The shortage of student accommodation is one of the factors that contribute to dropouts and high failure rates. African Student Accommodation Group (STAG African) is on a mission to address the student accommodation crisis in universities. To tackle the issue, the group is exploring new innovative development techniques.
Innovative building technology (IBT) is a green alternative to bricks and mortar building with lighter steel structures that are pre-fabricated off-site. In the building process, no water is required and 87 percent of the steel used is recycled. This reduces construction costs by 13 percent and time by 40 percent.
“Construction is one of the biggest drivers of climate change and within developing economies it is also a key to growth. It is the way of the future to promote green building practices and a workforce equipped to implement them,” says John Schooling, Director of STAG African.
Schooling saw an opening in the student accommodation crisis in 2008 and decided that with innovation, his company, STAG Holdings, could build affordable and sustainable residences. According to Schooling, their research found that the average spend per student per room for universities in Africa was around R280 000 ($19,500) which he thought was high at the time and saw an opportunity.
“Through optimal architectural design and product innovation, we brought construction costs down dramatically, to around R150 000 ($10,500).” says Schooling.
The University of Fort Hare has received 244 new bed facilities built by STAG African, totalling 880 facilities built for the institution this year. The company is also responsible for building a R45 million residence at the University of Stellenbosch using innovative building technology (IBT) material.
In 2014, STAG Holdings merged with the African Student Accommodation Group to form STAG African. Since inception, the company has successfully delivered over R9-billion worth of developments.
“STAG African has helped quantify the shortfall and convince government of the need to accept the use of IBTs as a solution; we still have a long road to travel, however, we can say with 100% certainty that optimal architectural design, product innovation, the reduction of operational costs and successful grant funding are key to addressing the student accommodation crisis,” Schooling says.
He believes that there is still time for an undeveloped Africa to use green construction methods to build a sustainable industrialised and developed continent which can be an example to the rest of the world.
“I have no doubt that it is the future of world, not only Africa. Africa is at a critical position in both space and time, where sustainable building methodologies and renewable energy have become a cost-effective reality,” says Schooling.