costing approximately 800,000 Kenyan Shillings. According to the AHF, Parry moulds were chosen in preference to locally-made concrete moulds (which are much cheaper) because they are easier for the women to handle. AHF also maintained that they bought the moulds at a good price, and were exempted from the payment of import duties. In this respect, as well as in the terms and conditions of the loan, and the extent of 'technical assistance' provided, it is clear that Humama were heavily subsidized.

For the duration of the contract, 85 of the 240 members were employed on-site milking tiles, 48 of them living on the site with their families in houses constructed by AHF. The women were divided into nine groups of five, corresponding to the number of tile-making machines. According to Humama, the production of tiles was at first slow, and there were many rejects. According to ITW, it was anarchic. But eventually some order was brought about by the employment of a technically-trained manager and supervisor, and the rate of output was doubled by the introduction of a second shift.

Humama women's group producing FCR tiles - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund, Nairobi

A women putting fresh FCR tile on the mould - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund, Nairobi

The number of rejected tiles also declined somewhat, although generally remaining around 20 per cent. For much of the contract, each group of five women produced 230 tiles in one five-hour shift.

The women were paid according to their output, with most receiving 35 Kenyan Shillings per day. Office workers received 65 Kenyan Shillings per day and supervisors 55 Kenyan Shillings. The group as a whole made profits of around 30,000 Kenyan Shillings per month when there were no rejects; but profits were only 20,000 or 15,000 when the number of rejects was high. Rejected tiles (of which there were around 200,000) have since been graded and priced according to the severity of the defects. Some have been sold to the public.

It was anticipated at the start of the project that during Phase I profits of approximately 400,000 Kenyan Shillings would be generated, which would be applied to the group's housing fund. Loans repaid were also to be re-circulated and applied to the housing fund, which would be used to make housing loans to individual members, repayable over 5 years at zero interest. If the same level of profits could be generated in Phase II (assuming that it went ahead and Humama got the contract) then it was predicted that all 240 members of the group would be housed within 4 years.

It was probably not anticipated, however, that at the end of Phase I tile production would come to an abrupt halt; or that the land which had been promised to them would never materialize. Without any land of their own upon which they could continue producing tiles, the women were left with no source of income and nowhere to live. Although they did succeed in generating profits during phase I (probably around 400,000 Kenyan Shillings) and still have money in the bank, they have not been able to pay back more than a small percentage of the loan to the AHF, and hence do not own the tile-making equipment. When visited, the women were earning a small income from the production of candles and 'tile-dye' material. Repayment of the loan had ceased, pending the resumption of die production.

The Next Phase - 240 Houses

The 240 additional houses to be built from savings in Phase I are to be built again by the main contractor. On this contract, however, the main contractor is responsible for letting the subcontract for the roofing (i.e. a domestic as opposed to nominated subcontract). ITW were asked to price the roofing at tender stage and subsequently negotiated the subcontract with the main contractor.

It is believed that the Humama women have been given a subcontract for the supply of the majority of the tiles for this extension to Phase I.

Lessons from Phase I

Phase I of the Koma Rock Project was not overall an unmitigated success. Some of the problems related to the roofing. The project manager and the architects were not very happy with the inconsistency in the colour of the tiles. In addition, the fact that the tiles are very thin and cannot be walked upon was seen as a potential problem when tiles needed replacing. The most common complaint from the residents, on the other hand, was that daylight could be seen through the tiles, which they found somewhat unnerving; many chose to overcome this problem by the addition of a ceiling.

There were also reports of leakages during the early days after completion, particularly around the chimneys. These difficulties appear to have been resolved. These criticisms of the roofing have, however, to be seen in the context of much bigger problems in the conception, planning and implementation of the project as a whole. It is necessary to briefly outline the major points in order to understand the changes that are likely to be made in Phase II.

It was originally intended that the houses constructed under Phase I would be targeted at the lower and middle-income earners in Nairobi. The initial estimate of monthly repayments on the cheapest house was 1400 Kenyan Shillings. But by the time the houses were completed, this figure had risen to 3045 Kenyan Shillings. It is suggested that the increased construction cost resulted from higher prices paid for materials and fuel (resulting from de-regulation and devaluation) together with increased interest charges. The net effect was that the completed houses could no longer be afforded by the targeted section of the market; and those that could afford them didn't like them. Long delays in selling the houses further increased the interest charges.

A report commissioned by the client to test user reaction to Phase I and user expectations for Phase II drew attention to the problem of trying to sell what were in effect middle-income houses, to high-income owners. One of the consequences has been a high degree of absentee landlords, as better-off purchasers with no wish to live in the area sublet to tenants. That they are able to do this at monthly rentals above the level of loan repayment is an indication of the sever shortage of housing in Nairobi. That it is apparently easier to let an entire unit than individual rooms, reflects the fact that the units at Koma Rock are not designed for sub-letting on a room-by-room basis (the usual way for lower-income earners to afford the loan repayments). An estimated 50 to 70 per cent of the houses built under Phase I are now lived in by tenants.

The report, prepared by a housing economist also drew attention to what is happening in the Kayole site and service scheme, a private development adjacent to the Koma Rock site. In February 1991, houses were being constructed at Kayole at less than 50 per cent of the cost of the houses at Koma Rock. At that time, a four roomed-house at Koma Rock cost 450,000 Kenyan Shillings, while a standard seven-roomed unit at Kayole cost 125,500 Kenyan Shillings. Although the Kayole houses might have a slightly lower level of finishes, they are built of permanent materials (stone, with GCI or concrete tile roofs) and to a design that allows for easy sub-letting of rooms. The small African contractors working on site estimated that a greatly improved four-roomed unit could be build for the same price.

The monthly repayment on such would be only a small fraction of that on a Koma Rock house. If additional income were earned from the renting of rooms, such a house would be affordable by even the low-income families.

Phase II

In the light of these criticisms, there appears to have been much soul-searching about how to proceed in Phase II. It would seem that a number of ideas have been considered, including the idea of multi-family housing, which was reportedly rejected by CDC on the grounds that it is not 'mortgageable'.

Both project manager and architect have changed for Phase II. An interview with the new architect in February 1992 revealed that houses built in Phase II will be larger and the cost should be lower. FCR tiles are again specified for the roofing. They will, however, be 8 mm or 10 mm thick and there will be a hardboard sheet placed above the rafters and underneath the battens (presumably as an alternative to a ceiling). The architects feel that these slight modifications should serve to overcome consumer fears regarding the fragility and the fit of the tiles.

The houses will be built in a staggered fashion in Phase II, so that only 20 houses will be handed over each month. The motivation behind this decision appears to be mainly to ease the selling problem and avoid having capital tied up in completed houses. The fact that it also affords the possibility of using smaller contractors and smaller tile producers (hence perhaps further cutting down on costs and opening up opportunities for indigenous firms) seems to have been overlooked. Or if it has been considered it appears to have been rejected. The contractual arrangements for Phase II are very likely to be much the same as for Phase I.



With Phase I of the Koma Rock Project satisfactorily completed, it is time to take stock. Evaluation of the achievements of the project, and the lessons learned, will be focused around three issues:

(i) what were the problems that were encountered (or could be encountered) in introducing an innovative form of roofing into a large, public-sector housing project, and how could such problems be overcome;

(ii) what are the benefits and costs of introducing and using this technology, as opposed to the alternatives; and

(iii) what effect has the project had on the market for FCR tiles. Each of these issues will be examined in turn in this part of the paper.

Problems Encountered in Execution of the Contract

Byelaws and Regulations

Nairobi is a city notorious for the strict implementation of planning regulations and byelaws, particularly, on high profile, public-sector projects. Building materials and products for which official standards do not exist are not allowed in the 'scheduled' areas of the city, even in the special scheduled areas (including East Nairobi) where lower standards are permitted. The specification of FCR tiles for such a large and visible project as Koma Rock might, therefore, be expected to be rejected.

