Geoff is delighted to welcome a new intern to GPA! Cemre Şahinkaya is from Istanbul and is studying at the Technical University Munich master degree course on Land Tenure and Land Management. Geoff met Cemre when lecturing on the course in 2016 and was happy to invite Cemre to come to London as part of her thesis preparation looking at urban regeneration in Turkey and Germany. Cemre would be happy to hear from anyone working on urban regeneration and can be contacted directly at Thank you in advance. I just want to make my e-mail adress correct as firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find further about her in cemre_gpa_newest.
Open Mundus Urbano has just released their interview with Geoff about his view on urban development and land management as part of Mundus Urbano Interview series. You can see it on their website.
Geoff was invited by the RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) to write a summary of the Habitat III conference in Quito, in October 2016. The blog can be uploaded here.
The United Nations has just released Geoff’s lecture on land tenure and property rights as part of the UN-Habitat Global Urban Lecture series. You can see it on their website.
The lecture distills 30 years of international experience on land tenure issues to provide a short, non-technical review of concepts, issues, methods and policy examples.
Geoff hopes the lecture will be useful for students, practitioners and policy makers and would be happy to receive feedback.
On the 22nd of May, Geoff took his two interns Bereket Neguse from Eritrea and Wenes Widiyani from Indonesia gliding and hiking at the Dunstable, London. They are both currently part of the Mundus Urbano – MSc in International Cooperation in Urban Development, doing their second year Masters program at the University of Grenoble Alpes, France. They have been engaged in GPA by doing a study and preparing a literature review of urban land production and lease transfer of three cities in Ethiopia, namely Addis Ababa, Mekelle and Adama. In addition, they have also been engaged in the Vietnam ‘Scaling up Urban Upgrading Project’ regarding land use and master plans review briefly. They are also responsible for updating GPA website.
The gliding was a delightful experience for both interns, where the highlight of that day was the loop Geoff did during gliding.
The day ended by attending a seminar on- Brexit and It’s Impact on Asia and The Commonwealth which was organized by the Democracy Forum at Senate Room, Senate House, Malet St, London.
As Wenes is going to leave in mid-June, this outing was also cherished as a farewell for her exciting time in GPA.
One of the greatest rewards of working on housing issues in rapidly urbanising countries is the opportunity to see how resourceful people are when it comes to obtaining land and housing, even when they have extremely limited resources. The World Habitat Awards, organised and funded by BSHF, provide a wealth of examples of such innovation and I was grateful to be invited by the Director, David Ireland, to visit the 2016-17 World Habitat Awards winning project in Senegal.
‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ was the inspiration of a French mason visiting Burkina Faso in 1998. He saw the vast potential of earth architecture in the arid rural areas of the Sahel and proposed that the Nubian form of mudbrick vaulting be revived as a form of building that would be more comfortable, affordable and environmentally sustainable than conventional reinforced concrete structures. Its unique structural advantage is that by building the arches so that they lean against the end wall, later bricks can lean against earlier arches, making it unnecessary to use wooden formwork until the arch is complete. This means that the system can create vaults of any length and does not need to use increasingly scarce and expensive timber during the construction process.
The program started in Burkina Faso in 2000 with support from the French government and a small team of committed professionals. The Nubian Vault Association has now completed more than 2,000 houses in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal varying in size and area from modest single storey structures to luxury two storey villas.
With a maximum span of 3.25 metres, buildings provide congenial and calming spaces and can either link to adjoining vaults to create different layouts, or include reinforced concrete beams so that large open spaces can be created. In this way, the structural system can be adapted to meet different uses and the program has already inspired local groups to build school buildings, community centres, mosques and maternity centres.
What makes ‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ so special is not, however, just the buildings, great though they are. The greatest achievement is that the team promoting it see the approach as increasing employment opportunities for people of different skill levels in a context where population growth has exceeded economic growth, leading to mass migration out of the region. It is also based closely on market costs in order to demonstrate its economic viability compared to expensive and less environmentally efficient imported materials. Being 100 percent carbon free, it has also been accepted by the governments of Burkina Faso and Senegal as part of their national policies in meeting the global Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals.
