Following a government land tenure program, the Moqattam zabbaleen (garbage collectors) were encouraged to convert their homes from tin shacks into stone and brick buildings. In order to prevent the spread of unplanned and inadequate building methods. Environment Quality International (EQI) - the consulting firm in charge of the project - proposed to set up a loan fund for housing construction, offering architectural services to loan beneficiaries and other community members.
The upgrading scheme also aimed at cleaning up the settlement to improve sanitation. This was partly achieved through the construction of a compost plant transforming organic waste a high quality fertilizer. The resulting income will be invested in other community-related projects. With the participation of Oxfam, EQI initiated a Small Industries Program to upgrade the residents' waste cycling capabilities by introducing mechanization into the process.
An independent project funded by the World Bank introduced the basic infrastructure to the settlement, thus benefiting the housing units built by EQI. A total of 120 units have been built on predefined lots already occupied by zabbaleen living in shacks. The initial, average floor space of each unit was 50sq m; the latter surface can be expanded vertically and/or horizontal. In order to increase the awareness and responsibility of the beneficiaries and reduce the element of charity usually involved in such schemes, the plan allotted a total budget of EP 1'l50 per household, half of which to be paid by the recipient family and the other half by the fund. Following the issue of the loan, on-site architects checked the existing conditions of each house to establish the structural soundness of the units and a maximal separation of the domestic from the waste-related activities as well as to ensure that public space be not infringed upon.
A standard unit consists of a 3m high, 4x4m room with solid foundations capable of supporting two floors, a concrete roof, block walls, a door and a window. This basic arrangement allows for potential extensions according to the occupants individual needs and financial means. Technical assistance was made available for modifications requested by the owners, provided they covered the additional costs. The project progressed on a street by street basis and residents were employed in the construction works. Building materials produced in the settlement as part of the EQI small industries scheme were used in the construction these include plastic piping for wires, wooden window and door frames and cement tiles.