Changing spaces and lives with Marley Building Systems and TUT: The House Puseletso Project
Marley Building Systems collaborated with the TUT’s Department of Architecture to transform the life of Ms Puseletso Laestockand her children. What was initially an academic project aimed at finding cost-effective and efficient ways of ameliorating the living conditions of those in informal settlements has resulted in a structure that has changed the life of a family living in Itireleng, Pretoria West.
How the project started
Based at the architecture department of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Dr Emmanuel Nkambule is an academic whose PhD focused on informal settlement upgrading. The House Puseletso Project forms part of research he and his co-researcher, Victor Mokaba, had been conducting since 2017; the research looked at the possibility and viability of providing modular housing to people living in informal settlements. According to the researchers, “The main objective of the research was to investigate the prototyping of portable (movable/lightweight/temporary) enabling infrastructure in an existing informal spatial structure for service delivery and place-making.” Their priority is to make a difference in the lower end housing market.
With these objectives in mind, and funding from TUT, Dr Nkambule and his team set out to explore how they could develop a modular house, and he assisted in setting up a fabrication workshop at TUT’s Department of Architecture. Thereafter, the team identified an area in Pretoria West that would be perfect for the project— the Itireleng informal settlement, which borders Atteridgeville and Laudium. This informal settlement was an ideal choice because it is close to TUT, which made it easier for students to be involved.
The Itireleng Youth Group was also involved in the House Puseletso Project. Led by Mr Collen Lenkoane, the Itireleng Youth Group is a non-profit organisation that is aimed at uplifting and creating opportunities for the unemployed youth of the Itireleng informal settlement. This group of incredible young people, most of whom are unemployed graduates, played an active role in developing the modular house. They assisted with everything from gathering materials for construction to painting the house. Their efforts were instrumental in the overall success of the project.
Introducing Ms Puseletso Laestock
Hailing from Lesotho, Ms Puseletso has been living in the Itireleng informal settlement, in a two-bedroom shack, with her two children since 2016. She met Dr Nkambule a short while after he and his team had identified the informal settlement as an area in which they could roll out their research—she was introduced to him a colleague. Ms Puseletso and her children walk 1km kilometres to find the nearest minibus taxi stop to go to the Pretoria city centre. “Taking into consideration that Ms Puseletso earns below minimum wage, an architectural intervention such as this will enable and facilitate her socio-economic activities,” notes Dr Nkambule.
According to Dr Nkambule, one of the difficulties faced by those living in informal settlements is the lack of “security of tenure, which means that even if they build something, they will have to relocate and risk having their structure demolished.” The modular house will make life convenient since it is portable. Moreover, it is fire-resistant and structurally-sound.
Marley Building Systems Involvement
Early this year, Dr Nkambule was approached by Sibusiso Mthembu, technical services and new business development manager at Marley Building Systems—whom he met three years prior. Since Sibusiso knew about Dr Nkambule’s research, he informed him about Marley Building Systems modular alternative construction prototype, which they then donated to Dr Nkambule for his research, since he and his team were looking for an innovative and efficient alternative house for Ms Puseletso. “We’re showing how alternative construction can happen in informal settlements, to cater to the immediate needs of people,” says Sibusiso.
According to Dr Nkambule, “This solution holds the potential to promote micro-scale socio-economic activities within an informal settlement.” Ms Puseletso’s new home took eight days to build; the eight days were stretched across a 2-month period, and Ms Puseletso and her children took part in painting it. When asked about the structure, Ms Puseletso expressed much delight and appreciation. “Goodness, I wasn’t really expecting something like this. This is much more than I expected. I am very, very happy. The house I had before was very dusty, and rocks would come in easily…this one is a real house,” she said. Ms Puseletso new home has a lounge, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
On the 30th of August, the modular house was officially handed over to Ms Puseletso and her children. The handover event took place at TUT and involved a walk to the Itireleng informal settlement, where Ms Puseletso was given an opportunity to express her gratitude. Those who attended the handover got to see Ms Puseletso’s home and celebrate this life-changing moment with her.
For more information on the House Puseleto Project, please contact Karabo Tsele:
Contact number: 011-389-4500