Design of Sustainable Relief Housing in Africa: an Implementation of the "Cradle to Cradle" Model in Earthbag Construction

EPA Grant Number: SU832506
Title: Design of Sustainable Relief Housing in Africa: an Implementation of the "Cradle to Cradle" Model in Earthbag Construction
Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Pearson, Jason C. , Vogel, Lisa
Current Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Pearson, Jason C. , Woods, Brooke , Drab, Theodore
Institution: Oklahoma State University , Green Blue Institute
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2005 through May 30, 2006
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The urbanization in Africa results in urban poverty and homelessness. In this project we will design a sustainable relief housing prototype that aids in sheltering homeless citizens until they are able to return to their traditional ways of life. To avoid repeating developed nations' errors in urban development, and to consider current environmental, economic, and social issues in Africa, our design must go beyond traditional construction materials and methods to benefit people, prosperity and the planet in a sustainable way.

This project will apply McDonough and Braungart's "cradle to cradle" design model to the earthbag construction technique in order to develop a model for sustainable relief housing in Africa. Based on environmental and human health, all materials selected for construction will be naturally available and can safely return to nature after use (waste equals food). Structural design will maximize natural energy use (use current solar energy). Furniture selection will consider the local culture in Africa (celebrate diversity).

With locally available materials, inexpensive construction, maintenance, and use, this project will provide affordable shelter for African people. All construction and interior design materials will be naturally occurring, and will return to nature after use, ensuring the most effective using of material resources, no synthetic materials and toxin deposition, and the best indoor air quality for human health. Using earthbag rather than wood for the structure, this housing design will prevent deforestation and the resulting desertification in Africa.

This 8-month project will be implemented in three phases: 1) select an African nation, investigate issues in that country related to earthbag construction, and research the application of "cradle to cradle" in earthbag construction; 2) design a "cradle to cradle" earthbag house for durable relief housing in Africa and construct a scaled model and a computer-based tour of the interior; 3) evaluate comfort and construction costs of the housing. The construction materials durability under intensive sunlight exposure will also be investigated to ensure at least a 10 year use period for the designed relief housing.

This P3 project will be integrated into an elective course for interior and apparel majors, Environmental Sustainability Issues for Designers and Merchandisers, as a case study unit. That unit will include detailed implementation of the "cradle to cradle" model in earthbag construction to build housing in Africa to benefit people, prosperity and the planet, and will include a demonstration of the scaled model and the computer-based tour of the interior.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, waste reduction, life-cycle analysis, land, water,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, Urban and Regional Planning, energy conservation, sustainable housing, earthbag construction, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, environmental conscious construction, alternative materials, energy efficiency, solar energy, construction material, environmentally conscious design, architectual design

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report