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Sustainable construction strategies and materials as a driver for built form: proposed skills development centre in KwaXimba, KZN.

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In the past, people built their dwelling houses and surroundings with available materials from their residing regions. The materials were harvested locally, affordable and environmentally friendly, resulting in sustainable development. Indigenous communities established knowledge systems to use their local materials known as Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS). However, the industrial revolution introduced industrialised materials and rejection of indigenous & sustainable construction materials and strategies (SCSM) emerged. As a result; the knowledge of SCSM is slowly eroding and failure to transmit it to younger generation will lead to an unsustainable environment and loss of historical culture. Also, the loss of skills adversely impacts community resilience as it contributes to unemployment and poverty. Consequently, industrialised materials are utilised for construction incorrectly and place people’s health in danger. The phenomenon also results in a built environment lacking cultural identity. KwaXimba, KZN experiences a high rate of unemployment caused by a lack of skills among the youths. However, indigenous SCSM is undervalued but could bring a sustainable environment in underdeveloped communities. The purpose of the study is to inform the built form: architectural and urban design, that revitalising sustainable construction strategies and materials could promote education, transfer of indigenous knowledge to the youths, preserve historical culture and accomplish community resilience through skills development centre. The study employed the use of secondary data; current literature was reviewed, and the main findings were analysed and validated against selected precedents and case studies at both global and local contexts. Also, semi-structured interviews with professional architects were conducted. The semi-structured focus group interviews with youth and old participants in rural regions of KwaXimba, KZN were also conducted. The conclusions are based on the research findings and principles for implementation in a suitable skill development centre in KwaXimba, KZN were developed. The approaches towards the built form that promote community resilience can be established through the creation of interactive spaces for cultural activities expressing local cultural identity. The traditional urban and architectural designs principles can resolve the issue through the symbiosis principles which interprets indigenous elements, including construction materials and strategies, in a contemporary manner. Therefore, IKS can be preserved through this principle. Furthermore, community engagement during construction guarantees the community ownership of the building or intervention. Thus, the skills development centre should leave a gap for the community to add their signature to the building through selected construction materials & strategies and created spaces or building functions. Then it will create a strong sense of belonging and cultural identity.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.