This technical report is the sixteenth of a series of reports prepared and distributed jointly by the International Labour Office (ILO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). It is the third of a collection dealing specifically with building materials for low-cost housing.
Housing is one of the crucial problems of our time; one-quarter of the world population lives in some form of precarious dwelling and nearly 100 million humain beings have no dwelling at all. The situation in some countries is especially dramatic - towns are expanding out of control and can no longer absorb the massive influx of people from the rural areas who settle in shanty-towns on the outskirts of the cities while, at the same time, dwelling conditions in the rural areas continue to deteriorate.
Given the housing situation in developing countries, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 1987 "International Housing for the Homeless Year". The purpose of that decision was twofold - to make the international community aware of the problems facing the homeless and to promote specific activities to increase the amount of low-cost housing available. The ILO undertook to contribute to some of those activities especially as the promotion of appropriate policies for the building sector should help also create productive employment. It is to be hoped that the preparation and distribution of this technical memorandum will encourage the adoption of such policies by the governments of developing countries.
Given the limited resources available for low-cost housing programmes, and the limited means of the families who require such housing, it is important that building costs be kept to a minimum by the use of the appropriate techniques and materials. The use of appropriate materials - and especially materials which can be produced from raw materials found locally and requiring little or no imported equipment - should contribute to attaining many of the development goals, especially the generation of creative employment, the improvement of the balance of payments and the development of rural industries.
The fibre or micro-concrete tile is just one such material. That tile is produced from a mixture of about 20 per cent cement to 80 per cent sand. Fibre or aggregate are added as reinforcement. The production of this type of tile has the following advantages: it uses locally available raw materials (only the cement will have to be imported by certain countries); low equipment costs as the plant can be produced locally with but few imported inputs (such as the motor); relatively low total investment such as can be put up by local contractors; low-cost creation of productive jobs; very little or no imported inputs; thermal and acoustic comfort; improved appearance of dwellings.
Even though the advantages of the fibre or micro-concrete tile are currently recognised by specialists in that area and this type of tile has proved its worth in very many countries since 1976, its use on a large scale requires three sorts of measures which are the responsibility of the governments of developing countries.
First of all, research and development has to be encouraged in connection with this type of material. Such efforts could, for example, be devoted to trying to replace cement by some local, less costly material, to identifying new fibres, to effecting market studies to discover what obstacles exist to the widespread use of fibre or micro-concrete tiles, etc. Then certain legal or fiscal measures will have to be reviewed which might otherwise hinder the adoption of such materials. Finally, it will be important thoroughly to disseminate information on this technology and to ensure the proper training both of the users and the potential producers of such materials. Indeed, in many developing countries, it will be necessary to overcome an unjustified obsession with corrugated iron, which obsession constitutes a serious hindrance to the adoption of other materials more appropriate for roofing. This technical memorandum is meant to serve as an instrument - among others -leading to a better understanding of fibre or micro-concrete tiles for roofing.
The preparation and distribution of this technical report meets two specific needs. Firstly, it will provide governments and persons in charge of the institutions concerned with housing with socio-economic information which will enable them to determine to what extent it is in the interest of their countries to promote the use of fibre or micro-concrete tiles and the means to be adopted to that end. Secondly, it will provide building contractors and the heads of building material firms with all the technical and economic information that they will need for setting up fibre or micro-concrete tile production units. The production scales considered range from 500 to 5000 tiles a week (equivalent to a roofing surface of 40 m2 to 400 m2). Production units on this scale should not exceed the size of a small firm.
The technical chapters, which are addressed to the producers and potential users of fibre or micro-concrete tiles (chapters II to VIII) provide fairly detailed information on the raw materials, equipment and production methods used and should require no further comment other than the information provided by equipment manufacturers. Contractors lacking the necessary technical knowledge would be able to avail themselves of the training organised by various institutions such as the ILO (see Annex II). In other words, this technical report should not be considered a training manual but rather a solid basis for such a manual or for training sessions.
Any contractor who may be considering investing in a fibre or micro-concrete tile production unit could resort to a simplified method enabling him to estimate production costs of tiles on a given scale of production and to predetermine the profitability of such a unit (chapter IX). The final chapter, addressed to planners and funding institutions, sets forth information of a socio-economic nature on the effects at national scale of the adoption of fibre or micro-concrete tiles, and more especially the effects this will have on employment, balance of payments, rural industrialisation and building costs.
A questionnaire has been included with this technical report so that anyone wishing to send the ILO or the UNIDO their comments and observations on the content and usefulness of this publication may do so. Replies will be taken into account in the preparation of future reports.
This technical report was prepared by Mr. G. Brys, member of the ILO Entrepreneurship and Management Development Branch. Mr. Brys is responsible, in that service, for the technology and employment programme for the building sector.