Pre-Fab Pod House Brings Modern Off-Grid Living To South Africa

While many of us dream of living off the grid, there are millions around the world that do so out of necessity. Without luxuries like reliable electricity and indoor plumbing, those in developing nations live in conditions that few of us would ever experience voluntarily.

A new pod house by Architecture for a Change seeks to use efficient design to improve rural living conditions in South Africa without the carbon footprint (or price tag) associated with traditional homes. Dubbed the Mamelodi Pod, the pre-fab structure could be an affordable housing solution for those in Africa’s informal settlement communities.

Mamelodi Pod

Image via Architecture for a Change

“South Africa has 2,700 informal settlements with millions of inhabitants living in substandard conditions,” Dirk Coetser, Director of AFAC told Gizmag. “Many of these informal settlements don’t have water supply, electrical connections or storm water removal systems.”

Despite best intentions, it is difficult to get an education and improve ones position in life when you can’t stay warm, dry, or light your home at night. The Mamelodi Pod is being developed as a transitional dwelling that would allow those living in the settlements to feel safe and stay healthy.

The Pod is fabricated off-site so it can be shipped flat by truck. Aside from the concrete foundation, the entire building is created in the factory for maximum efficiency and affordability. When it arrives, AFAC claims it can be assembled by three people in less than one day.

Mamelodi Pod

Image via Architecture for a Change

Galvanized zinc sheets, a layer of Sisalation (a highly reflective foil material), Isotherm thermal insulation and internal plywood panels make up the Mamelodi Pod’s walls. The layering of these materials helps the structure stay cool in the daytime heat, but warm at night when temperatures can drop quickly. Four bunk-beds provide space for sleeping and relaxation.

A large central skylight allows inhabitants to take advantage of free day-lighting, while a rooftop solar panel powers the nighttime interior lighting, two external LED strip lights and a 12-volt charger. The pod is equipped with a 264 gallon water tank–a lifesaving feature in Mamelodi where most people have to walk miles to fetch water, and carry it back to their homes.

According to AFAC, the prototype structure only costs about $4,500 to complete.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

    • ArtaGene

      A sensible and workable solution and much better than a home made of boxes and scraps. Insulated, lighting taken care of and easy to keep clean without a dirt floor!