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Overcoming the limitations of the building sector through collaborative approaches in architecture and urban planning.


The need for housing and infrastructure in Africa and the Diaspora is so great that it requires building more and at an unprecedented rate. The impact of the construction sector on the economy of African countries is positive in the short term because it creates jobs and hosts human activities. In the long term, it creates dependencies and economic fragility, and destroys the environment so critically that it is essential to build better. Finally, the weakness of financing in Africa and the economic constraints to which they are subjected impose building at a lower cost.
These seemingly contradictory demands do not invite us to give up the challenge or to lower our standards, but rather to think differently in order to solve the complex equation we are faced with.
Indeed, if building faster, cheaper and better seem to be three irreconcilable objectives, it is probably because we are trapped by a way of making our cities and buildings that we are used to.
Our EQOSYTEMIK series of guides, and this guide on collaborative approaches to the production of the built environment in particular, draw on the ingenuity of nature and the many carriers of change in the global south and elsewhere to present alternative ways of addressing the problems of cities and architecture in Africa and its Diaspora.
Ingenuity is indeed a skill that despite its spontaneous appearance can be acquired. It is a process that can be described because it has been systematically observed in the living world, embodied in the apparent tension of ecosystems towards survival and perpetual change.
Among the processes that characterize ecosystems, diversity, multifunctionality, redundancy, embeddedness in the biotope (environment), and the fact that many processes and individuals work in concert to provide environmental services have led us to see collaborative practices in all their forms as one possible manifestation of ecosystem ingenuity in the built environment.
This guide provides an introduction to these practices for people who are limited in their building projects by constraints in African contexts such as access to finance, cost of materials, control over land, and especially the difficulty of building environmentally sound projects that create local prosperity. It is also suitable for people who are not subject to these constraints but who wish to make better use of their resources to multiply their impact.
First, this document presents the general notions to understand collaborative practices in the architectural field and their benefits. After a presentation of the different ways of integrating participative approaches into the project, it focuses on the economic opportunities that can accompany the democratization of these practices. It concludes with a case study of an African project that embraced a more collaborative approach to overcome its financial limitations.

Aspects of the collaborative approach in architecture and urban planning: residents' groups, cooperatives and participation.

What do we mean by collaborative approach?

By collaborative approach, we mean any process of setting up, designing and carrying out an architectural or urban project that uses the benefits of pooling resources and individuals to improve the quality of the response to the order.

What are the similarities and differences between cooperative and participative approaches?

The usefulness of a cooperative is the formalization of the association of all or part of the actors of the project in order to achieve a common objective. It generally brings together the inhabitants and final users of the architectural and urban project.
When speaking of participation, we are referring to the degree and nature of the involvement of the various stakeholders (mainly the beneficiaries) in the design and implementation of the project.
A participatory design and implementation approach does not necessarily imply the creation of a cooperative. In the same way, the creation of a cooperative of inhabitants or users does not necessarily imply the participation of the latter in the design and realization of the architectural or urban project.
In any case, we can speak of groups of inhabitants or groups of users when we observe that they act in a concerted way within the framework of the project.

What is a cooperative?

A cooperative is a legal entity governed by law

Cooperatives are companies or legal entities owned and managed democratically by their members.
The distinctive features of a cooperative are its democratic management and its non-profit purpose. It is however possible for a cooperative (as a legal entity) to get involved in activities that generate profits in order to finance its own operation. It can also have as object the support and promotion of profit-making activities of its members.

The laws governing cooperatives vary from one country to another.

Some countries have laws specifically governing housing cooperatives. In this case, cooperatives are often used for the purpose of acquiring and exercising collective ownership of land and real estate. Members may enjoy real estate in return for renting their dwelling or premises to the cooperative or purchasing shares in the cooperative as a right of occupancy.
These models of collective ownership are different from co-ownership, where each member owns his or her own lot and a fraction of the common space in a building.

What is participation in architecture and urban planning?

