Sustainable Incremental City Unit

Experimental building with focus on affordability and adaptability

Completed SICU in 2013

Network Project between Bauhaus-Universität Weimar & Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC)
Funded by DAAD – German Academic Exchange Service 2013

The Sustainable Incremental Construction Unit (SICU) is a housing solution made entirely of prefabricated elements. The solution uses locally available and locally produced building elements. It is provided as a semi-finished construction that the homeowners then complete themselves. Simple building elements and a clear construction principle using prefabricated concrete elements (foundation and columns) are combined with lightweight timber frames and readymade wall panels with integrated windows and doors.

It addresses the needs for participatory design through a process-oriented building typology. In its current implementation, with its accompanying business model and level of dissemination, it is possible to self-build the basic housing unit in less than two weeks using a mixture of local small businesses and participation from the local community. Almost 90% of the building components have been specifically designed and sorted for convenient development by micro, small-scale, and medium-sized business enterprises.

Given that imported building materials, expensive customized processes, and inflexible cast-in-situ systems currently predominate in the building sector, this shift presents a cost-efficient and faster alternative for the construction sector. All prefabricated building elements come in standard dimensions according to a modular system. The modular design concept makes it possible to use for very dense and small plots and it can be used in combination to achieve economies of scale and create larger, flexible aggregate structures that fit into the surrounding urban structure.

The processing and manufacturing of the elements followed careful and intensive preparation to ensure that components match standard dimensions and can be assembled by non-professionals using well-known techniques. A detailed building information model (BIM) and a process model guarantees consistent production quality, predictable costs, and programmable time schedules. Construction manuals, and business and financial investment plans, are derived directly from the digital project model.

SICU was awarded the Bronze Award in 2014 by the HOLCIM foundation.

student construction workshop, 2013
Informing the details of SICU to the residents of the neighborhood
easy overview of the prefabricated elements
tying rebars for prefabricated foundation
site in an Addis Ababa neighborhood



Project Team:

Asgedom Haile, Dirk Donath, Florian Geddert, Piet Dissel, Carsten Stammeier, Aknaw Yohannes, Jakob Mettler, Seyume Woldeyessus Timo Riechert, Dagmawi Tilahun