Minister Blade Nzimande: Launch of 3D Construction Printing for Sustainable Human Settlements Project

Address by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, MP, on the occasion of the launch of the 3D Construction Printing for sustainable human settlements project at the university of Johannesburg
Programme director; Dr Mboneni Muofhe, DSI Deputy Director-General
Outgoing University of Johannesburg Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala;
Incoming Vice-Chancellor, University of Johannesburg: Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi;
CEO of Agrèment South Africa, Mr Richard Somanje;
Chair of the Sustainable Materials and Construction Centre at UJ, Mr Rali Mampeule;
CEO of the National Home Builders Regulatory Council, Mr Songezo Booi;
Project team led by Prof. Jeffery Mahachi and Mr Tshepang Mosiea;
Distinguished guests;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning

It is an honour and privilege for me to address you on this important occasion of the launch of the 3D Construction Printing for Sustainable Human Settlements Project.

The Construction 3D printing technology is one of the latest demonstrations of our commitment as the Department of Science and Innovation to increasingly employ science, technology and innovation in addressing the day-to-day challenges of our people, including in the provision of quality housing, education, water supply and infrastructure.

Before I venture into the discussion about our 3D Construction Printing initiative, I would like to remind all of us that Infrastructure development is central to our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP).

In his 2022 State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa said through innovative funding and improved technical capabilities, government prioritised infrastructure projects to support economic growth and better livelihoods, especially in energy, roads and water management.

Through the Infrastructure Fund, government allocated R100 billion from the fiscus over 10 years to fund infrastructure projects.
The Infrastructure Fund is now working with state entities to prepare a pipeline of projects with an investment value of approximately R96 billion in student accommodation, social housing, telecommunications, water and sanitation and transport.

One of the challenges which remains an impediment to government efforts to provide the necessary infrastructure, is the corruption in the construction sector, which cost the state about R10 billion. This include the fight against what we came to know as “the construction mafia”, and those who are disturbing construction sites in demand of a 30%.

For us as government to fight against corruption, we must develop and deploy technologies that target the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, and monitoring of corruption and corrupt practices.

Technology has proven to be a tool that can redefine the functions and operations of many systems and processes, and can help us to deliver optimal services to our people.

Challenges in providing safe and quality housing

Ladies and gentlemen

A house fulfils a fundamental need for human habitation. Acquisition of a home (through purchase or construction) is probably one of the most significant expenses for many people in South Africa.

However, the complex South African housing industry has two disparate markets: one market financed by the private sector and the other subsidised by the government.

Despite several measures put in place by the government, the housing backlog in South Africa is still unacceptably high, at more than 2.3 million houses.

This is despite the expected increase in Department of Human Settlements expenditure at an average annual rate of 5.3 per cent, from R29.1 billion in 2020/21 to R34 billion in 2023/24.

In the midst of these challenges, the Department of Human Settlements has been making attempts to streamline the housing delivery processes.

Over time, the Department of Human Settlement introduced new policies, grant frameworks and implementation methodologies so that the housing delivery system could be more responsive to changing demand patterns of the housing market.

In South Africa, there have been challenges of limited uptake of innovative building technologies in house construction.

Research has shown that innovation has changed how homes are made in many countries, their performance, affordability, and functionality.

Although the South African building regulatory environment is not prescriptive in the materials and products used in construction, there has been a slow uptake of innovative building products compared to that in other countries.

There are currently no international or South African National Standards to evaluate the performance of these products.

Using innovative building products in South Africa has significant potential economic ramifications, including eradicating the housing backlog, providing better-quality housing and construction products, and possibly reducing the life cycle cost of the houses.

South Africa has the potential to deliver more than 160 000 and 80 000 homes per year in the government-subsidised and private sectors, respectively, as evidenced in the 2008/09 financial year.

However, since 2009, the delivery of government subsidised houses has been dropping at an alarming rate, indicating serious intervention is required by government and private developers in the home-built environment.

This, therefore, requires a change: an exploration of how innovation, in its broad context, can be utilised to examine the structure, characteristics, and technologies available to accelerate the delivery of houses.

A general reluctance by the construction industry to embrace technological advancement has meant that productivity is low, outdated, and lacking in dynamism and creativity.

There are various contributory factors. For example, there is an insufficient collaboration between technology suppliers and contractors, inadequate knowledge transfer from one project to the next, fear and anxiety by built environment professionals to explore innovative ideas and solutions, and misperceptions of the cost and acceptability of the technologies.

However, the construction industry is well-positioned to refine its business-as-usual productivity and efficiency models and embrace technological advances such as building information modelling, construction 3D printing, and augmented reality.

