Discover more from unicorn chats
🦄 vol. 3
matt and sash chat about printing houses and uct's new high school
you can print a house? 🏡
This past month has been marked by marches in Europe and a bill being tabled in Congress, both of which are aimed at tackling the looming (global) housing crisis. Here's my deep(ish)-dive on the problems we're facing and some disruptive solutions:
The current situation 🏘
If you weren't already aware, our global population is growing at a pretty rapid pace. By 2050, there'll be close to 30% more bodies on Earth (9.9 billion), with the African population set to quadruple (food for thought) and Asia set to increase by 25%. One problem: we're going to have to house everyone. At present, the global housing crisis is characterised by an acute housing inventory shortage, a worsening affordability crisis and an ageing housing stock. We’ll get to Africa later…
How do we fix it? 🔨
In response, we're witnessing a whole host of startups clamouring to solve for the inventory shortage, delivering housing through methods that may seem a little left field to the industry incumbents. When you take a step back, it becomes glaringly obvious that the housing and construction industries are almost relics of a bygone era. We're speaking about sending people to Mars and robotaxis driving us around in the near future, but we still have people laying individual bricks (?!?). Construction is slow, dangerous and energy-consumptive. It’s imperative that we find a way of increasing global housing supply, while keeping sustainability in mind.
Building blocks 🧱
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, seems to solve for the majority of those problems, and applying additive manufacturing to constructing home units comes with pretty extraordinary results:
Eliminates 95% of construction waste (and construction contributes to 38% of global emissions)
Manufactures units at 40% of traditional cost
Reduces labour requirements by 90% (and in doing so can produce a unit in less than a week)
Leading the pack is Mighty Buildings, a startup out of California that uses a 6-metre tall 3D printer to construct prefab homes made of proprietary Light Stone, a composite material that hardens with exposure to UV light. Modular homes seem to be the future, and you can check out Cover, abodu or ICON if you’re wanting to delve a little deeper.
Closer to home 🌍
Just like you learned in your Grade 9 Geography lesson, rapid urbanisation has seen people flocking to urban centres in search of economic opportunity. Nowhere is it more evident than in Africa: South Africa has a backlog of 2.3M homes, with the population expected to grow by 8M before 2030. Scarily enough, Nigeria has a current shortfall of 17M homes, projecting a 50M increase in population over the same period. Beyond homes, infrastructure in general is lacking.
Making use of additive manufacturing provides a low-cost, low-carbon method of delivering homes to the unhoused, and replacing substandard units too. The Western Cape government piloted a project in Gordan’s Bay, using prefab homes to address the 600,000 unit shortfall in the province. Beyond housing, the Malawian government partnered with 14Trees to produce 3D printed schools to solve for the 36,000 classroom deficit.
It seems Africa may provide the perfect use case for additive manufacturing, bringing speed, affordability and sustainability to an industry that is anything but. The question is, who’ll have the foresight to leverage the tech?
what is uct’s long game? 🤔
In vol. 2 we heard a sh*t load about “democratisation” from Claude and Matt. So naturally, when I heard the University of Cape Town (UCT) announce that it was launching an online high school, I sat up and took interest.
Initial reactions 😅
I thought that the concept of a UCT-backed school (with a ±R2000p/m price point) was dope. I ate up all of the PR about it being a “high school for all” and listened to Prof Phakeng (the coolest vice chancellor in the country) talk about how great it’ll be.
(Side note: when I say she’s cool, I mean it).
But is the school really that accessible? 🧐
Fees: While the proposed fees are considerably cheaper than that of private schools, the majority of South Africans will still not be able to afford it
Support: Despite the announcement that the entire school curriculum will be made available for free, “the free version” does not include teaching, mentorship and support (which in my opinion is where the real value lies, even if it's online)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any singular institution could solve for what I’ve just mentioned. It takes an ecosystem.
*Shameless plug in there for my friends’ groundbreaking app, Matric Live 🔌
There’s an interesting dynamic at play 🧐
For Valenture Institute, it’s a no-brainer to partner with an aspirational brand like UCT for credibility
But given the history of UCT being criticised for its barriers to access and financially excluding students, is it really a smart move to put its name behind this still-quite-exclusive online high school?
In reality, instead of widening the base of students with access to quality education, I think this high school (with the assistance of the pandemic) will simply cannibalise the market of lower-tier private schools (Curro, ADvTECH Group, etc.)
Let’s speculate? 🤓
Do yourself a favour and watch this interview with Scott Galloway on the pandemic’s potential to disrupt tertiary education. If we consider what Galloway says, UCT can choose to double down on its exclusivity as a university, or leverage technology (in a utopian ecosystem) to open its doors to more university students.
So here’s a wild thought: what if the UCT high school is actually just a proof of concept for its future online university? 👀
sash has become obsessed with mastering his morning routine; he’s reading tools of titans by tim ferriss
matt’s also been following tim ferriss, only he listened to his podcast with dr. andrew huberman on biohacking
karl rewatched a documentary about theranos - the $9 billion startup fraud
claude read an article highlighting the need for domain knowledge and quality data when looking to ai for solutions