Geoff returned to Ulaanbaatar in October and November 2017 as the international land expert on the DAI project being undertaken for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The project seeks to understand how urban planning, urban expansion and urban land policy can support the water investment by MCC.
Geoff continues to lecture annually at the universities of Darmstadt and Munich in Germany, the Institute of Housing Studies (IHS) in Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Cambridge, Oxford Brookes and Westminster in the UK. Students come from all over the world to these international master degree courses on land, housing and urban development and Geoff is proud to be able to help the next generation of professionals. The photo is of the students undertaking the master degree course in IHS. Geoff is also currently examining PhD candidates in Oxford Brookes (UK) and Queensland (Australia) universities.
Geoff was commissioned by the World Bank to review the plans and land policy instruments being applied for the development of the new state capital after the bifurcation of the state in 2014. Land for the new capital is being acquired by three policy instruments, namely land pooling, negotiated settlements and formal land acquisition. The land pooling scheme is possibly the largest in the world and is the subject of local debate. Geoff’s role is to assess the way the policies are being implemented to ensure that no groups are disadvantaged.
This summer 2017 Geoff took his latest intern Cemre to the gliding in such a sunny and clear day in London! Cemre is currently studying Land Management and Land Tenure Programme at Technical University of Munich and doing a short-term internship at GPA. It was the first gliding experience for Cemre and she was very happy at the end of the day.
Geoff is delighted to welcome a new intern to GPA! Cemre Şahinkaya is from Istanbul and is studying at the Technical University Munich master degree course on Land Tenure and Land Management. Geoff met Cemre when lecturing on the course in 2016 and was happy to invite Cemre to come to London as part of her thesis preparation looking at urban regeneration in Turkey and Germany. Cemre would be happy to hear from anyone working on urban regeneration and can be contacted directly at Thank you in advance. I just want to make my e-mail adress correct as email@example.com. You can find further about her in cemre_gpa_newest.
Open Mundus Urbano has just released their interview with Geoff about his view on urban development and land management as part of Mundus Urbano Interview series. You can see it on their website.
Geoff was invited by the RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) to write a summary of the Habitat III conference in Quito, in October 2016. The blog can be uploaded here.
The United Nations has just released Geoff’s lecture on land tenure and property rights as part of the UN-Habitat Global Urban Lecture series. You can see it on their website.
The lecture distills 30 years of international experience on land tenure issues to provide a short, non-technical review of concepts, issues, methods and policy examples.
Geoff hopes the lecture will be useful for students, practitioners and policy makers and would be happy to receive feedback.
On the 22nd of May, Geoff took his two interns Bereket Neguse from Eritrea and Wenes Widiyani from Indonesia gliding and hiking at the Dunstable, London. They are both currently part of the Mundus Urbano – MSc in International Cooperation in Urban Development, doing their second year Masters program at the University of Grenoble Alpes, France. They have been engaged in GPA by doing a study and preparing a literature review of urban land production and lease transfer of three cities in Ethiopia, namely Addis Ababa, Mekelle and Adama. In addition, they have also been engaged in the Vietnam ‘Scaling up Urban Upgrading Project’ regarding land use and master plans review briefly. They are also responsible for updating GPA website.
The gliding was a delightful experience for both interns, where the highlight of that day was the loop Geoff did during gliding.
The day ended by attending a seminar on- Brexit and It’s Impact on Asia and The Commonwealth which was organized by the Democracy Forum at Senate Room, Senate House, Malet St, London.
As Wenes is going to leave in mid-June, this outing was also cherished as a farewell for her exciting time in GPA.
One of the greatest rewards of working on housing issues in rapidly urbanising countries is the opportunity to see how resourceful people are when it comes to obtaining land and housing, even when they have extremely limited resources. The World Habitat Awards, organised and funded by BSHF, provide a wealth of examples of such innovation and I was grateful to be invited by the Director, David Ireland, to visit the 2016-17 World Habitat Awards winning project in Senegal.
‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ was the inspiration of a French mason visiting Burkina Faso in 1998. He saw the vast potential of earth architecture in the arid rural areas of the Sahel and proposed that the Nubian form of mudbrick vaulting be revived as a form of building that would be more comfortable, affordable and environmentally sustainable than conventional reinforced concrete structures. Its unique structural advantage is that by building the arches so that they lean against the end wall, later bricks can lean against earlier arches, making it unnecessary to use wooden formwork until the arch is complete. This means that the system can create vaults of any length and does not need to use increasingly scarce and expensive timber during the construction process.
The program started in Burkina Faso in 2000 with support from the French government and a small team of committed professionals. The Nubian Vault Association has now completed more than 2,000 houses in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal varying in size and area from modest single storey structures to luxury two storey villas.
With a maximum span of 3.25 metres, buildings provide congenial and calming spaces and can either link to adjoining vaults to create different layouts, or include reinforced concrete beams so that large open spaces can be created. In this way, the structural system can be adapted to meet different uses and the program has already inspired local groups to build school buildings, community centres, mosques and maternity centres.
What makes ‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ so special is not, however, just the buildings, great though they are. The greatest achievement is that the team promoting it see the approach as increasing employment opportunities for people of different skill levels in a context where population growth has exceeded economic growth, leading to mass migration out of the region. It is also based closely on market costs in order to demonstrate its economic viability compared to expensive and less environmentally efficient imported materials. Being 100 percent carbon free, it has also been accepted by the governments of Burkina Faso and Senegal as part of their national policies in meeting the global Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals.
During a short, but extremely productive and enjoyable visit, the project team of Cecilia Rinaudo and Emmanuelle showed us impressive projects in the rural areas near Dakar, the World Heritage town of St Louis and Podor, on the border with Mauritania. A community managing an environmental reserve told us, “we can manage the reserve better now we have a place to manage it from”, while a school that had previously been reporting low examination results became the top performer the year after the new vaulted building was completed because the improved thermal comfort helped students to concentrate. A local entrepreneur told us his neighbors had expected his house to be washed away when the first rains came and were amazed when it not only withstood the rains but coped just as well when he added a second floor! Finally, a medical doctor said he was happy to spend extra hours at work because the clinic where he worked was more comfortable than his own home!
The program has been expanding at 30 percent a year and has ambitious plans to maintain momentum so that the system is accepted as appropriate for different building types as well as housing and can operate without external financial support.
While most buildings using the system are in rural areas where the majority of the population lives, there is considerable potential for urban and particularly peri-urban areas where population pressure is increasing the demand for affordable housing and where labour intensive methods are ideal. The Nubian Vault Association team hope to apply the approach throughout the whole Sahel region from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and from Algeria in the north to Nigeria in the south. They even plan to reintroduce it in the Nubian desert of Sudan where the tradition first started centuries ago, a great example of learning from the past to meet the challenges of the present and future.
The program and the dynamic team managing it are a deserving winner of this year’s World Habitat Awards!
This article is published in BSHF webpage