Participation in architecture refers to a greater involvement of the project's stakeholders in the production of the project than is usually the case.
In the participatory project, we tend to widen the field of the collaborators of the project to include, for example, the future inhabitants of a building, the future employees of a hospital, or the community of a district being redeveloped.
This approach allows a better understanding of the needs of the inhabitants and users, which helps professionals to design the most appropriate projects possible.
The participatory approach is also used in the context of a project carried out by a group of people acting as project managers. Each stakeholder's particular needs in terms of the configuration of their private and common spaces become part of the project.
The perception of the participatory character of a project is relative. The definition of the degree of participation in a project is a function of the culture or practices of urban and architectural design and realization dominant in its context.
To take the example of the design of a hospital, a project manager inheriting a tradition where the architect designs alone will consider that questioning the future users of a hospital during the design process constitutes an important integration of the latter into the project. For another architect, starting the project with a dialogue with the inhabitants and allowing them to evaluate the project at each iteration can be considered as the normal way of doing architecture.

Participation can also be qualified by the need it addresses and the type of stakeholders it involves, which can vary depending on the project.
What is important to remember are the principles of participatory approaches: the diversity of expertise, the double role of user-designer, the pooling of resources, the collective intelligence. Whatever the collaborative approach chosen, the goal is to produce buildings that best meet the needs of their sponsors and beneficiaries.

How do collaborative approaches to construction contribute to building more, cheaper, and to providing a better living environment?

Mobilization of funding and limitation of project costs per participant.

Collaborative practices facilitate the mobilization of funding and the limitation of project costs per participant:
The association of a group of inhabitants to carry out a project can make it possible to limit the land surface necessary for the project and to reduce the structural costs thanks to a more compact project.
For example, a group of inhabitants who would otherwise have built individual houses can have strip houses or a small building with apartments built. On a larger scale, this can help combat urban sprawl and rapidly rising land prices.
Cooperative housing projects can help drive down the cost of healthy materials by making the volume of demand a bargaining chip.
In some contexts, healthier and local materials are still in minority use in the building sector and as such can be relatively expensive. The volume effect created by the demand for materials for the benefit of a cooperative or union of cooperatives can reduce these costs. A large demand can also lead to a reduction in the cost of renting or purchasing machinery for the manufacture of these materials by the cooperatives themselves.
The collaborative approach makes it possible to raise money that would otherwise be difficult to mobilize.
Project leaders can get around the obstacle of financing either by pooling their available or projected financial resources, or by crowdfunding, calling for donations or loans to finance the construction or purchase.
These methods of financing have proven their worth for community and commercial projects, and have made it possible to finance projects led by developers. They have yet to be developed for cooperative and participatory housing projects.
Collaborative approaches can reduce the cost of installing and connecting networks for new construction.
In contexts where supply and sanitation infrastructures are lacking, homeowners are often obliged to set up their own facilities to benefit from amenities such as electricity, sanitation and running water.
Acquiring control of a property and carrying out a construction project jointly with other members of a cooperative or a group of residents allows the financial burden of the work to be shared.
Cooperative and participative projects allow to reduce the land burden per participant and to limit the pressure on the legally available land.
In a context where only 10% of the land is titled and can be mobilized, and where land reforms are slow to be implemented, the construction of individual houses with gardens, which constitutes the bulk of housing production in Africa, can only lead to a brutal increase in land prices. The acquisition of land by cooperatives makes it possible to share the land burden (the share of land in the final cost of the project) by individual buyer.
Collaborative practices can promote the development of the developer's profession in Africa.
When a participatory project is set up using a developer to accompany a group of inhabitants, the developer is guaranteed to have buyers very early on in the project, which facilitates the search for financing.
The participation of the users or future inhabitants in the building site can allow to make savings on the workforce.

Improving the architectural quality of buildings.

Collaborative practices contribute to the improvement of the architectural quality of projects. Indeed:
The constitution of cooperatives or groups of inhabitants democratizes access to the services of construction professionals.
Today, 80% of new constructions in Africa are built without the intervention of an architect. Because of their collective dimension, participative projects generally have higher costs than housing projects carried out by isolated individuals and therefore allow the group to call upon architects. In fact, as the amount of work increases, the percentage of this amount dedicated to the fees of architects and other design offices decreases.
Collaborative approaches make it possible to better take into account the real needs of future inhabitants and to create qualitative and inventive housing.
The best practices in the field of participative architecture and co-design in general are to collect the real needs of the future users, in order to minimize inaccuracies in the understanding of the project data. This approach forces the future user to question his real needs and to make sure that he does not confuse the description of his problem with the proposal of a preconceived solution. It also leads the architect to take into account the final user and not a theoretical individual. It can thus increase the satisfaction of the final beneficiaries of the project. The integration of different perspectives and expertise sometimes results in unconventional architectural solutions.
The collective identification and validation of problems gives the participants the opportunity to evaluate together the solutions proposed by the project leader and his team on the basis of their needs, constraints and negotiation latitude.
Cooperatives are generally more aware of social, economic and environmental issues and therefore tend to create projects that have a better socio-economic and environmental impact.
The emergence of forms of participation in architecture has been linked to social and economic issues since the 1950s. Today, the resurgence of cooperatives is driven not only by the rise of inequalities in access to housing but also by the desire to bring responsible environmental practices to the community.
These practices are often at the crossroads of economic and ecological performance, such as the use of earth excavated on or near the site as a building material. Recent experiences in Europe show groups of residents holding to their environmentally friendly values even when they prove more difficult to implement than competing options. This indicates a capacity of cooperatives and residents' groups to be drivers in the adoption of more virtuous construction methods.

