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Recycled building materials : the likely impact on affordable housing in the Western Cape
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The construction industry globally, contributes between 18% and 24% of the GDP, and because of its labour intensive characteristics, contributes handsomely to total employment, forming important backward and forward linkages with the rest of the economy. Nevertheless, the extent and sophistication of these linkages crucially depend on the relative development of the construction industry relative to the overall economy. In the developing countries, these linkages are not very strong because of the use of informal materials, which is not commercialised and whose opportunity costs are often zero, and the huge imports of construction materials used in the modem sector of the economy. However, whether in the developed or developing economies, the construction industry is a major contributor to economic growth and development by providing the necessary infrastructure that facilitates production, consumption and recreational activities. In fulfilling these activities, the construction industry generates huge wastes of which only a tiny proportion are recycled and reused. However, in economies and countries where adequate and functional housing is a problem mainly due to lack of affordability, recycling and reuse of construction waste is a necessary prerequisite to enhancing housing affordability in these countries. This is the current situation that South Africa finds itself "''here because of its past history of 'apartheid', economic opportunities and amenities were denied to the blacks. There is nowhere that this deprivation is more pronounced than in the built environment sector where housing shortages and general disamenities prevail. High levels of unemployment further exacerbate the situation, - - which is a consequence of low skills and high illiteracy-rates. Thus, housing demand and supply by this group of the population are most likely, on the evidence available, to fall predominantly within the low-income housing category. Presently, all households falling into this category rely on financial assistance from the government to facilitate low-cost housing consumption because of pervasive poverty, which itself is due to the very high unemployment rate, illiteracy, lack of skills and general deprivation: a legacy of 'apartheid' policies enforced by previous government. The dilemma however is how to meet the huge housing demand within the limited resources available to the government on the one hand, and on the other, to satisfy such demand without compromising the environmental sustainability of the physical environment. Thus, the thesis aims to determine ways in which the construction industry could contribute to the sustainability of the carrying capacity of the biophysical environment and enhance social sustainability by facilitating affordability through the possible reductions to construction costs through recycling and reuse. By means of questionnaires and detailed interviews, underscored by a qualitative research approach, the potential of construction recycling and the possible contributions to environmental sustainability and housing affordability are determined. At completion, it is expected that this work will not only contribute to existing knowledge but would be of significance in terms of policy formulation to construction industry practitioners, central and local government policy makers, and other governmental and non-governmental organisations operating in the area of housing.