Past attempts to build with FCR tiles, in Nairobi and other cities in Kenya, have in fact been met with some difficulties. When the possibility of using FCR tiles was suggested for Umoja II (a USAID funded site and service scheme) many objections were raised ranging from the fear that sufficient tiles could not be produced in time, to concerns over the tiles being broken by children playing with balls, etc.

A women screeding the mortar on vibrating machine - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund, Nairobi

On this occasion, however, the project manager and the architects were confident that there were no problems with the specification of FCR tiles. It was pointed out that concrete tiles are already accepted, and FCR tiles are only a form of concrete tile. Also Koma Rock is in a schedule II area - where lower standards are permissable; unpainted GCI sheets are frowned upon, but there was no objection to FCR tiles.

Behind these apparent contradictions, the truth would seem to be that the potential barrier presented by inappropriate and outdated building regulations and byelaws had been already overcome by the time of Koma Rock. The existence of a draft standard for the tiles was obviously an important milestone in the process. The lack of resistance to the use of tiles at Koma Rock may therefore be interpreted as a victory for the efforts of all those who have been actively campaigning for many years, for the development of a standard and recognition of the product, both in Kenya and elsewhere.

Some of those campaigners were in fact major 'players' in the Koma Rock Project. It is worth noting that the two original architects for the project, as well as the project manager and the financier (and of course the roofing subcontractor) were all in favour of using FCR tiles. The specification of FCR tiles on a major project had been talked about for almost five years before it came to fruition.

The lesson for other countries is that it is possible to get an FCR standard adopted and planning byelaws changed. The adoption of a standard, however, should be regarded as a necessary but not a sufficient precondition for acceptance of a new material. It is also essential to persuade the architects, clients and financiers of projects, as well as those responsible for the enforcement of building regulations, of the credibility of the product. This process may take a long time.

Contractual Arrangements

The risk involved in specifying FCR tiles on such a large project have already been noted. In this instance, the architects were happy to do so, safe in the knowledge that

(i) they could pass on the risk, through normal contractual channels, to a nominated subcontractor: and

(ii) that a company willing to accept the risk, and able to meet the commitments already existed in Nairobi.

ITW maintain that they encountered no major problems in implementing the contract. As with all building projects, there were of course some minor technical problems, for example with the ridges; the leading around of the chimneys; and generally in coping with the rather complicated (perhaps unnecessarily complicated) roof design. There was also some disagreement with the main contractor regarding the delineation of responsibility for the supply of water and power to the die producers. And there were inevitably some anxious moments regarding the ability of the Humama women to deliver the required quantity of tiles on time. But none of the problems proved indictable; and the contract was delivered ahead of schedule.

The easy acceptance (in hindsight) of the responsibility for delivering the roofing is perhaps an indication of the professional and technical competence of ITW, and its willingness to promote the use of FCR in Kenya. It is perhaps interesting to speculate on what might have happened if a firm such as ITW, able and willing to coordinate the activities of small tile producers in the informal sector, did not exist. Would FCR tiles have been specified for 1750 houses? If so, what problems might have been encountered in the process of delivery.

There are now a number of small entrepreneurs in Kenya who can produce good tiles (even on inferior equipment); most of them also have the skills to construct roofs and fix tiles. But they clearly do not have the managerial skills required to set up and run a contract on the scale of Koma Rock. Neither do they have access to the level of finance needed to get such a contract up and running.

The kind of problem faced by small entrepreneurs in undertaking building contracts of even moderate size in the formal sector is well illustrated. When the contract for the additional 38 'in-fill' houses was about to be let, a new contractor approached the architect and asked for the opportunity to tender. He was subsequently awarded a contract for the construction of the roofing on 7 of the 38 houses. This involved the production of 6,500 tiles of 10 mm thickness as well as a large number of battens. To mobilize resources and start production, there was a need of a working capital in the order of 90,000 Kenyan Shillings. This is a large sum of money for a small entrepreneur to raise. He ruled out the possibility of approaching the commercial banks because of the bureaucracy involved and the fact that they would undoubtedly require collateral. Instead he borrowed from three of his friends. With one of them he was able to exchange tiles for battens, but the others charged high rates of interest, reflecting the high level of risk involved. The houses were eventually completed to the full satisfaction of the architect - who in fact wrote a letter to say how pleased he was with the work. But interest rates of 25 per cent virtually wiped out any profit on the contract.

Small producers clearly need access to working capital, in order to finance tile production in advance of payment and build up some stocks. This is particularly important if they are to compete for supply and fix contracts in the formal building market where payment is always deferred, sometimes for many months. In addition, they probably need to join together and jointly market their skills, in order to be in a position to tender for larger contracts. FCR die producers in Kenya are in fact now attempting to do this through their newly formed association "Ficropak". On a cooperative basis they could perhaps undertake a contract for 20 houses at a time.

The implications for the architects and other professionals of implementing a project such as Koma Rock through small contractors are quite clear. If a firm such as ITW were not around to coordinate the activities of the informal sector, the professionals would have to reach out and do so themselves. They would first have to know of the existence of the small producers; they would then have to find out about their capabilities, and be prepared to slice the contract into packages that the small producers can handle. Clearly more work is involved in the administration of 85 contracts for 20 houses, than one large contract for 1700. Also, there is probably a grater risk that small contractors might default, and a greater need to provide them with some advanced 'mobilisation' payment. The additional work and additional risk involved would probably deter all but the most determined - unless some compensation were allowed for in the fee-scale.

Nevertheless, it is important for the future growth and development of FCR tile producers that they have a chance to tender in their own right for the supply and fixing of FCR tile roofing. The successful completion of such contracts would give them greater confidence in their own abilities, inspire confidence among building industry clients and the public at large, and above all provide them with the opportunity to accumulate much needed capital for the expansion of their businesses.

Costs and Benefits from FCR Tile Production

The decision to specify FCR tiles on Phase I of Koma Rock was justified on the grounds that 6 mm FCR tiles were cheapest acceptable form of roofing available. The only cheaper alternative, GCI sheets, was not seriously considered, as they are not acceptable for use in the scheduled areas of the city.

Since the start of Phase I, the combined effect of the de-regulation of cement prices and the devaluation of the shilling has led to a steep increase in the price of cement (plus 70 per cent since 1989), with a consequent increase in the price of FCR tiles. However, other roofing materials have also been affected by inflationary forces (with the possible exception of clay tiles) so that price differentials between alternative materials have not changed a great deal. The fable below shows the estimated cost of the various alternatives in February 1992. It can be seen that the cheapest form of roofing material is still 32 or 30 gauge GCI sheets (both of which are very thin). But the second cheapest is FCR tiles. Eight mm FCR tiles cost about the same as 28 gauge GCI sheets, but less than clay tiles and significantly less than conventional concrete tiles.

Preparing sand for the mortar - Courtesy Africa Housing Fund, Nairobi

Table 1. Cost comparisons for roofing - Nairobi, February 1992



Timber Structure



Total Cost


FCR Tiles





6 mm





8 mm





10 mm


Marena Concrete tiles






Manson Hart Concrete tiles






Clay Tiles



























Note: All prices in Kenyan Shillings per square metre

Source: Solomon Mwangi, Nairobi

FCR tiles can, of course, he made even more cheaper. If the colouring is omitted, one per tile can be saved, bringing the costs of plain 6 mm tiles below those of 30 gauge GCI sheets. FCR tiles also have other advantages over sheets. They should last longer than 30 gauge GCI (especially in humid climates), reducing the life cycle costs. They also have better thermal insulation properties and are much quieter in the rain - although these advantages are not necessarily always recognized by the consumer.

However, on a large formal sector project such as Koma Rock, the savings on construction costs by the use of FCR tiles ;ire perhaps not of great significance, the roofing being only a very small percentage of the total costs of the project. More important is the re-distribution of benefits that can be achieved by the use of a small-scale, labour-intensive technology.

