What does the future hold for cities and their residents? The current waste crisis that is plaguing the planet is unsustainable, so how can cities be better prepared to tackle waste and minimise their impacts on the environment? City planners and designers can work together to solve the problem of excess waste and lead us into a sustainable future.
One such designer is Nicole Moyo, a Zimbabwean-born, South African-raised graduate of architecture from Carleton University. Moyo presented a talk on her Master’s thesis at the 2019 Design Indaba in Cape Town. Her project has garnered international attention for its innovative solutions to waste and communities.
Moyo’s thesis describes a hypothetical (but achievable) community-based waste-to-energy society that revolves around architecture. This city would also solve the needs of access to sanitation, clean water and on-site production of energy. A design such as this could one day be implemented in South African townships and rural areas.
Alleviating poverty through city planning
Moyo’s thesis is titled ‘Ukubutha’, which means ‘to gather’. The project began with a crisis. More than one billion people on the planet live in slums and under abject poverty. More people have access to a cell phone than a flushing toilet. This inequality is all too real in South Africa where urban planning resulted in segregation.
Moyo’s thesis aims to alleviate this poverty through clever architecture and forward-looking city planning. Cities can use waste to their advantage by using it to create organic fertilisers for crops or as a source of fuel for electricity generation. Moyo believes that sanitation and energy are linked – both can be used for mutual benefit.
In Moyo’s reimagined society, sanitation waste can be used to create energy by extracting the waste and sending it to a fertiliser plant. The methane gas released during the fermentation of the waste can be captured and used as a fuel for the generation of electricity. The fertiliser produced can then be used to feed community gardens and nearby farms.
Waste-driven cities can become self-sufficient
The community envisioned by Moyo can become self-sustaining. Through innovative ways of reimagining waste and how it can be used to drive other processes, Moyo has conceptualised a community hub that requires little input from the outside.
This community will have basic access to sanitation, clean drinking water and a supply of reliable electricity. Basic necessities can be provided to residents just by connecting various service delivery offerings. Waste is a valuable resource that is not being utilised enough.
“Our cities are growing at an alarming rate. As designers we need to design for our communities when trying to deal with a crisis,” says Moyo. “The most important part of my project was how will I construct. I thought of Ikea and how they give us step-by-step instructions on how to build. Everything had to work as a system,” she explains.
Moyo received an award of Honourable Mention for The Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa (CPDI Africa) international competition in 2016. Her concept for Ukubutha has been exhibited at numerous galleries and has been published in the Atlanta Intersectional Social Science Journal.
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