During a short, but extremely productive and enjoyable visit, the project team of Cecilia Rinaudo and Emmanuelle showed us impressive projects in the rural areas near Dakar, the World Heritage town of St Louis and Podor, on the border with Mauritania. A community managing an environmental reserve told us, “we can manage the reserve better now we have a place to manage it from”, while a school that had previously been reporting low examination results became the top performer the year after the new vaulted building was completed because the improved thermal comfort helped students to concentrate. A local entrepreneur told us his neighbors had expected his house to be washed away when the first rains came and were amazed when it not only withstood the rains but coped just as well when he added a second floor! Finally, a medical doctor said he was happy to spend extra hours at work because the clinic where he worked was more comfortable than his own home!
The program has been expanding at 30 percent a year and has ambitious plans to maintain momentum so that the system is accepted as appropriate for different building types as well as housing and can operate without external financial support.
While most buildings using the system are in rural areas where the majority of the population lives, there is considerable potential for urban and particularly peri-urban areas where population pressure is increasing the demand for affordable housing and where labour intensive methods are ideal. The Nubian Vault Association team hope to apply the approach throughout the whole Sahel region from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and from Algeria in the north to Nigeria in the south. They even plan to reintroduce it in the Nubian desert of Sudan where the tradition first started centuries ago, a great example of learning from the past to meet the challenges of the present and future.
The program and the dynamic team managing it are a deserving winner of this year’s World Habitat Awards!
This article is published in BSHF webpage
In late 2016, Geoff was invited by ICF Consultants to join their proposal to undertake a major review of urban land supply and affordable housing in Ethiopia. The proposal was successful and Geoff has been appointed as the lead consultant in the review of urban land production and lease transfer, while Dr. Graham Tipple has been appointed the international lead in reviewing affordable housing. The project will involve detailed studies in three cities, Addis Ababa, Adama, and Mekelle. Geoff will be working in collaboration with the local land expert Dr. Wondimu Abeje and Graham will be working together with Dr. Elias Yitbarek. The project will include a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods including extensive household surveys, semi-structured in-depth case studies, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and a review of the extensive literature on the subject.
The project will be undertaken over an eighteen month period and will include presentations on findings with key stakeholders in Ethiopia and discussions on policy and regulatory options for improving access to affordable, secure and reasonably located land for all those in need and means of strengthening the capability of central, provincial and municipal authorities in urban land management and administration.
Geoff undertook the first of several missions in March, during which he met key officials in Addis Ababa and Mekelle and visited a range of residential, commercial and industrial developments. A second mission is planned for early May to initiate the key informant interviews.
Geoff has been invited to become a member of the International Committee of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Although Geoff missed the meeting in March due to travel commitments, he hopes to contribute actively on issues relating to urban planning in the Global South, where the challenges facing the planning profession are particularly daunting. Among the major issues are how can low and very low-income groups gain access to affordable and secure land and housing in locations where competition is greatest and where prices are therefore high? What powers do planners have to influence investment decisions by investors? How can the public sector capture a reasonable proportion of the added value from urban land development? What roles can be enhanced by the participation of citizens in the urban planning process?
For those interested in working as planners internationally, the RTPI has produced an excellent guide to getting started. Click here to access a copy.
Finally, the RTPI is supporting World Town Planning Day on 08 November 2017.
Following Geoff’s visit to Senegal in December 2016 to assess the ‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ project that was shortlisted for the 2017 World Habitat Awards, the Building and Social Housing has announced that the project has been successful in winning one of the two awards! Geoff congratulates all involved in this ambitious programme that has not only shown that the technique can be applied to a wide range of building types, from schools to community centres, housing and maternity clinics, but also provides employment opportunities for semi-skilled workers in a country where many young men have left to seek a future in other countries.
For full details see BSHF website.
Picture by BSHF.
Geoff was invited by David Ireland, Director of the Building and Social Housing Foundation, to visit Senegal to review a shortlisted project for the 2017 World Habitat Awards which the foundation sponsors and organises.
Geoff was one of several trustees invited to visit projects in different countries and was in Senegal between 8-11 December 2016.
During this short time, he visited projects in Dakar, Podor, and Saint Louis, plus some villages, covering large distances up to the Mauritania border.
The projects involved reviving the traditional Nubian mudbrick vaulting system of roofing that does not require any formwork during construction and has been used in a range of building from housing, maternity clinics, community centres and mosques. To read Geoff’s blog, click here.
Here are some of Geoff’s personal photographs:
The projects. Maternity clinic (pic. 1) and house (pic. 2) using Nubian vault roofing.
Everyday life. Women benefitting from the projects (pic. 3); great hospitality by the local community (pic. 4).