Designing a good community life.

Participation in architecture can be aimed at designing a way of living together beyond the realization or acquisition of a building.
This is most often manifested by the democratic choice of values that will be shared by the group and the drafting of a community life charter in order to promote peaceful and fruitful cohabitation.
Carrying out a project as a group makes it possible to control the shared spaces and the interfaces between the private and public parts.
The residents also participate in the design of the exterior spaces, the interface with the street and the circulation within the project. This is an opportunity to provide pleasant and secure outdoor spaces, whether or not they are open to the city, in urban areas that unfortunately often lack them.
Cooperative housing management makes it possible to limit the soaring land prices that threaten sustainable access to affordable housing for all.
Since the aim of cooperatives is not to make a profit, the price of real estate owned by the cooperative only increases reasonably in relation to inflation. This allows new residents to purchase housing rights years after the property is built at affordable prices, regardless of changes in the housing market. Thus, these practices contribute to creating an inclusive city and reducing inequalities.

Creation of economic and socio-cultural wealth

Collaborative practices can be used to create economic and socio-cultural wealth. Indeed:
Even housing projects can be made productive by including in the program profitable elements whose construction cost is shared among all members.
This can be done by renting out machinery acquired as part of the project, creating commercial spaces on the street adjacent or not to the housing, providing vegetable gardens, housing or spaces for rent, generating electricity, etc.
Real estate projects can be designed as part of a broader business strategy.
Agricultural or commercial cooperatives can also carry out real estate projects. In these cases, particular emphasis should be placed on the multifunctionality and adaptability of the buildings.
Collaborative projects can be an opportunity to offer services to the rest of the community.
Public spaces and seating, water points, electronic charging, or Wi-Fi access are all services that participatory or cooperative housing communities can offer to their city.
Community participation in an urban or architectural project promotes a positive perception of new projects.
When the inhabitants of a neighborhood or village are consulted during the urban or architectural design process and their opinions and expertise are taken into account, they are more likely to accept the project. Similarly, when residents are involved in the creation and design of their living space, they feel responsible for it and take care of it. The project can become their accomplishment and instill a pride that improves community psychological well-being.
The participation of residents in defining the aesthetics of their project can contribute to the creation of a local architectural cultural heritage.
Cooperative projects can bring more harmony to the city through the coherence of their construction in neighborhoods that lack stylistic unity.
Unconventional design approaches and community involvement in the formal development of a project can result in projects with a distinct identity that become a cultural heritage shared by the residents.
An example of this effect is the Dawiid Klaste Community Center, a project coordinated by South African architect Carin Smuts. The participation of the users in this project was done through the common definition of a program through consultation between the members of the community, and through the design of an aesthetic symbolizing the community, always at the initiative of the community. The participation on these two points leads to a multipurpose program (multifunctionality and diversity) and a unique aesthetic that creates economic opportunities by facilitating certain activities and attracting tourists.

The different forms of participation: contexts and applications

There are different ways of using collaboration to overcome project constraints depending on the context and the aspect concerned. As far as cooperatives are concerned, this can be expressed in the goals pursued (construction, financing or management of the building?), the internal functioning, or the relationship with the control of the land.
As far as the participation of the inhabitants in the design and realization of the architectural or urban project is concerned, the different practices are partly defined by the aspects on which the participation is focused. These practices are not mutually exclusive and can be adopted jointly for the same project.

Participation to the elaboration of the program.

