The $300 House
A sum that can easily be spent for a single night in a hotel in Europe could soon be enough to buy a complete house in the developing and threshold countries of the world: together with architects and health experts, a US-American professor of international business is currently working on a house for $300. The first prototype will be built in Haiti.
Creating housing for people living on the minimum income needed to exist – in the period of classical modernity, this was a field that German architects concerned themselves with intensively. Some 80 years along the line, living spaces and cars have progressively got bigger in Germany, and the pioneering work in the field of provision of inexpensive basic services takes place elsewhere. In India for example, where the Tata Nano was brought on the automotive market in 2008, at an as-yet-unheard-of net price of under €1500.
The aims pursued by the international business professor of Indian origin, Vijay Govindarajan, who teaches at Dartmouth College in the USA, are similar. Together with a team of students and lecturers at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, he wants to develop a dwelling for only $300, in an attempt to offer the poor of the developing and threshold countries of the world more liveable conditions for survival.
Govindarajan imagines the house as a single-room structure with drop-down partitions for a minimum degree of privacy. The furniture would consist of hammocks and folding chairs. An inexpensive solar panel would be fitted on the roof and solar batteries would provide electricity for lighting and charging a mobile phone and computer. An inexpensive water filter would also be installed in the house.
»Over 70 million people – the size of the United Kingdom – live in pavements with only sky as their roof,« Govindarajan said. »Is this right? Even insects and spiders have houses. Housing is a human right. Any nation which cannot house and look after its own people is a failed nation. It doesn't have to be that way. Businesses, governments, and NGOs must work together to solve this wicked problem.«
His goal is to help the poorest in the world to be able to live a life with some more dignity: »It would turn strangers into neighbours, slums into neighbourhoods. Despite the ultra-low price point, it could include basic modern services such as running water and electricity. More important, it would create a community that shared access to computers, cell phones, televisions, water filters, solar panels, and clean-burning stoves. In doing so, it would enable the poor to leapfrog the limits of slums. It would make healthy and safe living possible and a good education achievable.«
Govindarajan however also says that it doesn't make any sense to build the house in places without any suitable infrastructure. This could only go hand in hand with other organizations willing to provide the required power and water supply. But, according to Govindarajan, there are plenty of places in the world which have the basic infrastructures and yet people live there in virtually unacceptable conditions.
The first designs for the 300-dollar house already exist. They are the result of a web-based design competition held by Govindarajan, in which the same magic number of 300 design teams took part. The three winners were invited to a workshop at Dartmouth College to finalize their designs. The planning phase will end with the selection of one of the designs, a prototype of which will then be built in Haiti, and eventually followed by a model village. According to Govindarajan, a local NGO has already declared itself ready to support the realization of the project.
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