June 29, 2015
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September 19, 2013
In order to understand the housing situation in the developing world, we traveled through villages and slums in four states of India: Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. While many aspects of life in these areas were eye opening, we were particularly struck by the lack of adequate roofing available. Nearly 80% of the families we talked to could not afford adequate roofing and were left with the poor quality options of corrugated cement or metal roofs, which are both suboptimal as shelter and hazardous to health. As demonstrated by the picture (right) from a slum in Ahmedabad, India and quotes from users, most of the rural population of India cannot fulfill the basic human need of adequate shelter.
- "My top most priority is to get my house fixed, especially the roof"
- "We cannot sleep inside the house. Even at night, it is hot and suffocating"
- "I cannot get my son married because no family is willing to give their daughter in such a house"
- "We cannot afford concrete slab roof and there are no other options"
- "It doesn't feel like a home"
- "We have to fix the roof 5 to 6 times a year because of wind, rain, dogs and monkeys running on the roof."
As we understood the gravity of the problem, we realized that the primary cause of the situation is a lack of options in the market, making people have to choose between the affordable but inadequate options of corrugated metal or cement sheets,and the adequate but unaffordable option of concrete slab roofs.
We researched existing materials to find one that met our criteria of cost, properties, and toxicity, but no such material was available. Consequently, we decided to develop our own. Over the course of two years, we experimented with a variety of raw materials to find the ideal combination and process to yield a product that had the properties of strength, insulation, and waterproofing necessary for adequate shelter. In order to keep the cost of production low and to serve an additional social purpose, we focused on using waste as input. In December 2012, our experimentation yielded fruit as we developed a rigid tile, mainly from packaging waste and added a custom waterproof coat to get a panel ideal for roofing. Tests of our material revealed that it can hold at least 800 lbs, is waterproof, and provides better insulation than every available option, including concrete slab roofs. Furthermore, it costs 60% less than concrete slab roofs, thereby eliminating the current market gap between adequate and affordable.
Solar cells and LED lights have been successfully embedded in the roofing panels, thereby allowing the product to simultaneously provide reliable shelter, lighting, and additional electricity for the same house. As shown in the picture below, we have used the solar-embedded panel to successfully charge an iPhone. We envision our product as a one-stop solution to address the issues of waste management, affordable housing, rural electrification, and clean energy in the developing world.
Due to the strength, insulation, and affordability offered by our panels, we noticed that there are a plethora of fields outside of roofing in which this product could be used, such as furniture, partition boards, false ceilings, and insulation.
July 5, 2013
Over the next few months we exchanged emails and phone calls, but nothing concrete (pardon the pun) seemed to materialize...
Now, it's here! The IKEA Foundation announced its flat-pack houses - refugee shelters which are a significant step up from the tent cities we associate with refugee camps. It's part of the IKEA Foundation's commitment to refugee children around the world.
According to the folks at IKEA: "Many of the current shelters used in refugee camps have a life span of approximately six months before the impact of sun, rain and wind means it needs to be replaced. Yet long-term refugee situations mean that, on average, refugees stay in camps for 12 years."
The UNHCR says it is installing 50 shelter prototypes (weighing 100 kilos each) with flexible solar panels on the roofs for power and specially made walls that can deflect heat during the day and retain it at night.The prototypes, with their semi-hard plastic walls and roofs made from composite material and with room to house five people each, have cost $US8000 apiece, and the UNHCR wants feedback from refugees before approving more wide-scale production. Over time, the UN agency expects the price for the new shelters to come down to about $US1000, which is still double the $US500 it pays for each of its refugee tents.
The prototype shelters were all made by hand in Sweden, although not in IKEA factories. More than 15 million people were living as refugees around the world last year. Almost 29 million were displaced within their own country - the highest combined number in two decades, as per UNHCR.
Kudos to IKEA and the UNHCR. Now how about trying something like this?
June 8, 2013
I just chatted with Harvey this weekend, and here’s a video he shared that shows his work at Haiti Communitere. The camera follows a group of women from Cite Soleil in Port au
Prince as they build a house using styrofoam collected from the streets,
canals, and ravines as a source material.