Benefits are realized in the form of profits and wages. On Koma Rock, profits that would otherwise have gone to the large-scale roofing manufactures (many of them branches of multi-nationals) and possibly channelled out of the country, were diverted to small local firms, and reinvested in the local economy. The Humama women claim to have made 400.000 Kenyan Shillings profit on Phase 1: although if the full cost of equipment were charged against the project they would certainly have made a loss. Six other small tile producers probably made around 50.000 Kenyan Shillings each (which again does not allow for depreciation costs of equipment).

In terms of employment, some 80 women and probably around 40 men were employed making tiles on a full-time basis for over a year. These were high quality jobs that would not otherwise have been created. At an average wage of 40 shillings per day, these 120 people collectively received around 2 million Kenyan Shillings, during the 14 months of the contract. The use of any alternative type of roofing material, all of which are made by capital-intensive techniques, would have generated few jobs, whilst imposing a heavy demand upon foreign-exchange resources. Some 70 per cent of the cost of GCI sheets is in imported inputs. The import content of FCR tiles is estimated at less than 20 per cent, the most important element of which is the cost of the colouring.

On the other side of the balance sheet a certain amount of technical assistance has been provided in Kenya over the years for (he development of tile-making skills, which should strictly speaking be costed against the benefits derived. The Humama group in particular was heavily subsidized, with the provision of training, supervision and management as well as relatively expensive imported equipment. If the 1.3 million invested in equipment alone were to he deducted from the wages and profits paid, the net benefit from the project would certainly be negative. If Koma Rock (Phase I) were to turn out to be a 'one-off' event, the cost per (temporary) work-place created for Humama women would in fact be very high.

The costs and benefits of investment in technical assistance should, however, be evaluated over me long-term. The investment in training and the establishment of FCR tile production capacity was made on the assumption that Phase I of Koma Rock would be followed by Phase II, and by other housing projects in Nairobi, both large and small - creating an expanding market for FCR tiles. Not only Humama but other womens' groups have been established as tile producers in anticipation of this event. The prospects of this now happening will be investigated below.

Market Prospects/or FCR Tiles

There is little doubt that the market for FCR tiles did not 'take-off as anticipated as a result of the publicity afforded to the product during Phase I.

We have already seen that the Humama women ceased production at the end of the project. Although this is mainly because they do not have any permanent site of their own, the lack of a market outlet was clearly also a problem; and the women still had large numbers of rejected tiles in stock, which had to be sold before producing new ones. The same applies to the other private producers. Wacira Gathigo from Athi River was five months without an order, during which time he continued to pay two of his workers, so as not to lose them. After five months he obtained a contract in remote Loitoktok, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro on the Tanzanian border, and hence became an 'itinerant' tile maker. While some of the other producers at Koma Rock have had slightly better luck, the general picture during the past two years has been one of stagnant sales. Few are able to earn a living from tile production. Even ITW, the longest established producer has failed to increase the sale of tiles, and is now relying on water tanks for the major part of its turnover.

The initial response to the tiles was not overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The inconsistent colour and lack of a smooth finish gave concern to the client and architects. Whilst the owners and tenants of the houses were worried by the fragility of the tiles and the fact that daylight could be seen through them. There were also complaints of leakages, which does nothing to engender confidence in the tiles (even if the tiles were not at fault). These problems will hopefully be overcome in Phase II by the use of 8 mm or 10 mm tiles, the insertion of a hardboard sheet, and a more appropriate roof design. The use of interlocking, or "Roman' tiles, is believed to have also been considered, but rejected. Hence, on Phase II of Koma Rock the tiles will be given a second chance. They will probably also be used on a number of smaller KBS housing projects in some of the other towns in Kenya.

It seems unlikely, however, that FCR tiles will be specified on the large BAT housing estate soon to commence in another part of Nairobi. There is also no evidence of the use of FCR tiles on the many other private housing estates, both large and small, currently under construction. Although the Kayole Mungano Womens' Group (also supported by the AHF) maintain that they have sold tiles to developers in Kayole site and services scheme across the road, the roofs of the multi-storey houses constructed there appear to be mainly of conventional concrete tiles; while the single storey houses use GCI sheets, inward sloping into an interior courtyard.

FCR tiles are clearly not suited to all types of urban construction. Also, speculative housing developers may not be very interested in lowering costs through the specification of a slightly 'inferior' tile if such action were to lower the sale or rental value of the house - at least while there is still a serious shortage of high income housing. But nonetheless it would seem that there should still be a some kind of potential market for FCR tiles in private housing estates.

Analysis of the sales made by private producers in fact reveals that most of their tiles have to date been sold to individual, middle income families building their own houses, in the rural or peri-urban areas. Most Kenyans aspire to build a permanent house once in their lifetime; and although many seem not to mind living under a 'tin' roof, when it comes to home ownership, red tiles are preferred. Information on the total size of this market is not available, but in Nairobi at least it must be substantial, even in the current recession. Although some sales have been made, clearly only a very small percentage of the potential number of private customers are currently buying FCR tiles.

In other regions, FCR tiles cannot be sold easily because people are too poor to buy them, but in Nairobi that is clearly not the case. If a market for roofing tiles exists, but FCR is not getting a share of it, then it is perhaps be because the product is not appropriate to consumer needs. After all, if there is a market for a thinner and cheaper red tile, it would be reasonable to expect the existing large-scale producers to exploit it. On the other hand, it could simply be that not enough effort has been put into marketing the product. It may be that the former is the case; but the latter is equally probable.

The smaller producers are faced with the problems of lack of funds for advertisement. The placing of even a small advertisement in the national press is very expensive. Yet regular advertising would serve two functions - alerting potential customers to the existence and location of the tile producers, and persuading them of the credibility and value of the product. Producers of the roofing materials advertise regularly on television and radio, and in the daily press. If FCR tile producers are to gain a bigger share of the market they have to do the same. They have also to make direct approaches to architects and clients - something that is not easy for a small entrepreneur to do.

Before advertising, however, it is clearly necessary for producers to have a stock of tiles, so that potential customers can buy off the shelf. In view of the fact that FCR tiles take several weeks to cure before they can be used, significant amounts of working capital are required to build up stocks. Most of the small FCR tile producers in Kenya in fact cite a lack of access to capital as the major constraint to an expansion of sales and development of their business.

In an attempt to solve these problems, a number of small producers have recently come together to form an association, known as the Fibre-Concrete Producers Association of Kenya (Ficropak). High among its list of objectives are joint advertising and the mobilization of a revolving fund for the provision of working capital. The association is still very young, however, and faces a number of difficulties. It relies for funding upon subscriptions from members, only 16 of whom have paid up. Hence in current circumstances, subscriptions are insufficient to finance even a pan-time secretary, let alone provide working capital or pay for advertisements in the press. Nevertheless, the formation of Ficropak is a promising development and worthy of support.

It would seem that the time is now ripe for a serious marketing campaign for the promotion of FCR tiles in Kenya. The use of FCR tiles on the Koma Rock Estate has proved that Hie tiles have sufficient credibility to be sold to a large and public customer. A draft standard has been formulated and there are a number of serious entrepreneurs with the capacity and ability to make good quality tiles. What is urgently needed is some financial assistance, perhaps to be channelled through Ficropak, for launching such a campaign, directed at both estate developers and private householders.

It is of course possible that even a major marketing exercise will not succeed in significantly expanding the market for FCR tiles in Kenya. But in view of the time and money already invested in transferring the technology, and the substantial surplus tile-making capacity that now exists, it would seem short-sighted not to make the attempt.

Two story buildings covered with FCR - Courtesy ITW, Nairobi


The research findings may be summarized as follows:

Institutional and Contractual Constraints

There appear to have been no 'institutional' type barriers to the use of FCR tiles at Koma Rock. It would seem that the potential barrier presented by inappropriate bye-laws and regulations had been overcome by the time the project was launched. The existence of a draft Kenyan Standard for FCR tiles was clearly an important milestone in the legitimization of the technology.

In terms of contractual constraints, the considerable risks inherent in specifying a new and labour-intensive technology on a large project were, in this instance, not a problem for the architect. They were simply passed on to the nominated roofing subcontractor. The completion of the roofing contract (on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the architects) owed much to the managerial and technical competence of ITW, as well as their ability to raise the necessary finance.