This type of participatory approach is found in contexts where the designer, community, or government wants to improve living conditions in an area but does not know exactly what type of project can best contribute to that goal. This is often the case in neighborhoods with complex social and economic problems.
This approach is also appropriate when the community does not express a clear need, or when it seems impossible at first glance to meet the identified need. This requires a new analysis and reassessment of needs.
The aim of participation is to establish a dialogue between the members of the community so that they can express and agree on their priority needs. Together they define the uses of the future building.
Co-programming can also be used to determine the allocation of the additional square meters created in a participatory housing project.
The advantage of participation at the programming stage is particularly visible in projects of public interest, it increases the acceptability of projects carried by public authorities.

Participation in the design of spaces.

Within the framework of a housing project, the members of the group can express their needs in terms of surface areas, room configuration, orientation. They may also express more complex needs related to lifestyle and personal preferences, which lead architects to specify spaces more and more, submitting their proposals to the opinion of the participants as they go along. The architect must reconcile the different demands into a coherent project.
In some cases, the future tenants or buyers are presented with standard housing that they can partially adapt to their wishes.
This type of approach is also possible within the framework of the design of a public space project.

Participation in the aesthetic definition of the project

The definition of the aesthetics of the project by the future inhabitants goes without saying when the project is intended for their future housing. However, this type of participation can also be relevant when designing a public building.
In the case of the Dawiid Klaste Community Center (see box above), the residents wanted the project to reflect the symbols and spirit of the place: bull, windmill, giant scorpion. The aesthetics were complemented by a mural art piece, as mural art is emblematic of traditional South African architecture.
This type of participation must however be done in compliance with the rules of urban planning in force. While the aesthetic impact on the city or setting is potentially radical, the formal aspect of the project must be approved by the majority of the community.
In addition to future users and the local community, the process can involve local artists and craftspeople. Defining an aesthetic unique to the community in which it is located can foster a strong sense of identity.

Participation in the financing of the project

Calling on participatory financing is relevant in cases where:
One wishes to finance a profit-making project whose profitability is assured by loans. Indeed, bank loans are often offered at exorbitant interest rates in African countries.
We wish to raise funds in the form of donations for the construction of a building of public interest for disadvantaged people.
You want to pool the resources of several households to acquire goods or services that would otherwise be more expensive.
This should be done in the presence of a trusted intermediary, or in a context where community pressure can dissuade malicious individuals from misusing the funds collected.

Participation in the construction site before delivery

The participation of future users in the construction site is relevant when a reduced budget justifies entrusting to professionals only the tasks that can be carried out only by them, or to reduce the use of expensive labor to the minimum.
The people who have a personal interest in the realization of the project (future inhabitants and their relatives, beneficiaries and members of the community) are used to participate in the construction.
For this type of project to be successful, it is important to ensure that the co-builders understand the project sufficiently and are minimally trained to make minor decisions on site. This is especially important if they are involved in the structural work.
An experienced professional should design the project in advance, taking into account the participation of non-professionals in the project. He or she must have set a clear framework for user participation.
Participation in the work site is a way for the users to take ownership of the project and feel responsible for it. It is an opportunity to train community members in the construction trades.

Participation in the evolution of the project after delivery

In this case, the building is delivered partially completed and is designed in such a way that it can be expanded or raised. Another variation of this so-called incremental approach is the delivery of a volume that can be later fitted out by the inhabitants through the realization of floors and vertical circulations.
This is relevant when the construction budget does not allow the need to be met in terms of surface area, but when the inhabitants clearly have the capacity and the means to complete their dwelling as they go along.
This approach requires that the possibilities for structurally safe extensions and aesthetic rules have been defined during the design phase and that the more complex do-it-yourself technical work such as the installation of water systems is carried out in the delivered part of the building. Structural choices that allow for freedom of interior design should be favored.
The benefits of this approach are faster delivery and lower costs for the developer, the cooperative or the public owner. It also limits household debt and gives them the opportunity to live in a home large enough to accommodate their entire family.
It should be noted that this type of participation is criticized because of concerns that the disparity between the housing extensions will detract from the overall aesthetics of the project.
The answer to this objection is that although architectural culture seems to be lacking in contemporary cities in the global south, humans have been self-building their homes for a long time and have left us with beautiful examples of architecture. A supervision and training of the inhabitants can avoid such negative effects.

