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Home for a 100-year-old Free State man

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24 Sep 2012

Vela Building Solutions recently donated a modular-constructed home, and matching utility building to a 100-year-old Free State man Jacob Mokhatjhane, who had been living in an informal settlement in the small town of Theunissen.

Jacob Mokhatjhane and his wife Maphello (seated), with Vela’s Brent Harris (standing centre) and members of the Masilo Township community.

It took no more than 20 paces for Mokhatjhane to step up from lifelong shack living to full-blown formal home ownership, after alternative building specialist Brent Harris, handed him the keys to a brand new house.

That’s how far he walked from the remnants of the shack he previously lived in to the front door of his new home to cut the symbolic ribbon and take occupation.

The event was the result of a decision by community leaders of Theunissen’s Masilo Township that Jacob and his wife Maphello should take ownership of the modern home and utility outbuilding, erected and donated to the community by Vela Building Solutions, of which Brent is the founder and CEO.

Vela is a leading national producer and supplier of home-grown alternative building technologies (ABT) based in Alrode, Alberton in Gauteng.

The 50 square metre home and “Vela’ekhaya” outbuilding, were manufactured at Vela’s Alberton factory, transported flat-packed to Masilo, and then erected on site by Vela-trained local labour. The home meets the specifications of the Free State government’s House Plan 9.

Fully electrified, the ceiling-fitted and carpet-tiled house consists of two bedrooms; a bathroom; open-plan lounge/dining room; kitchen facilities; and front porch.

The adjacent detached Vel’ekhaya outbuilding can be used as a secure storage facility or as a source of rental income for the couple.

A Vela-developed and factory-produced housing unit, Vel’ekhaya is attracting widespread support in South Africa’s informal settlement communities as an affordable, secure, thermally-efficient, fireproof, and relocatable alternative to shack dwelling.

Brent says ABT is being increasingly applied throughout South Africa and the rest of the sub-continent, as a rapid, cost-effective and sustainable alternative to traditional bricks and mortar in the construction of housing and other community infrastructure (such as schools, crèches, clinics, offices and trading outlets).

“The donation of the new house reinforces our commitment to, and involvement in, helping to put a roof over the heads of local communities everywhere – particularly in the high-need arenas of accommodation, healthcare and education,” says Brent.

The core of the company’s success is the seamless application of the efficiencies of factory production to on-site construction that uses low skills.

This not only results in competitive pricing and fast-track construction, but also counteracts the effects of the shortage of skilled trades’ people, non-availability of building materials in remote areas, and the need for maintaining construction quality.

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