In most situations the specification of FCR tiles on a major building project such as Koma Rock would of necessity involve the architects (or project managers) in considerably more work, and place them at considerable risk. For they would have to coordinate the output and activities of a large number of small-tile producers - probably involving the slicing of the project into many small packages. They would also have to assume the responsibility for quality control of something like 1.2 million essentially hand-made tiles. In addition, small producers may well require advance payment, or other means of access to working capital, in order to mobilize resources. Recognition of these factors and willingness to accommodate them in contractual arrangements is essential if FCR tiles are to be widely specified in formal building projects.

Benefits from the Specification of FCR Tiles

FCR tiles were specified on the Koma Rock Project because they are cheaper than all acceptable alternatives. However, the cost savings on a large project such as this are less significant than the re-distribution of benefits achieved by the use of a small-scale, labour-intensive technology. These benefits, in the form of profits and wages, were quite substantial. Profits that would otherwise have gone to large-scale roofing material manufacturers (many of them branches of multi-nationals) were diverted to local firms and re-invested in the local economy. Additional wealth was generated through wages paid to the 80 women and 40 men employed on a full-time basis making tiles during the 14 months of the contract. In this instance, the majority of those employed were from the lowest income group.

It may be concluded that the use of FCR tiles for roofing on a large number of projects located throughout the country would generate significant employment opportunities and profits for small-scale enterprises, help to alleviate poverty and reduce regional income inequalities, whilst also saving on foreign exchange expenditure.

The Effects of Koma Rock on the Market for FCR Tiles

If the benefits from the use of FCR tiles are to be widespread and sustainable, a continuous market for the tiles has to be created. Unfortunately, the sale of tiles in Kenya did not 'take-off as a result of low publicity afforded to the product by the Koma Rock project. Problems were seen in the fragility of the tiles, their inconsistent colour, and the fact that daylight could be seen between them. These problems may be partially overcome in phase II by the specification of ticker tiles and the insertion of a hardboard sheet between battens and rafters. It might also be desirable to develop a stronger colour or texture on the upper surface, in order to make the tiles a 'classier' product. All of these modifications of course involve additional cost. But perhaps this is necessary when specifying for institutional and/or discerning architects and clients. It does not preclude the specification of a more basic, and cheaper, product for clients with limited funds.

In addition to the clients' perception of the product, there appear to be other factors inhibiting the expansion of the market for FCR tiles in Kenya. To date, ITW has been the only producer attempting to sell tiles to housing estate developers. And nobody is advertising the tiles, or attempting to promote them in the private, self-build housing market. The reason is not hard to find. The many small FCR tile producers in Kenya (in common with small producers everywhere) are severely constrained by a lack of working capital, which is needed both to pay for advertisements and to build up stocks of tiles in advance of sale. Attempts to form a producers association in order to overcome their difficulties have so far been frustrated - by the very same lack of capital that caused them to unite in the first place.

If small FCR tile producers were to gain access to working capital and devote more attention to marketing and selling their products, it is possible that the market for FCR tiles may yet 'take-off in Kenya. In view of the time and effort devoted to the technology in Kenya, it would seem a pity not to put it to test.

Technology Profile No. 1 - Fibre-concrete Roofing**

** By Baris Der-Petrossian UNCHS (Habitat). The production of this paper is partly based on UNCHS's earlier studies on the same subject.


The ideal roof cladding material should have low self weight and sufficient strength to support different types of loads including its weight and loads due to wind pressure or any other imposed force. It should totally exclude rain, prevent excessive heat gain or loss, have good resistance to fire and require little maintenance during its life span. Given these requirements, it is not surprising that only a few materials (such as galvanized-iron sheets, aluminium sheets, asbestos-cement sheets clay and concrete tiles) have become the established roof cladding materials. In most developing countries, these materials are often import-dependent and are invariably scarce or prohibitive in cost. Sometimes they are not available at all. Fired-clay tiles can normally be produced from indigenous resources but their suitability is restricted by the fact that not all clay types can be used for their production; moreover, they are energy-intensive and, like concrete roofing tile, their self-imposed weight is such that it requires a heavy roof structure to support the cladding.

Clearly, then, there is as yet no adequate solution to the problem of an appropriate low-cost roofing material: this remains a fundamental constraint in the delivery of low-income shelter. It is against this background that attempts have been made in many countries to develop a new technology-fibre-concrete roofing technology-which, in principle, otters the potential for improving the availability of low-cost roofing materials. Despite its potential advantages, fibre-concrete technology is relatively new and requires further development before it could be readily accessible for wide-scale adoption. One of the ways in which this development process could become a reality is through a continuous dissemination of technical information. This article is, thus, a contribution of UNCHS (Habitat) to the overall effort in information How regarding fibre-concrete technology. In principle. FCR tiles, in comparison to sheets, are less expensive, have less sell-imposed weight and, in general, have less intricate quality control requirements. For this reason, FCR tiles seem to have gained popularity as a potential low-cost roofing material.

Information in this article is based mainly on extensive work undertaken by (a) Mr. J.P. Parry of Intermediate Technology Workshop, Cradley. The United Kingdom, (h) Intermediate Technology Development Group, ITDG. Rugby, The United Kingdom, and (c) Swiss Centre for Appropriate Technology, SKAT, Saint Gallen, Switzerland, among others.


(a) Raw materials

The basic raw materials required for the production of FCR are cement, sand, fibre and water. Optionally, colorants in the form of standard chemical pigments, such as those already in use by the concrete industry, can be added. As described below, each of the main raw materials play a crucial role in the production process and the final properties of FCR depend as much on the appropriateness of each item as on production techniques.

(i) Cement: Ordinary Portland cement is the type used for FCR. In order to achieve the desired results in strength and durability, it is essential that the quality of cement measures up to the standards required for normal concrete and masonry practice.

(ii) Sand: Normally, any type of sand which is suitable for cement mortars can be used for FCR. Yet the quality of sand should not be taken for granted. The size of sand particles has a direct influence on the quality of FCR. Sands with pin-tide sizes which will pass through a sieve with 2 mm diameter holes hut, at the same time be retained by a sieve with 0.6 mm holes, are suitable. The absence of tine particles or the predominance of over-sized particles leads to mortars which tend to split when the wet mix is being placed on the moulds. Where the mortar mix contains coarse particles of sand, the matrix may become relatively stronger after selling, but will thereafter become permeable. Related to appropriate particle sizes, sand should be well graded, that is, contain a good range of particle sizes which, upon consolidation, compact to form a dense mass almost without voids. It is also desirable that the shape of sand particles be angular, rather than rounded, so as to improve the strength of the mortar. Finally, the sand should be clean.

(iii) Fibre: Popular roofing fibres can be classified into three main groups: mineral fibres - of which asbestos is the most popular, animal fibres, and vegetable fibres. Vegetable fibres are easily the most appropriate for the purpose of low-level technology production of FCR. The coir from coconut husk, stem fibre such as jute and leaf fibre such as sisal are the most common examples of vegetable fibres which have been used with success. In general, the selection of suitable fibres should aim at avoiding fibres which are:

- excessively still, oily or greasy:

- easily impregnated by chemicals which have adverse effects on cement, e.g. sugar; and

- susceptible to large dimensional changes from wet to dry state.

A simple test for the suitability of fibres involves chopping up a sample of the fibre and mixing it in a sand-cement mortar 100 times the weight of the fibre. The resulting concrete is allowed to set overnight. If the fibre pieces protruding from the concrete can be easily pulled out or if the concrete surrounding a particular location of fibre is discoloured or powdery, the fibre is unsuitable. The main function of fibre in the concrete is to resist segregation of the fresh mix during moulding and to prevent the formation of shrinkage cracks during the initial setting and curing stages.

