iShack helps slum dwellers go green

Innovators at the University of Stellenbosch are trialling the iShack, a new dwelling featuring solar-panels and lost-cost insulation, in a bid to raise the standard of living of South Africa’s millions of slum dwellers.

The iShack – which is currently being trialled in the Enkanini slum on the outskirts of Stellenbosch – boasts a solar panel which produces enough energy to power three internal lights, a motion-censored outdoor security light, and a mobile phone charger.

“The solar [lights] are better. Now we don’t need to go to sleep early anymore because now we have lights. My daughter must do her homework now, she doesn’t have any more excuses. And I like the light outside because we can see what is going on, I feel safer,” Nosango Plaatjie, an iShack trial participant told its developers, reports CNN.

Despite the efforts of the South African government to relocate slum inhabitants to newly constructed brick houses, as well as the continuous upgrading of existing slums, the iShack developers feel not enough is being done to ensure a quality of life for the population of South Africa’s numerous slums.

“So what can we do today in order to improve the living conditions of people through energy intervention, lighting, cell phones, communication, upping security?” asks Andreas Keller, an iShack developer. 

“That’s where the planning comes in and the technology takes it one step further.”

100 iShacks will be installed over the coming year, courtesy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to monitor the project’s viability.

Aside from enhancing the electricity available in slums, a range of other environmentally friendly innovations have been implemented to improve living standards.

Between the exterior of the corrugated zinc sheet and the interior wall of the dwelling is a layer of insulation made from recycled cardboard boxes and Tetra Pak boxes, while the walls are also covered in a coat of flame-retardant paint, resulting in a less-flammable and better insulated dwelling.

Well-placed windows and a brick floor surface ensure better sunlight heating of the dwelling as well as better temperature retention. A sloped roof allows the collection of rainwater.

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