When it comes to government housing projects on the African continent, plenty of planning and provision of necessary services will be required to make these bulk housing schemes a success. The South African government has come up with an infrastructural programme that will provide access to modern and effective services like electricity, water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and training for its entire people. A mass housing programme can help generate employment, sills and economic activity, both directly and indirectly and should help ensure peace and stability.
Apart from working with town planners, landscapers and architects, engineers play a huge role in providing bulk housing projects with services such as water, sanitisation, waste management, etc.
Across Africa there has been lack of experience in tackling such huge public housing projects, but in South Africa, with the help of highly skilled professional engineers, the N2 Gateway is the biggest public housing project in South Africa’s history to date. The project is ambitious and far sighted. It seeks to develop sustainable human settlements for the future rather than focusing purely on the delivery of masses of tiny identical homes in only poor communities. The aim has been to deliver houses that provide security, comfort and dignity to many low income families and to provide them all with a sense of pride and focus.
Some engineering services include bulk water supply which includes providing water to each erf and water reticulation should be installed with meter connections to each stand. Fire provision services would mean incorporating fire hydrants to appropriate stands.
Bulk collector sewers and pump stations would need to be constructed. This would include the installation of low-flush toilets in suitable housing structures. Measurement of night flow and protection from storm water ingress, construction of ablution facilities in public areas are all integral services that makes an engineer’s job on government housing projects so important.
Waste Management would include providing all families with refuse bins and the construction of transfer stations to compact waste for transport. There would also need to be local offices equipped so that residents can contact the service provider, lay complaints, collect refuse bags, etc.
Electrical services street lights, aesthetic public open space lighting and pre-paid meters all need to be taken into account as well as surfacing of roads and construction of sidewalks for pedestrians to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.
Transportation studies would need to be studied by the engineer for access to railways, roads and facilities. Traffic management measures which includes the construction of speed humps, road constrictions or even the closure of certain of the long, narrow downhill roads to reduce speeding, improve safety and prevent the practice of trenches or dangerous speed humps constructed by residents as well as the construction of taxi ranks all make engineering services an absolute must in the construction of government housing projects.
There is a way forward
The last few years saw marked improvements in housing developments in integrated human settlements. The approach contributes to the improvement of living conditions of the beneficiaries. Challenges, however, remain but they are being steadfastly confronted as government try and contribute to the creation of a nonracial, nonsexist and socio-economically integrated societies.