What’s great about Harvey is his passion for doing something. He always has something profoundly insightful to share. He strongly advocates the empowerment of women as the gamechangers in the community, which, if you watch the video, is exactly what happens!
March 3, 2013
Now the three of them have collaborated (again) to give the rest of us a deep look at "how to leverage external talent to address all kinds of creative and innovative challenges."
The book is especially useful for folks behind the corporate iron-wall who are looking to bring in new ideas, products and services, business models, etc. from the outside, but don't really know where to start. Sure, you can read Henry Chesbrough and John Hagel and JSB's stuff (btw, did you know that Chesbrough once worked for JSB at PARC?), but this is the first book that walks you through a detailed process, step-by-step, and explains what your business needs to do to build an "open innovation" capability:
This book will teach you and your organization:
- how to weigh the business benefit of crowdstorming with an organization's legal, confidentiality, and brand needs
- what kinds of questions to ask crowdstorm participants
- how to compel a community to participate and reward them when they do
- how to recruit the best people to join your conversation
- how a coalition of partners can enhance crowdsourcing
- how to organize participants for the best results
- how to monitor a community in support of community management
- how to evaluate results
- the technology alternatives to enable crowdsourcing
Now, you too can be an A.G. Lafley and bring in all kinds of new, externally developed products into your business!
Go read it now >>
Thanks also to Nathalie Sonne who managed the community for us on jovoto!
February 22, 2013
Watch for Harvey Lacey, Patrick Reynolds, and Mahindra and Mahindra:
February 18, 2013
Harvey Lacey's entry in the $300 House Design Challenge placed a respectable 12th, but what sets him apart is his relentless drive to make a difference. A welder by profession, he's the "redneck innovator" from Texas - using ingenuity, hard work, and not-so-common sense to build a new type of structure built of Ubuntublox - blocks built of recycled styrofoam.
WATCH THIS FIRST >> Here's a must-watch video clip from the Discovery Channel.
Here's the original Ubuntublox house:
And, here's a clip using the remains of pressed Vetiver (khus in India), a plant used in Haiti for its fragrance:
Naveen Jain wrote a wonderful article about Harvey in Forbes. In it, he describes how "Harvey is helping to solve more than just one global problem with his Ubuntu-Blox project; he is addressing at least three acute needs: plastic pollution reduction, the global housing crisis and extreme unemployment in underdeveloped countries."
How did Harvey Lacey get into this? On the phone, he told me about his childhood, growing up poor in a trailer park. Once, when he had no food in the house, his gypsy friends brought his family a truck-full of food. Harvey has never forgotten that act of kindness, and now its seems he is paying it forward, as the cliche goes.
For more info, visit HarveyLacey.com. The man just doesn't stop!
February 12, 2013
I first learned about Patrick Reynolds during the $300 House Design Challenge when Vivek Bhatnagar submitted his work as an entry. Instead of a design or a sketch, Reynolds just went ahead and built a house, took some photos, and submitted his work... His concept: the "Village in a Container."
While the cost was somewhat more than $300, what he accomplished was startling.
Towards the end of last year, I was back in Texas, and went to visit Patrick to check out his concepts, and here's what I found.
In the classic tradition of the Edison-style inventor, I discovered Patrick in the heart of his solar powered farm, surrounded by experiments of all shapes and sizes. The house he had designed for the contest was there as well, smack-dab in the middle of scenic Central Texas:
Patrick Reynolds' house had been turned into a hunting lodge, and along with the main farmhouse and several other structures, was powered by the sun. The "Village in a Container" idea, it turns out, is based on Patrick's business - which includes water treatment, solar-powered contraptions to treat groundwater, and now, "pop-up" houses. Patrick showed us around the house (the window awnings - below - are solar panels which power LED lights on the inside):
The ground floor, complete with a sofa-bed, table, wall-AC unit, and the proverbial kitchen sink:
The toilet under the stairs (is that good Feng Shui?) empties into an underground septic tank.
Upstairs, the bunk bed stands next to a get-away door (in case of emergencies). A second wall-AC services the upstairs to provide relief during the hot Texas summer.
The side of the house, showing the the two wall-AC units.