(iv) Water: The production of good quality FCR requires good quality water, preferably standard potable water. In most circumstances, rain water can be used, but if it is collected from roofs, care should be taken to avoid those which are excessively contaminated with debris. Apart from the four basic raw materials, there are two additives as yet not widely used, but nonetheless of importance to FCR technology. The first comprises water-proofing agents which minimize permeability. These are normally in the form of already prepared pore filling materials or water repellent materials. The second is pigments for colouring the FCR products. These could be obtained as commercial products in very finely ground form ready to mix with the concrete.

b) Capital items

FCR is feasible at several scales of technology but in practice its popularity in most developing countries is predominantly with small-scale labour intensive technologies. At this scale of technology the main capital requirements are as follows:

(i) basic masonry equipment, i.e., spades, measuring pans, and a trowel;

(ii) a moulding table which could be locally fabricated (it is essential that it be geometrically straight and flat at the top);

(iii) a small vibrating machine for screening which can be charged by a 6 or 12 volt car battery. The vibrating machine could be the principal piece of equipment which together with a set of moulds and accessories the production can start;

(iv) a set of moulds the size of roofing tiles or sheets which can be locally fabricated from fibre concrete, asbestos cement or glass fibre and mounted on wooded frames;

(v) a curing tank which can be cast in concrete on site, and a shed for production and curing of the products.


At the small-scale level, the production of FCR is a relatively simple process. The first step is similar to the process of mortar preparation as in basic masonry practice. After preparing the fibre and chopping it up to lengths of about 15 to 25 mm and sieving the sand to requisite sizes, the basic ingredients (sand, cement, water and fibre) are mixed into a concrete. The ratio of mix is normally 1 part of cement to 3 parts of sand. Then, 1 per cent of the weight of this total mix is accounted for by the fibre content. Only a small amount of water is required - just enough to produce a plastic or workable state. Whereas sand and cement can be measured by volume, it is always desirable to measure fibre by weight because of the possible variations in quantity if measured by volume.

One of the most demanding and skill-intensive aspects of FCR production is the transformation of fresh concrete matrix into tiles or sheets. This involves spreading a quantity of the fibre concrete on a polythene sheet which is placed on a vibrator for compaction. Thereafter, the sheet of concrete is lifted and casted on a mould. A good compaction is one of the critical factors in producing good-quality tiles. Figure 1 shows the percentage of voids in a concrete versus the compressive strength.

Transferring the freshly prepared mix from the polythene sheet onto the die or sheet mould seems an easy task, but it is a delicate aspect of the operation - a manual process requiring precision. The next stage is the normal concrete curing process which is done by transferring the set of FCR tiles off the moulds into a curing tank for at least seven days.

Figure 1. Good compaction is required to improve the compressive strength of concrete


A basic check on quality control of FCR products should cover the following:

(a) Quality of the basic raw materials: cement, sand, fibre and water;

(b) Proportion of the raw materials for the concrete mix:

- Too much cement means unnecessary additional cost and may imply inadequate quantity of sand which leads to shrinkage cracks, while too little cement with excess sand may lead to a brittle and porous product. Figure 2 shows the effect of cement content and the quality of sand on the compressive strength of mortar.

- Excessive quantities of fibre could create lumps, thus farming a porous and weak product; similarly, insufficient fibre leads to a fragile product with little tensile strength which may even break when separated from the mould;

- Excessive water will produce a deformed product, while too little water could cause unsatisfactory setting with traces of air bubbles in the under surface of the finished product.

Figure 3 shows a typical graph which indicates the relationship between water content and strength of concrete.

(c) Adequate homogeneity in the mixture of the concrete improves the quality of the products;

(d) Good compaction of the fresh concrete mix ensures a product of the right thickness and improves its durability and strengths;

(e) The sizes and the shape of the moulds should be exactly the same for uniform production. The process of moulding the fibre-concrete into sheets or tiles requires exactitude, without which the final product may not be suitable for use in construction;

(f) Curing should not be taken for granted, since inadequate curing decreases the strength of the FCR product. A setting time of fresh concrete for one or two days under shed and under relatively humid conditions is also required. The minimum of fourteen days of curing in water should be followed.

Figure 2. The effect of the cement content and the quality of sand on the compressive strength of a mortar

Figure 3. The relationship between water-cement ratio and the compressive strength of concrete


In undertaking strength tests for FCR, one has to make a distinction between two types of loads that the material will be subjected to when used in construction. The first comprises of permanent or self-imposed load of FCR sheets or tiles - which is relatively high. The other set of loads is classified as external, and refers to wind pressure and possibly the weight of people walking on the roof, even though as with asbestos-cement roofing sheets, one would expect adherence to certain codes of practice which would not subject the roof cladding to human loads. Wind loads on the other hand should not be underestimated. For example, a 145-km/h wind could result in an uplift pressure of as high as 90 kg/Sqm. Thus the strength of FCR products and their tightness with supporting structure should be reasonably high to withstand such pressures. In the absence of standardized test procedures for strength of FCR, several field projects have based their approaches on stipulated standards for asbestos-cement roofing sheets or ordinary concrete tiles. For instance, a testing rate of about one per cent for a batch of FCR products is recommended based on the British Standards Specification BS: 690 (asbestos cement roofing). Similarly, FCR products should be tested for strength at between two and three weeks. However, it is advisable to soak the sheets or tiles in water for 24 hours prior to strength tests, as recommended for comparable materials.

A typical strength and durability test would consider the following:

(a) Impact testing: A 5 kg weight is dropped from a height of about one meter onto a sheet or tile. A crack indicates a weak and unsatisfactory product.

(b) Bending tests: In order to determine the capacity of FCR to withstand bending stresses, loads should be placed centrally as line loads at the midspan of the FCR product, rather than uniformly or partially distributing such loads. A minimum of 50 kg load is recommended for placing at the mid-span for a non-destructive test. In placing the line loads, the bearings at the supports should be about 50 to 75 mm wide: the width of the loaded area should be about 225 mm. It is desirable to soak all the tiles or sheets in water for 24 hours prior to loading.

(c) Porosity test: This is probably the single most important test because the function of a roof is basically to keep out the rain. In the absence of standardized test procedures, international standards for porosity test on asbestos-cement roofing sheets are recommended as a possible useful test on fibre concrete roofing products. In this test, the sheet is laid flat and a head of water is maintained at 20 mm above the peak of the corrugations. After 24 hours, there may be dampness but a good quality product should not have moisture on the under side. Some ease studies have tried modification of this lest procedure but whatever the approach, the principle should ensure that a relatively large area of the sheet or tile is tested at a time.


In principle. FCR sheets are relatively more costly to produce than the tiles because for the same area of roof coverage, the sheets tend to consume more raw material inputs. A cement mortar of one part cement to three parts sand is a typical mix for FCR tiles, while a mix of 1:1 is normal for the sheets. The table below and the accompanying figure 4 give a brief comparison between sheets and tiles.

For a rafter-spacing of about 1.5 in (see figure 6), sheets are normally supported on 75 × 50 mm purlins spaced at 850 mm on centres and tiles rest on 50 × 25 mm battens at 400 mm on centres.

The volume of timber used for the purlins is therefore less for the tiles than for the sheets by about 25 per cent.

A metre long FCR sheet weighs approximately 20 kg while a tile 0.5 metre long weighs 1.62 kg. For this reason, the FCR sheets are cumbersome and delicate to handle in the production process. The large size of the sheet is a disadvantage in quality control for a rather small-scale manual production technology and it is a more demanding task to lay the sheets over the roof structure as well. If a single sheet has to rest on three purlins and if they are not placed accurately in a straight line, a single sheet (A) will not be supported correctly in the centre and could break. Tins degree of accuracy will not be so important if two separate sheets (B) are installed. Figure 5 shows these configurations.

Figure 6 gives details of a roof structure for FCR tile cladding.


The viability of FCR technology not only depends on the quality of the end product but also on the manner in which it is used in actual construction practice. Good quality FCR products may be wrongly applied in construction to the extent that the entire roofing component fails. Several field experiences suggest that any apparent unpopularity or non-viability of FCR may be more a result of inappropriate construction practice than of poor quality production. In the absence of an established code of practice for FCR, due consideration should be given to the following construction details:

Table 1. Summary of basic production data for comparison between FCR sheets and tiles

Product size



per Sqm.


per Sqm.

