Swiss cooperative, African roof technique win global housing awards

This year’s winners of the World Habitat Awards are a Swiss cooperative housing project and an African vaulted roof-building technique. The projects were praised for providing people-led solutions to global housing issues.

The Zurich cooperative housing project ‘More than Housing’ and the project ‘A roof, a skill, a market’ (Nubian Vaults) project, a a roof-construction technique being taught to people in five West African countries, are this year’s World Habitat Awards winners.

‘More than Housing’ is one of the largest and most ambitious cooperative housing projects in Europe, home to 1,300 residents in 13 environmentally friendly buildings. It was praised by the jury for creating a home to a community and not just a stockpile of individual dwellings.

“Wide airy stairwells are meeting places where neighbours talk, shops are let on the basis of what the community wants, not who just can afford the rent,” David Ireland, director of the Building and Social Housing Foundation and co-ordinator of the World Habitat Awards, said in a statement announcing this year’s winners. “The project is led by the people living there,” added World Habitat Award judge and UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr Joan Clos.

The project also received high points for addressing housing affordability, which Clos called “one of the most important problems worldwide, both in the developed and developing world”. It also has an innovative and participatory approach to sustainability as residents have their say on matters relating to climate change, mobility, energy consumption and other challenges of urbanisation.

The Nubian Vaults project is training hundreds of local people across the Sahel to construct vaulted roofs using sun-dried mud bricks. According to BSHF, this technique replaces unsuitable materials often used for housing and has resulted in over 2,000 homes now being more affordable and comfortable.

Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to adequate housing and one of the judges, said: “The right to adequate housing is so fragile right now and under such threat, it’s incredibly heartening to know that ‘A roof, a skill, a market’ is fighting to ensure a dignified life through adequate housing. It strikes me that this project has a macro perspective that fits with the human rights vision.”

In a region under extreme pressure from climate change, conflict and poverty, the project allows people to improve their housing situation for little cost and virtually no environmental impact, added Ireland.

The World Habitat Awards are run by the Building and Social Housing Foundation with the support of UN-Habitat. They are awarded annually to housing projects that have answers to issues affecting people across the globe.


Image credit: Building and Social Housing Foundation

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