Sustainable Housing Review: A New Perspective on HYT’s Affordable RFF Home

Posted on November 24th, 2016


The rear of the affordable home at Kiseege, as seen from its washroom.


It’s been almost a year since the completion of the house at Kiseege, designed by the talent of the Richard Feilden Foundation (RFF) and built by that of our HYT trainees. Together we created a low-cost, sustainable solution to the housing crisis in Uganda. We thought we’d share with you just how simple, and effective, environmentally-friendly construction can be!


Sketchup House Diagram

Here’s what the house looked like on SketchUp, the architectural program we use for designing.


The House from Above

This birds-eye view displays the cosy alcoves pioneered by RFF.


RFF used replicas of HYT’s ISSB bricks to experiment in the office.













These are just a few of the schematics used by RFF architects, who travelled to Uganda to take part in the construction process. Their economic yet stylish design combats two central obstacles to sustainable building in Uganda: poverty and perception.


As the population continues to grow, many Ugandans are unable to afford decent homes, instead living in precarious, temporary shelters. By maximising space with alcoves and shared living areas, RFF made our house an affordable, practical alternative for homebuyers.


They also countered local attitudes towards compressed earth technology, which is often associated with low-income areas and seen as undesirable. The building’s unique and modern appearance demonstrates that you don’t need a fortune to be in fashion.


Fired Brick Wall

A traditional, fired brick wall requiring mortar, and lots of it…


An innovative, Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block wall, with no mortar!
















Of course, the home’s other unique selling point is our HYT speciality: The Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB). These aren’t just nice to look at; they help to preserve Uganda’s beautiful natural environment as well.


Unlike the traditional, burnt bricks which require wood for firing, our ISSBs dry in the warm Ugandan sunshine, eliminating the need for deforestation which is crippling the country’s natural resources. As you can see, they also use a lot less mortar for bonding, further lowering both financial and environmental costs.


A Trainee Learns

Trainees (and visitors) are often surprised that these bricks don’t need mortar to stick together.


Trainees are taught on site, where they learn everything from making blocks and bricklaying to painting the finished product. Kiseege’s affordable home introduced the new technique of “hit-and-miss”, which we’ve continued to incorporate since. Trainees leaves gaps between blocks to allow fresh air in and out of the house, which is important in Uganda’s tropical climate. These gaps mean fewer bricks are used, while windows are created without the need for protective glass. Think of it as environmentally friendly air conditioning!



Air flows through the “hit-and-miss” gaps in the wall and ventilates the house.


The trainees also learned to use the curved ISSB, specially designed for building water tanks. As in other HYT projects, the tank collects rainwater from the roof of the newly-built house, providing the inhabitants with fresh water. It was impressive to see how quickly trainees picked up the various construction skills necessary.


Water Tank

Once trainees were familiar with using curved blocks, the tank went up in no time!


With the addition of a washroom, it was clear that HYT and the Richard Feilden Foundation had created a competitive, self-contained home, tailored to domestic life in Uganda. Architect Nathan Ovens said in an interview for The Architects’ Journal that “It was an enlightening experience partnering with HYT to develop a modest yet environmentally friendly house that is suitable for the local context, climate and literally built from the soil on which it sits.”


We couldn’t agree more, and our thanks go to FCBStudios and the Richard Feilden Foundation once again for their inspirational designs. Together we’re striving to make carbon-saving technology accessible to the Ugandan population, improving lives and sustainability one earth block at a time!



The view from the house’s rear terrace includes the smart washroom and water tap facility.


Comments are closed.