Sheets 1000 × 780 mm

10 mm

0.62 Sqm.

32 kg

9.0 kg

15 kg

Tiles 500 × 250 mm

6 mm

0.08 Sqm.

20 kg

0.4 kg

5 kg

Figure 4. Timber support cross members

Figure 5. Accuracy of purlin in supporting FCR sheets is important

A typical roof structure for FCR pantiles

(a) Pitches

The relative weakness of FCR in terms of porosity and low-strength can be minimized if a desirable pitch is used in construction. A minimum of 22.5 degrees is recommended, but this may have to go up to 30 degrees in areas where torrential and heavy rains are prevalent.

(b) Rafters and purlins

In general, errors in the erection of a roof structure can be tolerated with the use of metal base sheets but not with stiff materials such as fibre concrete. The brittleness of FCR makes it susceptible to cracks when the roof structure is not properly mounted. Sometimes, the purlins and ratters are made from limber which is green or not seasoned, so that subsequent dimensional changes could lead to straining the FCR and, eventually, to cracks. As shown in figure 5, incorrect placing of timber, with either rafters or purlins sagging, could lead to cracks. The FCR sheets are more vulnerable to cracks than the tiles.

(c) Fixing gutters for rain collection (see figure 7).

(d) Ridge details

It is not necessary to cement the joints. If cemented joints are preferred, use a mixture of one part cement to three of sand. Finish the joints neatly.

(e) Fixing details

Poor fixing of FCR cladding onto the roof structure can reduce the strength of an otherwise sound roof, especially in areas where high wind speeds are recorded. In FCR, fixing is done in two ways:

(i) a nib is precast on the underside of the tile and through this a loop of wire or short length of a strong string is embedded;

(ii) the FCR tiles or sheets are drilled and nailed to the roof structure. The precast nib system seems advantageous but its stability depends largely on the strength of the string or wire and how securely it is fastened. Moreover, the nib is likely to form a loose bondage to the tile and may break off with time. The alternative of screwing and nailing of tiles or sheets to the roof structure is likely to cause cracking; in addition, the holes drilled in the cladding need to be sealed against rain seepage. Figure 9 shows some types of built-in fixings.

Figure 7. Gutter details a) Correct fitting - Fascia fitted in line with the wall, so that rain water will run into the gutter

Figure 7. Gutter details b) Wrong fitting - Fascia fitted at right angles to the roof, therefore rain water will miss the gutter

Figure 8. Section showing the ridge fixing details

(f) Overlap details

Errors in the end overlaps could occur through the moulding process during production. But even where perfection has been achieved in production, errors in construction could still mean that the end overlaps of FCR are the most vulnerable part of the roof construction. When the fitting is wrongly done one sheet or tile puts excess strain on the other, and this leads to cracks in the material. Sometimes, the overlapping details ignore the direction of the prevailing wind such that the gap between two tiles at the overlap is directly facing the wind and rain thrust. Figure 10 illustrates the importance of overlap details.

One sheet has been damaged by the other due to strain at a poor fitting overlap. The underlap roll of the next sheet, (1) made incorrectly (too high) prevents the overlapping sheet from resting on the purlin causing a gap (2). Then, when the hook holt fixing the sheet (3) is tightened, it bends the left hand sheet, which releases the strain by cracking along the top of the roll.


So far, the popularly adopted scale of operation for FCR tiles is based on small-scale manual production technology. However, the range of production scales is not necessarily restricted to the cottage scale. There are at least three basic scales of production:

(a) minimum or cottage scale, which entails an output of approximately 50 tiles per day, entailing a single person operation:

(b) small-scale commercial production, which entails an output of 100 to 200 tiles per day with up to three persons involved in the operation; and

(c) industrial-scale production of up to 400 tiles per day with more than three persons involved. Despite being classified as industrial, the latter production technology is basically the same as the small-scale processes, except for the introduction of basic mechanical handling equipment to increase labour productivity.


Cost efficiency in building materials production is usually, determined by both (he production cost of the material and the cost of transporting the material to the point of use. Sometimes, for certain materials and in circumstances where the local infrastructure for transportation is underdeveloped, the cost of transportation could even be in excess of the production cost. At the small-scale level. FCR production has one important advantage. Production can lake place close to the point of use, so that cost of transportation of the finished item can be almost eliminated. In addition, the simplicity of the technology makes it easy to acquire the requisite skills in a relatively short period of time. The minimal investment requirement is an added advantage.

Figure 9. Alternative built-in fixings

Figure 10. Fixing of sheets

For most building materials, long-term durability is an important criterion for their wide-scale acceptance on the market. While the basic scientific principles justify the durability of FCR, the material has been in use only for about 25 years. Thus, it may have to pass the test of time before it achieves wide-scale adoption. Moreover, like several other low-cost innovative building materials, there are still gaps to be filled in the development cycle - notably, formulation of standards, promotion of quality control measures, effective-processes for technology transfer and, most of all, mechanisms for technology adaptation or improvement within the context of low-cost application of the material.

Note: The readers are invited to refer also to Journal Volume 1 No. 3 and Volume 2 No. 3 in which some other information and case-studies on FCR are included.


1. Cappelen, P.
Roof Sheets made of sisal reinforced cement. Building Research Unit, Dar es Salaam, WR14, July 197S.

2. Carrier. A.W., Parry, J.P.M.,
IT Building Materials Workshop, Development and testing of roof cladding materials made from fibre reinforced cement. Stage 2 Report. March 1974.

3. Evans. B.
Understanding natural fibre concrete. IT publications, U.K.. 1986.

4. Gram, H. E.,
Permeability of natural fibres in concrete. Swedish Cement and Concrete Institute, CBI, Stockholm, Sweden, no date.

5. IT Building Materials Workshop
Production and installation of handmade FCR roof cladding components (Basic operating manual). May 1981.

6. IT Building Materials Workshop
Production and installation of corrugated roof sheets made from fibre reinforced cement: quality control and fault rectification (Supplement to the basic operating manual).

7. Journal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies: Volume 1. No. 3, and Volume 2, No. 3. ISSN 1012-9S12. August 1991 and August 1993.

8. Mjella, A.
Economic study of BRU developed building materials: reinforced sisal sheets. Building Research Unit. Dar es Salaam. 1980.

9. Nilssen, L.
Reinforcement of concrete with sisal and other vegetable fibres, Swedish Council for Building Research. Document D14: 1975.

10. Parry, J.P.W.
Fibre concrete roofing - the complete text book, IT Workshop. The United Kingdom, The United Kingdom. 1985.

11. Persson, H., Skarendahl, A.
Sisal-fibre concrete for roofing sheets and other purposes in appropriate industrial technology for construction and building materials. United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), 1980.

12. Sakula, J.H.
Sisal-cement roofing in East and Southern Africa. Evaluation of sisal-cement roofing sheet technologies in Malawi. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, Intermediate Technology Development Group Limited. December 1982.

13. SKAT-ITDG, FCR-Fibre concrete roofing, St. Gallen, Switzerland 1987.

14. SKAT, The basics of concrete roofing elements. St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1989.

15. Swift, D.G., Smith, R.B.L.,
Fibre-reinforced concrete as an earthquake-resistant construction material. International conference on engineering for protection from natural disasters, Asia Institute of Technology. Bangkok, January 1980.

16. The construction of corrugated roofing sheets using sisal-cement, (Kenyatta University College, Appropriate Technology Centre), Nairobi. September 1979.

Technology Profile No. 2 - Utilization of Agricultural Wastes***

*** Submitted by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) Roorkee, India

A variety of agrowastes such as saw dust, sugarcane, coir fibres, rice husk, wheat stalk are available in many countries. These materials could be used easily to produce various types of building boards and panels. Unpulped straw such as rice and wheat straw can be converted into binderless boards and rigid building panels by applying heat and pressure techniques. Methods for the preparation of building boards and blocks from rice husk, corn stalk, corn cob etc. are already in existence in some countries. Glued hot mat boards have been prepared from reeds and other types of straw. They are being used for certain walling and shadow roofs. Coconut fibre and wood shavings have also been used in conjunction with Portland cement binder to produce mineral bonded panel products. Similarly, there are quite a number of research findings and investigations aiming at using agro-industrial wastes for producing a variety of building products by employing cold and hot pressing techniques or using a range of organic and inorganic hinders.