Economic opportunities related to collaborative approaches to urban and architectural projects

According to the World Bank, each real estate project creates an average of 5 jobs in Africa. But this is not enough for the sector to contribute to sustainable prosperity and turn its negative effects into positive ones.
The democratization of collaborative practices and the economic opportunities that come with them can be the key to disengaging the construction sector. The collaborative approach can foster the emergence of actors essential to a healthy construction ecosystem by increasing the volume of construction, creating new needs and stimulating the demand for economically, socially and environmentally sound architecture.
Below we present some of the economic opportunities that the widespread participation and growth of the cooperative movement can directly or indirectly create in the building sector.

Education and training

The increase in the number of people capable of carrying out a real estate project will lead to an increase in the demand for the services of architects.
It currently takes about 6 years to train an architect, and about 10 years to become an experienced architect. To meet the demand, we will have to find ways to train architects as quickly as possible and meet the immediate demand, while training other professionals in the sector. Some opportunities to be seized in the field of training will be :
The development of on-site training in the building trades will take advantage of the increase in the number of building sites.
The development of pre-training courses in architecture schools and in the architectural trades as an option from high school allowing equivalence (entry into architecture school in the second or third year) as well as apprenticeships in architecture schools in order to graduate professionals ready to enter the job market.
The development of a self-training offer to meet the need expressed by project owners to train themselves in project management in order to master the project, even when accompanied by professionals.

Trusted third parties

Transparency and security tools must be put in place to overcome the trust deficit that characterizes unproductive economies and could discourage collaboration. These could be :
The implementation of participatory project management platforms that allow for transparent viewing of:
Everyone's financial contributions and the use of common funds
The recruitment of members in the cooperative or the group of inhabitants
The sharing of documents related to the project
Modifications of their housing units by the inhabitants etc.
The emergence of intermediaries specialized in the purchase and securing of land such as solidarity land offices, or companies specialized in land titling.
The establishment and consolidation of decentralized platforms to certify the ownership of land.

Legal and financial services

Some economic opportunities in the legal and financial fields are :
The development of notary activities.
The creation of law firms specializing in real estate projects and the securing of land, the drafting of contracts between cooperatives and their partners.
The creation of real estate loan offers at reduced rates fed by NGOs, micro-credit institutions or private investment funds.

Production and storage of materials

The increase in the number of collective projects in urban areas will lead to an increase in the size of the construction sites. The corollary of this will be a need for more storage space for construction materials in or near cities.
Another potential consequence of the massive adoption of cooperative practices may be occasional peaks in demand (as opposed to more or less regular demand from individual customers). Some materials manufacturers may favor making materials to order (such as mud bricks).
Finally, the need to save money by using local materials will create a demand for soil from urban construction sites, which creates the need for a specialized actor in the collection and reclamation of soil from a given territory.

Community services

The bargaining power of cooperatives will enable them to offer quality services at a lower price to stakeholders. These may include the provision of fast internet access that can be shared, security or personal services, or even the production of energy on site.

Evolution of the project design team

Architects must be accompanied by professionals qualified in the accompaniment of participatory housing projects.
Beneficiaries will be able to mandate promoters to carry their project and interface with professionals.
The groups of inhabitants to call upon assistants to control of work or of use to make interface with the professionals

Culture and media

The development of exhibitions and architecture biennials will be able to meet the demand for more authentically African or Caribbean architecture.
It will also be an opportunity to develop media inspired by Africa in the field of architecture and space.
There will be opportunities to monetize community media for professionals or groups of residents through advertising by companies in the sector.

Certification, standards and safety

An acceleration in the number of constructions may initially go hand in hand with an increase in the number of accidents on the construction site. Companies will have to demonstrate their expertise and skills through certification.
Design offices specialized in safety and quality control will emerge to meet this need and to secure the construction sites and the building in use. Safety equipment on the building site will be more and more in demand.

The evolution of design teams

The requirements of environmental quality coupled with climate change will encourage the creation of design offices specializing in the field of thermal and environmental assessment in Africa.
The verticalization of the habitat and the use of alternative materials will allow the development of design offices specialized in the field of structure and alternative materials.
The practice of interior design can gain in importance to meet the needs of customization of the inhabitants.

