The $300 House: Not Charity, Innovation!

By: | April 29th, 2013

Some believe home ownership is a key to a feeling of personal security and some call it “empowering the poor”. In the developed world housing prices and the financing of home loans seem to be increasingly beyond the means of many despite historically low interest rates. In the developing world researchers believe home ownership can make the difference between poverty and a stable and sufficient standard of living.

Basic Services for All

Providing basic services like water, health, energy, education and other basic building blocks of a stable and quality life are discussed in the following radio interview with Vijay Govindarajan who leads the $300 House project.

Professor Govindarajan of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, and his colleagues recently solicited designs from some of the world’s leading architects in a Harvard Business Review blog entry. At their website is an outline of the contest; the site contains a plethora of resources including forums, blogs, articles, books and more!

Govindarajan’s goal is to help people who are living in shacks made of materials such as cardboard that leave people open to the elements and structural failure. The team is looking for a solution that can be implemented on a large scale and so is focusing on large corporations with the resources and manpower to scale up the winning design. The project is also tapping into crowdsourcing channels in hopes of attracting a wider variety of ideas.

Guidelines for $300 House

  1. self built, self improvable and expandable
  2. $300
  3. made of durable mass-produced materials
  4. include water filters and solar panels
  5. use local materials
  6. low tech
  7. green
  8. replicable

Top Ideas include:

  • “Rammed Earth” construction which mixes soil and concrete for walls and uses local material such as metal, tile, thatch and wood as roofing.
  • “Decadomes” which are geometric shapes made from identical panels of plywood, plastic, jute straw, rice husk and resin.
  • “Ship Shape” housing involves the use of millions of discarded shipping containers modified to create housing.
  • “Shed Structures” are light weight composite panel buildings made of wood, and masonry and attached with bolts and screws. The design can be elevated to protect residents from flooding.
  • Wigwam is a traditional Native American Indian design using bamboo and waterproof cloth with Kelvar.
  • “Wood Dome” – house includes Windows and a glass door.
  • Adobe houses made of dirt, water and manure. This design is known to be durable and provides warmth when it’s cold outside and is cool when it’s hot outside.
  • Lego-like plastic bricks used as the foundation for affordable housing.

See Slideshow of Ideas:

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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