Feasibility studies for producing normal particle board and building components from coconut husk have been conducted by CBRI. However, the use of synthetic binder such as urea formaldehyde is completely ruled out because of their prohibitive cost and scarce supply. A normal particle board requires a 8 to 10 per cent by weight adhesive to obtain an acceptable strength and finish which amounts to nearly half of the cost of the finished board. Even the raw materials for making the adhesive are quite costly. However, work is in progress to find out what type of non-petroleum based binders could serve the purpose.

Soft wood and magnesium oxychloride are normally used for making wood-wool boards. Difficulties are however, encountered with the use of Portland cement. The hydration and strength development of cement is strongly inhibited by the extractivies in the agro-industrial wastes. The important inhibitors are sugar, tannin, quinone, phenol and other water soluble compounds. Mineralization with CAO, CACl2, Na2CO3 etc. appears to help considerably in reducing the inhibiting action of these reactors. Investigations carried out in the CBRI have identified several other types of wood suitable for making wood-wool boards with cement as binder. However, some agro wastes like coconut husk and its by product, groundnut husk, rice husk etc. have no inhibiting action on normal Portland cement and these have been used to produce such boards. A corrugated roofing sheet using some agricultural wastes and wood-wool and cement has also been developed.

Tiles of size 25 × 25 × 1 cm and 49 × 24 × 1 cm have been produced in strong mild steel moulds and pressed on compression testing machine at about 20 to 30 ton load. After 24 hours water absorption, the tiles were demoulded. The weight of a 49 × 24 × 1 cm and 25 × 25 × 1 cm tiles was 2.5 kg and 1.1 kg respectively. The flexural strength of the tiles ranged from 7.5 to 35 kg/cm2. Most of these tiles pass the standard requirement of Indian standard, IS: 2098 for flexural strength. Different combinations of cement (80 to 98 per cent) rice husk (1 to 11 per cent) fly ash (8 per cent) and coir fibres (1 to 3 percent) were tried. Tiles on vibrating table were also produced. To increase flexural strength wire mesh and bamboo mesh were also incorporated.

These tiles can be bonded with epoxy resin and fixed on to wooden frame to form a partition wall. Tiles in which Na2SiO3 is used are more cost effective but they are affected by water, and hence are not useful.

Light roofing sheet from cellulosic waste has also been developed by CBRI. The basic material is cellulosic waste like waste paper, paddy straw etc. with resin as binder and impregnated in molten asphalt. Cold moulded sheets are normally sun-dried before impregnation with asphalt and normally the final product is painted with fire retardant paint (see process flow diagramme).

Waste material from timber, wood scrapings and straws are converted in hot press to make ceiling tiles. Resin is used as a binder. This process has also been developed at CBRI (see process flow diagram).






Regional Workshop on Lime and Alternative Binders for East Africa, Tororo, Uganda, 6-10 December 1994

The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, of Uganda organized the Regional Workshop on lime and alternative binders for East Africa, which was held in Tororo, Uganda from 6 to 10 December 1994.

The workshop brought together 60 participants who were mainly experts or decision-makers in the sector. The workshop was also attended by a number of International Consultants as well as Representatives of UNCHS (Habitat) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

As part of the preparations, a series of studies were undertaken by various national "lime experts" from the region including small-lime producers and users themselves. Three broad types of studies undertaken included:

1. Eighteen case studies of small-scale innovative binder production from Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, The United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda;

2. Four national surveys of the use of hinders in low-income housing in both rural and urban areas in Kenya, The United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar;

3. Four national surveys of the production and use of binders from the three East African countries plus Zimbabwe.

The workshop was concerned about the prevalent lack of adequate and affordable shelter for the majority of the region's population. The high cost of building materials, particularly cement, was noted as a major contributing factor to this problem, whereas unnecessarily high and restrictive standards and regulations do play a role as well. Lime and other binders, which could replace cement, are produced in the region on a small scale: they need to be further popularised and producers as well as users made aware of more appropriate technologies for their production and application. The workshop noted with particular concern that most producers of such materials do make excessive and inefficient use of fuelwood and that this has a serious impact on the environment, and that urgent steps are needed to improve this situation.

After the presentations of the various surveys and case studies in the plenary sessions the participants split into three working groups. These groups focused mainly on producers, users and policy makers. Each group identified the main problems faced by the binder sector and formulated recommendations and action plans to resolve or minimize the problems. A total of 13 main issue/problem areas were identified and deliberated upon. The workshop made some resolutions and formulated recommendations and action plans.

International Conference on Re-appraising the Urban Planning Process as an Instrument of Sustainable Urban Development and Management,

Nairobi, 3-7 October 1994

The Conference was jointly organized by UNCHS (Habitat), the Urban Management Programme (UMP) and the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) of India.

The Conference was attended by more than 95 participants representing 36 countries as well as a number of United Nations Agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

Opening addresses were made by: the Deputy Secretary General of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, the Director of Cooperate Planning, Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) of India and the Minister of Local Government of Kenya.

Having identified and reviewed the major issues, the Conference addressed the many deficiencies in traditional urban planning techniques and approaches. Although some questioned the relevance of urban planning, the Conference reached broad agreement of the necessity for continuing planning interventions to support efficient and equitable urban development. However, such interventions should reflect the view of planning as a process rather than as an end-product. Urban planning should focus on supporting urban development in ways which focus on aspirations and quality of life and which give greater emphasis to the community's people and organizations which make city economies work. Planning as a process recognizes that these tasks require much stronger political support at the local and higher levels of government and should reflect changing institutional frameworks, including trends to privatization and deregulation of services. In parallel, the Conference recognized that improved urban planning systems should form an integral component of urban management.

Five working groups were established to prepare recommendations on identified major areas requiring improved urban planning processes as follows.

Working Group 1 -

Urban planning approaches, strategies and related issues;

Working Group 2 -

Inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms in urban planning and plan implementation

Working Group 3 -

Regional planning strategies

Working Group 4 -

Planning education

Working Group 5 -

Plan implementation

The full text of the report of the conference which includes the conclusions and recommendations is published and distributed by UNCHS (Habitat).

HS/320/94E; ISBN 92-1-131262-0


Expert-group Meeting to Review the Draft of the
Second Global Report on Human Settlements,
Nairobi, Kenya, 29-31 May 1995

The General Assembly of the United Nations, in its resolution 34/114 of 14 December 1979, instructed UNCHS (Habitat) to prepare, on a periodic basis, a "Global Report on Human Settlements" according to the objectives, format and contents set out in the report of the Executive Director to the Commission on Human Settlements (HS/C/2/8.22 February 1979). The main objective of the Global Report is "to provide a complete review of human settlements conditions, including an analysis of major forces and trends accounting for both their present developments and their continuing creation, maintenance and improvement". The prime purpose is to analyse world-wide and regional developments, trends and future prospects in the field of human settlements.

The First Global Report on Human settlements was prepared and published by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in 1987. This Report was widely recognized as an indispensable source on human settlements conditions, trends and policies and as the most comprehensive publication yet produced by the United nations on this topic. Covering key issues, such as shelter, settlements management, institutions, financing, land infrastructure and human settlements development strategies, the Report documents global human settlements conditions and trends to help member governments improve their settlements policies, plans and programmes.

The Second Global Report on Human Settlements is being prepared to review the human settlements situation since the last edition in 19S7 and will serve as a major background document at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), in June 1996. A draft version of the Report has been made available to the 15th session of the Commission on Human Settlements and to the Second Preparatory Committee of the Habitat II Conference during 24 April to 5 May 1995.

