Interlocking blocks – the future of rural housing development

Hydraform’s interlocking blocks building technology has been chosen by South Africa’s Department of Public Works for a rural housing project in Gombani, situated in Limpopo Province near the Zimbabwean border.

A completed house in Gombani built with Hydraform's interlocking blocks.

A completed house in Gombani built with Hydraform's interlocking blocks.

Interlocking blocks are manufactured with Hydraform’s robust mobile machines, using only three inputs, namely soil that can be sourced on site, a small amount of cement that provides stability to the blocks, and water.

“What is unique about our dry-stacking system is that cement is only used in the first few rows of the foundation and then again in the top three or four rows. So 75% of the building is built without cement. In addition to structural strength and durability, our buildings also have good thermal qualities,” explains Mike Foster, General Manager at Hydraform.

The company’s technology proved to be the perfect building solution for Gombani village, which is situated in an extremely remote area. The Hydraform machines, which are also extensively used within Africa’s mining industry, allow for blocks to be manufactured on site, thereby leading to significant savings in transportation costs. “Gombani really is the most rural village you can imagine. It doesn’t even show up on the commercial GPS systems. It really is off the beaten track,” notes Foster.

The Department of Public Works has so far identified 12 families in Gombani who are worst affected by poverty and underdevelopment as beneficiaries of the housing project. As part of the pilot project, the Department aims to build 12 houses in the area, of which two have already been completed.

The Hydraform block yard in Gombani.

The Hydraform block yard in Gombani.

To date, 12 women – one from each of the families – have been trained in blockmaking. “As we speak the women are making blocks and we are busy training them on how to build. So hopefully we will change the entire face of Gombani. As part of Hydraform’s agreement with the Government, we are committed to provide training and mentorship for six months, but even after that we will check-up on the site every now and again,” says Foster.

Ms Phatutshedzo Mulungufhala, a single mother of seven said she was happy to be chosen as one of the beneficiaries. “My family will now have a house to accommodate all of us, unlike in the past when we lived in a single room mud hut. Since this mud hut could not accommodate all of us, my children had to sleep at my neighbours. Now that we have a proper house, worrying about rainy days and chilly winter nights is something of the past,” she remarked.

“The Deputy Minister chose the most remote village to showcase how Hydraform, in collaboration with Government , can create sustainable businesses, jobs, housing and small scale infrastructure especially in the rural areas,” explains Hydraform’s Kagiso Maiphetlho, who played a fundamental role in the project.

According to Foster there are significant opportunities to replicate the project across South Africa as well as the rest of the continent. “The South African Government has definitely committed itself to service delivery when it comes to rural development and is using our knowledge and equipment to make a difference. The Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, has stated that she wants a Hydraform machine in each of the nine provinces.”

The company is also already firmly established across Africa, and its technology has been used for housing developments in a number of countries.

Contact details

For more information or to request a quote, contact Hydraform at:

Email: [email protected]

French website:

Promotional Feature