Formulating a Capability Approach Based Model to Sustain Rural Sub-saharan African Inhabitant’s Self-reliance Towards Their Built Environment

Formulating a Capability Approach Based Model to Sustain Rural Sub-saharan African Inhabitant’s Self-reliance Towards Their Built Environment

M. Smits

Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands1.

1 February 2017
| Citation



Changing climate conditions and depleting resources are becoming more important on the global agenda, the paradigm shifting to understand which means (resources) are necessary to generate future well-being. Unfortunately, the formal built environment remains the most polluting global industry and due to its conservative character seems difficult to change. Most undertaken efforts focus on improving characteristics of material, construction and processes in technology seeking the ability to solve all contemporary environmental problems. This article argues that in the informal rural African built environment examples of other attitudes towards the same goals can be found, providing many sustainable solutions that have a circular process and are based on local renewable materials. Rural communities perceived as a multitude of communities of practices, with a collective (sustainable) intelligence towards their built environment can provide a circular, sustainable, self-reliant and resilient model for the built environment. This article argues that in order to articulate sustainable ‘local’ solutions, the inhabitant’s self-reliance is of vital importance, therefore stating a need for a model to evaluate what affords the inhabitant’s self-reliance and how this model could be used as support for the ‘expert’ to evaluate the inhabitant’s capabilities towards their built environment. This article uses the rural locality as a case study with the intention for subsequent global (urban and rural) application.


affordances, capability approach, collective intelligence, community of practice, rural self-reliance, situated knowledge, sustainable development


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