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Construction Value Chain Consultations Workshop 3: How planning and design frame action along the Construction value chain

  • Published on December 2, 2021
This workshop was the third of the 3 consultative workshops and comprised of representatives from private companies, civil society, governments, scientific and technical organisations, and the United Nations and other intergovernmental organisations.


A number of best practices and initiatives were shared during the workshop regarding the role of planning and design in the construction value chain and the influence it has on various stages of the value chain. These included: 


UNOPS – The importance of the enabling environment to support planning and design  

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provides infrastructure, procurement, and project management services for a more sustainable world.  

UNOPS approach in helping countries is to see infrastructures as part of a system made of three components - assets, knowledge, and institutions. This system-based approach helps countries transition to a more sustainable and resilient infrastructure development paradigm.  

To help countries facilitate better infrastructure development, UNOPS created The Capacity Assessment Tool for infrastructure (CAT-I). The tool is designed to help governments identify gaps in the capacity of their enabling environment to plan, deliver and manage their infrastructure systems. Based on these gaps, the tool can be used to develop a pipeline of projects to build national, state, city, or ministerial capacity using technical and advisory services. Examples of countries where assessments have been applied using the CAT-I tools are Brazil, Nepal, Serbia, and Ghana. 


Gauge – Using design to frame a more sustainable construction value chain 

Gauge is a multidisciplinary specialist consulting practice based in Pretoria, South Africa. Established in 2003, Gauge focuses on sustainability, inclusion, and the built environment. It has undertaken a wide range of projects in these fields for the private companies, government, non-government organisations, donor agencies and the United Nations in countries such as Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa. 

In its projects in South Africa and Zambia, Gauge has been working on developing new schools and houses in the poorest areas of the countries. Its methodology implies an attentive analysis of the local conditions (skills and materials available), identifying the potential enterprises to include in the projects and training local manufacturers to have a long lasting positive social and economic impact on the local communities.  

By adapting the environmental lifecycle assessment Gauge created a tool, called the SBMI tool, which provided clear quantitative data to governments and architects to choose materials that create good social and environmental impacts. 


Skidmore Owings and Merrill – Designing for the next decade 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a global architectural, urban planning and engineering firm founded in Chicago in 1936. It is committed to become a sustainability leader within the industry by investing in the development of innovative, integrated approaches to sustainable design, not just to meet standards, but to redefine them.  

SOM has been addressing major challenges in cities around the world by applying a holistic, progressive, pragmatic approach and looking for long lasting solutions in the construction industry. It prioritizes low carbon and low chemical materials, and demands the same commitment and expectations in the market for sustainable and healthy product supply. It’s evaluation criteria considers the use and impacts of energy, carbon, water, and health in design.  

SOM has begun leveraging wider expertise to ensure the delivery of sustainable outcomes. This includes dechemicalizing and decarbonizing projects through new design approaches and by demanding that manufacturers and suppliers provide products that guarantee low or zero carbon.  


14Trees – Creating affordable and sustainable housing solutions 

14Trees is a LafargeHolcim and CDC Group joint venture dedicated to accelerating the provision of affordable housing in Africa. 14Trees delivers reliable, affordable and environmentally-friendly building materials. The venture aims to accelerate and scale up the production and commercialisation of Durabric bricks – an environmentally-friendly, affordable alternative to the clay burnt bricks widely used across sub-Saharan Africa.  

14Trees looks at how to encourage affordable housing by considering all the different aspects of the construction value chain, from the manufacturer to the construction company. To reduce transportation costs, 14Trees launched a mobile plant service, which allows the production of bricks close to the construction area. It also invented a carbon credits mechanism around the bricks - for every 120 bricks sold, 1 tons of CO2 is saved. The carbon credits accumulated are then sold and reinvested in green activities. 14Trees is also testing 3D printing both in the public and private sector, a technology which would help save great costs and revolutionize the construction sector. 


MASS Design – MASS Design's Approach to Lo-Fab 

MASS Design is a non-profit design and construction firm aiming to create well-built environments through appropriate design, local investment, and innovation to break the cycle of poverty. It collaborates with governments, NGOs, private sector firms, and health care experts to help the most underserved and provide scalable models of community-based development and training.  

Through the Lo-Fab approach, which stands for Locally Fabricated, the firm aims to reduce costs and the environmental impact of the construction sector, while encouraging local innovation and ideas to flourish. By using local materials and local techniques, Lo-Fab constructions are easier to maintain and repair. Furthermore, Lo-Fab projects bring positive impact to the local communities, encouraging local manufacturers such as artisans, metal workers, tailors to develop new skills and have access to the market. 


Hilti Foundation – Innovative products and technologies for low-cost housing: The Hilti Foundation approach  

The Hilti Foundation is a philanthropic non-profit organization established in 1996 in Liechtenstein. Together with a network of international aid organizations and partners, the Foundation has pursued sustainable goals, focusing its efforts on improving products and technologies to create social change through affordable housing and technology, with an emphasis on low-income environments.  

Globally, one in four people live in what is called substandard housing – which has serious effects on their safety, health, economic opportunities and social inclusion. To combat this issue, the Hilti Foundation opened the BASE Innovation Center in Manila in 2021 to research and test for safe, affordable, and green housing technologies for low-income families. This research included the Bamboo Value Chain, which led to the conclusion that we must first understand how low-income families build and self-manage their homes in order to bring durable, affordable, and ecological products to scale in low-income markets. 

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