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François Perrot


Head of Affordable Housing & 14Trees Ltd at LafargeHolcim


Sustainable cities expert
François Perrot

Making sustainable building accessible to the bottom of the pyramid

François Perrot, Head of Affordable Housing & 14Trees Ltd at LafargeHolcim

What are the key trends in the construction sector today?

To better understand the issues related to the construction sector, it’s important to be aware of the statistics related to urbanization: more than 50% of the global population now lives in cities and nearly four billion people in the world lack access to adequate housing. Around one billion people today live in slums–a figure that will climb to two billion by 2030. In order to help these low-income populations gain access to housing at the most affordable price possible, LafargeHolcim has put in place the Affordable Housing Program.

What is the sustainable response to the “bottom of the pyramid’s” growing housing demand?

The diversity of the urban issues at hand requires a wide range of responses that are both innovative and adapted to each country. Our Affordable Housing program, which helped 440,000 people improve their housing conditions in 2015 and yielded an EBITDA of 15 million Swiss francs (15.1 million in USD), is in place in 25 countries, each with a different context. We have identified four large types of projects: the first group includes projects that fund living improvements through microfinance, with support from local partners. Next is a group of projects based on distribution networks that respond to logistical problems. For instance, we adapt our concrete transportation and packaging in order to channel construction materials to informal settlements. The third group of projects relate to partnerships with social housing builders to optimize the organization and management of the building sites and the construction quality, notably in Nigeria. Finally, the last category is comprised of Durabric, a solution that replaces traditional burnt clay brick with one that is produced from a mixture of dirt and naturally hardened cement. This eliminates the firing stage which requires the cutting of trees, contributing to deforestation. This process can divide CO2 emissions by 10 for each square meter of material. The testing phases in Malawi have proven that the demand exists. To accelerate the production and promotion of Durabric, we’ve created 14Trees, a joint-venture between LafargeHolcim and the British development agency, CDC.

Is collaboration a key to success?

The issue of access to housing is multi dimensional. We have to work on our own solution, integrating it with those of local partners in order to make the ecosystem evolve as a whole. The microfinance example illustrates this well: each housing microloan client is put in contact with a technical advisor, and we’re putting in place adequate distribution networks so that the client can go look for construction materials from the retailer directly, without requiring a monetary transaction. All of this allows for building complete solutions within an ecosystem that needs to be strengthened. In Nigeria, for instance, we’re working with the World Bank and The French Development Agency to develop the Housing Microfinance Academy program, which trains Nigerian banks so they will be ready to offer housing microloans.

What about collaborations between cities?

This is an extremely important dimension. Whether it be rural areas or densely populated areas, including informal settlements, city officials must be involved. This helps identify areas in need of permanent affordable housing. Cities are the builders of these sustainable solutions.

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