Behind the house, Patrick's solar garden of arrays blooms - following the sun all day long.
Patrick also showed us his solar control room (the batteries last 15 to 20 years if looked after properly):
And here's an experimental low-velocity wind turbine he has developed:
There were some other interesting experiments going on as well, like a solar-powered golf-cart, an outdoor rover for handicapped folks to get out into the wilderness and hunt, several experimental wind turbines, and a full scale manor house (not pictured) which Patrick was building by hand - brick by brick! But what impressed me the most was Patrick's generosity - of both his time and spirit!
UPDATE: After posting the blog post, I got a few additional points from Vivek and Patrick via email:
- The house can be erected/put together by a team of two to four people without having to use any powered tools (other than a battery powered drill) in a matter of hours
- It can house up to two adults and four children or four adults
- The house, because of its design and durability of the components, is sturdy enough to last 20-30 years
- Like a tree branch, the structure (has a light gage tube steel frame) has been designed to move gently with high winds so that it won't topple over or break (when anchored as designed)
- In the frontal photo you will notice a removable panel in the exterior wall for access to an external module bathroom that may be desirable in some parts of the world
November 27, 2012
The $300 House has just been nominated for the Katerva Awards.
A few words about the Katerva Awards from the folks at Katerva: The purpose of the Katerva Awards is to
identify and amplify the world's most innovative and promising new ideas and
initiatives in sustainability. The Katerva Awards have been called the
Nobel Prize of Sustainability by Reuters; they are the pinnacle of global
sustainability recognition. Through them, the best ground-breaking ideas on the
planet are identified and judged through a series of evaluation panels made up
of the world's leading experts in the field. Katerva isn't looking for ideas that will
improve the world in small increments. We are looking for paradigm-busting
ideas. Our Award winners don't simply move the needle when it comes to
efficiency, lifestyle or consumption; they change the game entirely. This is a
celebration of radical innovation and an acceleration of much needed change.
October 22, 2011
It's been a little over a year since the $300 House was introduced in this Harvard Business Review blog post.
September 3, 2011
On the trip they will meet with community members, leaders and various organizations.
Team members include:
Vicki May, Professor, Thayer School of Engineering
Vicki May is an Instructional Associate Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering and she is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of New Hampshire and California. At Thayer School, Vicki teaches solid mechanics, integrated design, and structural analysis. Prior to joining the faculty at Thayer, she was a professor of Architectural Engineering at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. She also worked in the Los Angeles area for a firm that specializes in seismic rehabilitation of historic structures. She earned her BS in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota and her MS and PhD degrees in structural engineering from Stanford University.
Jack Wilson, Professor, Studio Art
Jack Wilson is an architect and planner and is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Studio Art at Dartmouth College where he teaches courses in Drawing, Architectural Design and Landscape Art & Design. He also teaches a course on Integrated Design at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering. Until 2009 he was responsible for supervision of campus planning as well as project development, architect selection and design review for large scale capital projects at Dartmouth. In addition to teaching he currently also consults on the planning, design and construction of health care, institutional, commercial and residential projects. Prior to coming to northern New England Jack worked for a number of architectural firms in Philadelphia PA. Jack earned his AB in Art at Vassar College and his Master of Architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He has given invited talks, and presented papers nationally and internationally and is active both at Dartmouth and locally on numerous committees and boards, including the Board of Directors of The Family Place, a non-profit organization in Vermont focused on building strong families in order to build strong communities.
Molly Bode, Global Health Program Officer, The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science
Molly Bode is a Global Health Program Officer at The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. Molly also serves as the Dartmouth Haiti Response Coordinator for medical and educational initiatives with partners in Haiti. In addition to working on Haiti projects, she helps coordinate other global health activities at the College including projects in Rwanda, India, other countries, and in the US. Prior to her current position, Molly served in a two-year fellowship in the President's Office and The Dartmouth Center working on projects for President Jim Yong Kim. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with a Biology and Film major and is currently taking Masters in Public Health courses.
Tyler Pavlowich, PhD student, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Tyler is a second-year PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program at Dartmouth College. He has worked with fish and aquaculture for seven years, both as a researcher and extensionist to rural communities in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer.