A Case Study: Gando Primary School Phase I

Brief description of the project


This school is the first project of German-Burkinabe architect and Pritzker 2022 prize winner Francis Diébédo Kéré. The main obstacles to its realization were the financing of the project and the availability of materials. These obstacles were overcome through participatory financing, using local laterite as the main material and involving the entire village in the construction.

Project information
Name of the project
Ecole de Gando Phase I
Commune de Gando /Département de Tenkodogo/Province de Boulgou/ Région Centre-Est/Burkina Faso
Trois salles de classe et leurs espaces extérieurs
520 m²
Francis Diébédo Kéré
Project Owner
Communauté de Gando / Fondation Kéré
End users/ beneficiaries
Communauté de Gando
Materials and building techniques
Brique de terre stabilisée, béton, fer à béton, tôle ondulée, menuiseries métalliques
Total cost
22 750 000 XAF / 37600 $/ 34680 €
Construction costs
17 375 000 XAF/ 28716 $ / 26486 €
There are no rows in this table

Legal and financial structure of the project

An association was created for the benefit of which all the projects carried out by Francis Diébédo Kéré in Gando were realized, which later became a foundation.
We do not know what influence the village community has in this foundation. The fact remains that the public interest buildings constructed in Gando and the financial ecosystem that surrounds them are not the property of an individual but of the foundation.

The need and the program: a thermally comfortable school

Since his childhood, Diébédo Kéré has been aware of the need for a school in his village, since he had to leave it at the age of seven to study in town. The dream of providing his village with a school never left him, even when he went to study in Germany. As time went by, the solution became clear to him: he would build the project himself, with the participation of the inhabitants of his village.
Indeed, the other alternative would have been to wait for an indefinite period of time for the government to build a school that was probably not adapted to the local climatic constraints (concrete, cinderblock, non-raised tin roof...). As for Kéré, he wanted to provide his village with a durable, quality building, far from the overheated classrooms in which he had studied.

How were the constraints overcome in the project?

The Gando Phase I project process

As Kéré is the son of the village chief, the first step in the project was to convince his father that the community should take charge of the situation and build the school itself. He thus integrated the authorities of the socio-cultural space in which the project was to be implemented well in advance of the project. This approach is recommendable for all projects of public interest, especially in the African context.
Back in Berlin, where he studied, he conceived the project while learning about the material mud brick and traditional construction techniques. He visited several quarries from which clay is extracted.
Simple and sound traditional building techniques exist and have proven their robustness and relevance over the centuries. Building in a way that contributes to the health of African ecosystems may require relearning these in order to move away from more widespread but environmentally, socially and economically damaging practices.
Once the project was designed, he returned to Gando to convince the whole community of the merits of his project. He encountered resistance because the earthen material is associated in the imagination of the inhabitants with an architecture of lesser quality.
Consequently, the architect had to show pedagogy to convince the villagers that his project was in fact more appropriate and more efficient than a concrete or breeze block project.
This pedagogical approach continued on the construction site where he continued to explain the construction and implementation details to the participants.
The bad perception of earth as a building material is unfortunately widespread in Africa as well as in the rest of the Diaspora. It is due to :
- The poor implementation of earthen materials in the countryside which results in buildings that are not very durable.
- The influence of Western models associated in the collective consciousness with wealth and modernity.
Indeed, it is important even for the less fortunate to project a certain wealth even if it would be at the cost of a lack of thermal comfort and low energy performance.

The use of local materials and the participation of the villagers in the building site allowed for savings.

The thermal quality standard that the architect set for the project made the project more complex than other school buildings, which represented a significant cost for the village of Gando.
The elevation of the corrugated iron roof to avoid overheating the classrooms, the construction of a perforated brick ceiling for air circulation, and the supervision of the construction site by an architect normally residing abroad explain the relatively high cost of the work for a three-classroom building built in Burkina Faso.
This structural quality and the bioclimatic nature of the project being non-negotiable, ingenuity was required in terms of financing, choice of materials and labor. To finance this project, Kéré appealed for donations from his peers and colleagues. He refers to these donations as their "coffee money" from his acquaintances.
Despite the size of the sum collected, the architect made every effort to ensure that the sum collected was only spent when absolutely necessary:
He used laterite, which is abundantly available on site. It constitutes the largest part of the volume of materials used.
Concrete was used only where it was essential. For example, the builders used stone as a supplement for the foundations.
The construction of the foundations and the purchase of materials represented 28% and 62% of the cost of the work respectively. Therefore, labor was the main cost-saving item.
The architect called upon the community, in addition to craftsmen and professionals for the implementation.
Participation ranged from making bricks to transporting water to polishing the floors to making the iron framework. All social categories of the village participated in the effort according to their abilities.