Composition of the project partners

In response to this challenge, my Department of Science and Innovation, which is the main project sponsor, partnered with the University of Johannesburg to deliver on this multi-disciplinary project.

We appointed the University of Johannesburg (UJ), School of Civil Engineering and The Built Environment, to undertake a research project on 3D construction printing technologies and pilot the technology in the construction of housing.

We also identified various industry stakeholders as key support to the project’s success. These partners includes:

Mampeule Foundation which provided a R5million grant over five years to postgraduate students pursuing studies in innovation in the built environment;
AfriSam, the cement supplier assisted UJ with all cementitious products required for the project and the;
KZN Department of Human Settlements committed to provide serviced sites for the demonstration and building of 10 houses in Ethekwini Municipality.
Ladies and gentlemen

The construction 3D printing pilot project was first implementation on the 1st April 2022 and is expected to conclude on 31 March 2024.

As it was presented during the project technical briefing this morning, the printer acquired for this project was purchased for R6million. This cost includes freight and insurance.

In partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements, Phase 3 of the project will entail the pilot implementation of construction 3D printing of full-scale houses in KwaZulu-Natal with an identified construction SMME to implement the physical construction.

Through this project, the KZN Department of Human Settlements plans to print a social building first – for example, a community centre – and then print houses later.

This will allow the construction team to demonstrate the technical viability of 3D printing on one socially impactful structure before building homes.

The project site for construction is located in uMhlathuze Municipality, Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal.

In order to make this project a success, we have ensured that we service the site with adequate water, sewer reticulation and electricity connections.

Part of our agreement with the KZN Department of Human Settlements includes –

To conduct detailed social perception studies (pre, during and post-construction);
To detail life-cycle costing of 3D printed houses based on local material and labour costs;
To identify alternative sources of 3D local materials after testing the suitability of the materials;
To provide policy and implementation guidelines; and conduct skills transfer to SMMEs.
Broadly speaking, construction 3D printing will ensure many benefits to the South African housing construction industry, particularly where mass-scale house customisation is required.

Some of the benefits include:

High precision and various complex typologies for the end user. The material mix design is consistent, and the structure’s integrity is ‘lab-based’, giving a structure with the desired structural performance requirements and durability.
Material quantities required for the house construction are controlled and mixed in the right proportions with limited waste materials;
The delivery rate is constant (with the potential for 24-hour production if required), while maintaining the same production quality. A higher construction speed can deliver houses much faster;
Since the houses are printed on site, the logistics and travelling costs are reduced;
As technology in the field advances, construction 3D printing will provide a platform for creativity and entrepreneurship development and has potential to attract youth and women into the industry.
Ladies and gentlemen

We are acutely aware of the other critical issues that need to be addressed in order to create an enabling regulatory and technological environment for the rollout of this housing construction technology.

Some of these issues that are still under research, includes:

Education of professionals, mainly architects and engineers to promote and adopt construction 3D printing technologies. Such education needs to start at tertiary institutions and through continuous professional development;
High capital outlay in order to acquire construction 3D printers;
Manufacturing of construction 3D printers that can be used in more rugged geographic topographies, particularly in rural areas;
Considering of perceptions of beneficiaries, owners, and government on the performance of houses built through innovative building technologies in general and construction 3D printing in particular.
Despite all these critical issues that are yet to be addressed, we believe that the Construction 3D printing will significantly alter and positively disrupt how human settlements will be delivered in South Africa.

Furthermore, it is our firm view that the construction 3D printing can significantly contribute to the current programmes of the Department of Human Settlement, in the implementation of the Comprehensive Housing Plan (CHP) which aims at eradicating informal settlements in South Africa in the shortest possible time.

The key issue is that now the technology is there, but the key challenge we have as a country is jobs, and the construction industry is labour intensive and we need that for job opportunities in South Africa. The speed and scale with which this technology is to be used must strongly factor this reality. However, this technology can be effectively used for swift response in provision of emergency housing in case of disasters. We better be ahead with technology so we use it taking into account our own realities.

In conclusion

Let me thank and acknowledge the role of our strategic partners, the University of Johannesburg. Thank you very much to team UJ.

My gratitude also goes to our Mampeule Foundation, AfriSam, the KZN Department of Human Settlements.

I also thank you my colleague minister Kubayi-Ngubane, MEC for Human Settlements in Gauteng, Mr Lebogang Maile and MEC for Human Settlements in KZN, Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba.

It is our hope that more and more provincial government departments and strategic public and private sector players will subscribe to this technology and support government’s efforts to provide quality, safe and affordable housing for all who need it.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa