Newly formed LafargeHolcim Ltd., Zurich, honored 2015 World Habitat Day last month outlining its approach to affordable housing, especially in developing countries where it has cement, aggregate, concrete and building materials operations. With world population on a steadily upward trajectory, company officials note, an adequate stock of dwellings has become one of the biggest 21st century challenges. Key figures from World Habitat Day sponsors tell the story: 4 billion people in the world do not have access to decent housing; 800 million people live in slums; and, conditions in India alone indicate a need for 150 million-plus sanitation units.
LafargeHolcim’s affordable housing approach is benefiting from legacy companies’ input and expertise. The mid-2015 Lafarge SA–Holcim Ltd. merger has allowed cross-pollinating of best practices and strategies, and fostered a comprehensive offer based around five pillars:
- Microfinance solutions helping low income individuals realize their home projects;
- Earth-cement building solutions allowing a sustainable, alternative solution to burnt clay brick;
- Upgrading informal settlements using tailored packaging and logistics;
- Solutions for collective social housing resulting in faster construction and improved building quality; and,
- Solutions for low-income households to access affordable and durable sanitation facilities.
With support from Agence Française de Développement, Inclusive Business Action Network, Inter-American Development Bank, UN–Habitat and World Urban Campaign, LafargeHolcim has initiated an online collaborative space to support building projects world wide. Through Affordable Housing Hub, the company aims to facilitate intermediation and knowledge sharing; list innovative architectural concepts and best practices; and, flag projects whose sponsors seek partners. A discussion group on professional social network LinkedIn has likewise been launched.