The lack of formal education of the participants was a difficulty that was overcome by educational communication.

Involving residents in construction is not an easy task. They may not be familiar with the vocabulary and concepts that are familiar to the architect.
To transmit the information essential to the realization of the construction site, Diébédo Kéré relied on a well-defined and mastered architectural project upstream. This allowed him to explain all the elements of the project to the workers in a concrete and practical way.
This explanation was done through earthen or scale 1 models, allowing the community to understand the plans and to test the solidity of the structure, or simple drawings made on site in the sand. The architect did not just give orders but made sure that the whole project was mastered and understood by all the workers.
Proof of the effectiveness of his pedagogy, the builders were able to make decisions and adapt autonomously in the absence of the architect in order to make the site progress.

The relationships between the stakeholders of the project

For the Ecole de Gando, the project was the initiative of the architect. He was therefore both designer and beneficiary, since he is part of the community that expressed the need.
This is an advantage for the project, as it helped him not only to understand and know the specific needs of his village, but also to communicate efficiently with his community. Being the son of the village chief and having received a formal education may also have helped him gain a greater voice in the community.
Despite his skills however, the architect understood that his role was to set a framework that participants could take ownership of. He did not just give orders, but also took into account the community's ideas.

The benefits of the project's implementation and of the beneficiaries' participation in the work site

The impact of the project on the well-being of the inhabitants

Hundreds of students have gone to school in Gando I Primary school.
This school is only the first project of an educational ecosystem in the village.
The students, in addition to the possibility of studying close to home, are supported throughout their schooling by the Kéré foundation.
Buillding the school has improved the educational network in the region.
The students of Gando have seen the distance between them and the school reduced and can now study in optimal climatic conditions.
But the impact goes beyond the village: other localities have been inspired to build their own schools with the same skills and materials.

The impact of the project and the participation in the construction on the economy and the financial situation of the inhabitants.

The construction cost did not burden the community because of the non-profit participatory funding model.
Participation in the project created economic opportunities as residents were able to implement the techniques they learned on this project and others in the area and were paid for it. The architect reports that some of the workers were able to make purchases that were previously only available to expatriates.
The success of the project has attracted international attention, which has raised the profile of the Kéré Foundation and improved the quality of life in the village.
4 generations of schoolchildren have been able to increase the level of education in the area. The level of education is positively correlated with financial income.

The impact of the project and the participation in the construction site on the cultural level

A new architectural model for the region.
Francis Kéré's insistence on the use of local and/or easily procurable materials, his attention to climatic comfort and a certain modern aesthetic, has inaugurated an architectural model that is an alternative to Western building types. It is reproduced by the inhabitants of the region and spread by the participants of his previous building sites. Little by little, an architectural identity began to form.
A pride for the inhabitants of Gando.
The uniqueness and recognizability of the projects, as well as the participation of the inhabitants in its construction, has given a certain pride to the community of Gando. This pride and definition of identity are elements that contribute positively to the well-being of the group.

Limitations of the project and potential ways to overcome them

The total budget seems quite high despite the efforts made to lower the cost of the project.
The architect responds to this by emphasizing the durability and comfort of this building as opposed to other potentially less expensive projects.
The architect's trips between Berlin where he studied and the construction site weighed on the final budget.
This could be circumvented by training local architects in frugal and sustainable architecture.
The stabilized compressed earth brick used in the project remains a carbon-rich material.
Although it does not always require the extraction of gravel and sand, it consumes 4-10% cement depending on the type of soil available. Fortunately, not all projects require stabilizing Earth Brick and research is ongoing to find alternatives to cement. Whenever possible, construction methods that do not use cement should be preferred.


The urgent challenges facing Africa can only be addressed with a different approach: an ecosystemic approach. One manifestation of ecosystemic thinking is cooperation and participation in architecture.
The pooling of resources and the association of individuals can reduce the weight of certain constraints ranging from the number of buildings to be built by 2050 (from 340 million to 120 million depending on whether we assume grouped housing or individual housing) to the pressure on land and the price of local building materials.
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