Former African Uni Students Create Traditional Architecture-Inspired Energy-Efficient Home

A portable, energy-efficient home that was originally built for a competition might be available soon in the African market.

The design was created by team Jua Jamii, a group of 40 former university students from African countries including Tanzania, Nigeria, and Swaziland. It uses recycled shipping containers and is 100% powered by solar energy, says Donald Abonyi, one of the team members.

According to Abonyi, it was initially constructed as an entry for the Solar Decathlon Africa, a competition launched by the US Department of Energy to encourage African students to promote sustainability and meet energy housing needs.

The two-year-long competition brought together 18 teams from different universities in Africa, including Jua Jamii, to create innovative, energy-efficient building structures. Now the team wants to take things further by making the house available to the public.

“We all came together to apply to be shortlisted for the competition in late 2017. We wanted to solve some of Africa’s housing problems,” Abonyi said.

“But now we are working on becoming a startup that will use green and self-sufficient building solutions to fight housing problems on the continent,” he added.

Building the house

When Jua Jamii started building the house, the plan was simply to create affordable and energy-efficient housing for middle-income families in Africa. The team expanded from six members to 40 in 2018 to make room for the implementation of all ideas.

“Every member had a role to play in ensuring that the house was successfully completed. We had project managers, system designers, and architects,” Abonyi said.

By gathering shipping materials from a port in Morocco, they were able to lay the foundation for the building. Jua Jamii also focused on equipping the house with a 24-hour power supply.

In many regions in Africa, electricity is expensive and difficult to access. Residents in countries like Nigeria and Kenya rely on expensive diesel generators, which also emit a lot of pollution, as an alternative.

To limit this problem, the team incorporated building-integrated solar panels to the house for uninterrupted power.

“It is a house that is net-zero. So it produces its own energy and does not consume more than the energy it produces,” Francis Fotsing Sadeu, one of the team members, stated.


Inspired by African architecture

Northern African architecture was incorporated into building the house, according to Sadeu.

“You cannot guess it is made from containers because it looks like a normal house. For the exterior, we adapted Northern African architecture.

“For example, it has a patio, an open space inside the house that allows natural ventilation and improves daylight,” he said.

The last stage of the Solar Decathlon was held in September in Morocco.

Jua Jamii did not win the competition, but the team members, who have now graduated from their various master’s degree programs, say they will take their product to the market in 2020.

Abonyi, who serves as the health and safety officer on the team, said the group is now focused on creating a business plan that will consider the marketability, energy production, and cost of putting the house on the market.

“We want to be able to build this house for people and companies interested in our product. We also want to advise construction companies on how to build similar efficient houses,” he said.

While the prototype is approximately 114 square meters, it can be made in any size requested by consumers.

Abonyi says the house will suit many people’s need because it does not take long to build.

“It took us two weeks to build. We can easily get one for people who are interested in our innovation,” he said.


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