The general objectives of this Expert Group Meeting is to review the first draft of the Second Global Report, to provide comments and suggestions that could help till identified gaps, update and enrich the Report.

Meeting of the Ministers Responsible for Human
Settlements in the Eastern and Southern Africa
Subregion, Preparatory to the Second United Nations
Conference on Human Settlements l Habitat II),
Kampala, Uganda, 26-28 February 1995

The Meeting of Ministers will review the in-country preparatory process for the Habitat II and draft and adopt a declaration.

Meeting of the Ministers in-charge of Housing and
Urban Development of the Subregion of Central
Africa, Comoros and Djibouti and of Uganda and
Senegal, Brazzaville, Congo, 10-12 April 1995

The Meeting of Ministers while considering the Declaration adopted in Nairobi by African Ministers on the 30 March 1994, will draft and adopt the Brazzaville Declaration.

Regional Workshop on Urban Poverty and
Governance of Southern and Eastern Africa, Nairobi,
Kenya, 14-16 March 1995

African countries are rapidly urbanizing, and it is envisaged that most sub-Saharan African countries will be over 50 per cent urban by the year 2010. The rapidly increasing pressure on urban areas is causing considerable strain on towns and cities in terms of the need to expand and create new infrastructure, provide basic social services and create employment. The demand in each area far outstrips the supply, while the majority of the young school leavers are streaming to the main towns in search of employment.

The workshop will be organized jointly by UNCHS (Habitat) and the Ford Foundation and its main objective is to build capacity at national and municipal levels for tackling the problems of urban poverty and governance.

Publications Review

Published by UNCHS (Habitat)

Strategies for the Provision of Facilities, Service and
Housing Improvements in Ghana, Uganda and

Strategies for participatory development have become an essential part of policies for international development cooperation. Increasingly, governments, residents and the private sector in developing and developed countries have recognized the value and benefit of working in partnerships in order to manage development and improvement tasks, especially at local levels. For more than 10 years, UNCHS (Habitat) has been responding to the growing demand for suitable operational strategies and policies which, in a participatory, cost-effective and democratic way, contribute to establishing such partnerships for improving the living and working conditions of the low-income population, as well as to sustaining participatory urban and rural management approaches.

In 1991, UNCHS (Habitat), with financial support from the Danish Government (Danida) launched a new initiative, the Community Management Programme. The goal of the Programme is to contribute to the improvement of the living and working conditions of people in low-income settlements, particularly, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana and Uganda, which are the countries that participate in the operational activities of that Programme.

The Programme responds to the challenge of mounting a realistic improvement strategy for residents of low-income settlements, the urban majority who live and work in informal slum and squatter settlements with poor services and infrastructure. They are, nevertheless, the prime-movers of the improvements that take place today in these areas. Planners have had a very limited role in this process, if any, most of the urbanization process being effectively out of their reach and control. Conventional planning and development efforts are usually limited to interventions in the city centre and in affluent and middle-to high-income residential areas, where a minority of the urban population lives.

Provision of services, infrastructure and housing in rural areas traditionally has been a shared responsibility between the villagers and the district authorities and their administrations. However, in most cases, communities are left to develop and improve their own living and working environment with limited or no support from the authorities. Human and financial resources at the disposal of district authorities and their administrations are usually not sufficient to reach all rural areas. Thus, there is a need also at this level to change the approach and role of the authorities to an enabling one, empowering people to undertake a leading role as managers of community development.

So far, most international and national efforts have concentrated on improving existing municipal structures and human resources within the conventional understanding that the role of local governments and municipalities is to discharge all those activities and functions - services, infrastructure, development and maintenance, physical planning etc. - which cannot be met easily and cost-effectively by the people themselves. The major challenge today, however, is not simply to train public administrators and technical personnel to carry out such functions, but to link them to what is the reality within the greater part of cities and rural areas. Hence, facing this changing urban and rural reality, governments will have to adopt a new role, a new approach which matches today's urbanization process and the development process in the rural areas. Such a new role should facilitate local improvement and development activities and will require that governments adopt an enabling framework of policies and strategies targeted at supporting community initiatives and activities, rather than maintaining their conventional role of settlement planning and control through sets of bye-laws. Hence, a major objective of the Community Management Programme is to contribute to this process by formulating the needed changes within government and government training institutions to address directly the needs of communities for technical, financial, managerial and legislative support.

This publication assesses strategies for community-based provision of facilities, services and housing improvements in the African region, with the help of three community development projects in Ghana, Uganda and Zambia which arc assisted by UNCHS (Habitat). As the projects in Ghana and Uganda, however, only started in 1992, the chapter on conclusions is largely based on the experiences of the Zambian project.

53 pp., HS/300/93E: ISBN 92-1-131212-3

Small-scale Production of Portland Cement


Cement, with its superior binding properties, early strength development and easy availability in ready-to-use condition, has become the most popular binding material for construction. Cement is used as a basic building material not only in heavy civil engineering construction but also in low-cost housing and infrastructure. The per capita production and consumption of cement is often used as an indicator of development, especially in developing countries.

Yet, the growth of cement production in developing countries during the 1980s was far from satisfactory, in both absolute and per capita terms. Production gains have been highly uneven among developing countries and chronic shortfalls have pushed up the prices, substantially more than the increase in (he cost-of-living index.

One of the main reasons for the limited expansion of the production capacity of the cement industry has been the choice of technology in favour of large-scale production facilities. Most developing countries, in the past, have opted for large-scale rotary-kiln technologies, requiring large investment and long gestation periods. For a variety of reasons, such as supply-side constraints imposed by energy costs, the size of the market and its volatility, and rising distribution costs, these large plants have neither been able to achieve economies of scale nor have they been able to bridge the demand-supply gap.

The advantages of small-scale, decentralized cement production are being increasingly recognized. The inherent flexibility of small-scale operations to cope with volatile and shifting demands, and their ability to lake best advantage of available factors of production in developing countries are the main sources of their strength. Yet, the total installed capacity of mini-cement plants outside China and India remains very limited, mainly because of the lack of wide-scale dissemination of the required information relating to this technology among prospective entrepreneurs.

This publication is intended to fill this information gap by bringing together, under one cover, all the information that a prospective entrepreneur would be looking for to make investment decisions. In addition to technological information, the publication provides a methodology for carrying out pre-feasibility studies to ascertain project cost and probability. A few selected case studies are listed in the annex which should add to the utility of the publication.

81 pp., HS/281/93E: ISBN 92-1-131204-3

The Maintenance of Infrastructure and its Financing and Cost Recovery


It is now well recognized that an efficient system of environmental infrastructure is fundamental to the well-being of a country and indispensable for the promotion of productive activities and social development. Environmental infrastructure systems are crucial for preventing communicable diseases and providing services for industrial and commercial operations. However, while environmental infrastructure, hereafter referred to only as infrastructure, plays an important role in the economies of most countries, it also represents a considerable cost to them.

In this respect, the deterioration of infrastructural assets represents an enormous drain on national wealth and causes serious undermining of the development process. The financial consequences of neglecting maintenance is often only seen in terms of reduced asset life and premature replacement. However, neglecting maintenance also implies increased costs of operating facilities and waste of related natural and financial resources.

This publication builds on previous extensive research activities by UNCHS (Habitat) on issues related to buildings and infrastructure maintenance. However, while the Centre s previous reports and case studies focused on specific issues related to infrastructure maintenance, there was a need to consolidate the findings of these studies into a comprehensive publication that can guide senior decision-makers, urban managers and municipal engineers in introducing and improving effective maintenance programmes within their operational activities. It also outlines the basic problems and issues confronting national managers and municipal engineers striving to introduce improved maintenance procedures, and then reviews potential strategies for addressing them. The general issues are illustrated with specific examples and case studies from countries tackling these problems and developing improved approaches. Lessons learned from the field experiences should be of use to decision-makers searching for solutions to difficult problems in their own countries.

72 pp., HS/285/93E: ISBN 92-1-131209-4

Back Cover


PO Box 30030 Nairobi, Kenya, Telephone 621234; Fax: (254)-2-624266/624267