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A4AC’s mobile mineworker housing ready to go

Published at: 24 June 2015

From bakeries that can be built in a day to solar powered shipping-container internet cafés it seems there is nothing that pioneering South African architecture firm A4AC, Architecture for a Change, cannot do.

Fresh off of their ‘factory’ floor (a former warehouse where their office is based in Randburg - an area in the middle of Johannesburg’s industrial hub) the team is rolling out their most complete pod prototype yet – a mobile housing unit for miners.

Dirk Coetser, director and co-founder of A4AC explains, “Our pod enables the miner to own the “building” instead of the land that it sits on at the mine. This is mostly because most miners already have a home elsewhere in SA.” he tells the Afrisam 4Tomorrow team, “Once they have completed their time at the mine they can actually “move” their structure back home.”

The unit is completely off the grid aside from a clean water supply. The interior is fully equipped and completely customizable.

More information regarding the new housing project

The vision for the new housing strategy would be to create a low-cost structure which the employee can own or rent. The land on which the structure is situated on wont be owned by the owner but by the mine or by a private owner. Once the employee has fulfilled their time at the mine they can then either sell the structure to an other employee or transport the structure the their place of origin. The building structures should mostly be standardized in order to eliminate inequality issues. Different social conditions will be achieved through the placement and interaction of the housing structures. Existing housing typologies at the mine can adapt to accommodate the standardized structures / or they can be placed on new sites (with better locality) depending on the need.



The traditional approach towards housing result in either renting (lower wellbeing factor) or paying off a property in an area not necessarily wanted. Although most employees would want to own their housing they either cant afford it or don’t want it near their place of work. The current housing solutions are extremely static and permanent which doesn’t correlate with the variability’s of mining.

Mobile Housing Unit (MHU)

The conceptual approach in the design of the MHU is to provide a unit that is mobile, yet relays a sense of permanence. The unit provides safe shelter and dignified living conditions.


The unit’s main structure is a refurbished shipping container. Infrastructure to move and transport the units are already in place, in addition to the container being robust and watertight. Externally, composite insulation panels shield the main structure from direct heat build-up and being mounted externally increases internal space capacity. Internally 40mm insulated panels further increase performance and aesthetic appeal. The unit is serviced by pre-fabricated bathroom and kitchen units. The bathroom contains a bath, wash hand basin and wash closet, whilst the kitchen is serviced by a stove, mini-fridge, sink and cupboards. The geyser and stove can be run via gas, or electricity. The geyser is serviced by a solar water heater, pre-heating incoming water, increasing efficiency. The lighting system is a full solar solution running off a PV panel and battery/inverter system.


The external cladding is a fold-able solution that can “flat-pack” for transportation, and fold-up to provide efficient solar angles for the PV panel and solar water heater. The external insulatory cladding then also doubles as Airflow through the created opening, further enhances natural cooling of the structure.

Implementation on-site consists of placing 4 pre-fabricated concrete footings that elevates the unit off the ground to promote thermal comfort and reduce groundwater intrusion into the interior. The unit can tie into existing sewer infrastructure, or a PRE-CAST dry pit can be installed as an off-grid solution. Water run-off from the dry-pit system is safe for irrigation purposes and could therefore be used for subsistence farming initiatives. The Mobile Housing Unit requires a water connection to run its sanitary systems.

The unit is furbished with four windows and a glazed sliding door. All openings are fully close-able with sliding steel shutters for security. An external veranda slides out to create a semi-covered space when entering the unit. This again doubles as security feature.








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