His most recent research has focused on the use of algae as a feed source for tilapia in integrated food-energy systems with Professor Anne Kapuscinski from the Environmental Studies Program. He is starting his dissertation and interested in how appropriate aquatic food production systems can contribute to ecological and human well-being.
Special thanks to Dartmouth for making this happen!
July 19, 2011
Read our post on the Harvard Business Review blog >>
June 30, 2011
I have followed with interest your design contest (even submitted an entry) and as the winners are announced I would request you consider an opportunity to field trial a/some most suitable designs in a real world situation.
I am trying to develop a self-help project to provide low cost, suitable housing, and a sustainable job/income for poor people particularly in the Philippines.
I am exploring working with a village of Mangyan people in the Puerto Galera area of Mindoro Island and I would ask you consider them as recipients of one or more of the successful design outcomes of the contest.
What I need is simply the design information and rights and a working relationship with the designers of a suitable $300 house that is worth investing over $20,000 to build 60 houses.
I advise that many outcomes could ride on the house design "working" and a lot of goodwill could be won or lost by the results achieved. The 60 houses I propose to build are only a small fraction of what is eventually required.
I am not working with the whole Mangyan population The group I am working with is only one village and while they are 100% Mangyan people they are mostly in transition from their traditional hill-tribe culture into the today's life, culture and economy of the Philippines . They are maintaining many of their traditional values such as strong village group bonding, sense of culture and community, sharing, hard work and passive nature.
They struggle because of limited educational opportunities in the past but are trying hard to ensure their children receive education, health care and other benefits.
Some are share farming, some making handicrafts for sale in nearby tourist areas and some working as guides and labourers for the resorts and in the town. But, they do it very tough. Their houses are frankly very sub-standard and on a recent visit I was shocked. The photos I have included here are some of the better examples.
Their community is in many other ways very functional - they have a primary school and resident teacher; a church and resident minister/teacher; a community meeting place; limited town water-supply and some solar power.
They appear to have a well organized community management structure - it has respect, authority and is consultative and involving.
The leaders are currently having preliminary discussions regarding my proposal to build low cost houses for each of the 60 families in the village.
I stress this is not a headlong crash into a delicate sociological situation. The project I propose addresses an immediate needs of a village that is well into cultural transition but struggling with very poor housing. The project treads carefully and only after wide consultation - especially it is lead by the people themselves. They have many advisers as well and I envisage the project will be ongoing for at least three years. The houses however could be built within 6 months - according to the level of local participation. A slower build rate would be desirable to enable training and high levels of villager involvement..
The village is located near an easily accessed major town and in reasonable proximity to Manila the capitol of the Philippines. I am confident that one or other of the major universities located in Manila - such as University of The Philippines, Ateneo De Manila, De La Salle or other would be interested to participate in this project from an advisory and academic point of view.
I have almost certainly secured financial support to build 60 houses with an average cost of $300 i.e. approximately US$20,000. I believe strongly that other support programs are needed by this community all aimed at creating employment, land ownership and economic sustainability of this group. I am also working on these aspects. For example the villagers needs land to which they have clear title before the houses can be built. This is a priority matter at the moment.
There are many possibilities that can spring from this housing project for this village and in general I can see some very interesting possibilities if there was a house for $300.
About me: I am an Australian and semi-retired; briefly my back ground is as a businessman involved in R&D and manufacture of very advanced scientific components. At the same time I was a senior member of a consortium of Australian businesses that did many small development projects in S E Asia over 15 years (total value ~$150 million) - mainly in Indonesia - such as establishing/upgrading Environmental Monitoring Laboratories, Agricultural Science teaching and research laboratories, Occupational Health and Safety Laboratories.
I am a past Chairman of the Australian Scientific Industry Association, a founding director of the Technology Industry Exporters Group as well as various roles in commercialization committees interacting with universities etc.
Thank you for your time regarding this matter
I look forward to hearing from you.
IanFraser [ at ] sydney [dot] net
June 27, 2011
I am writing to you from Awaken Mozambique an association here in Beira, Sofala Province, Mozambique. We would like to know how can we assist you , or what kind of information you need from us, and we can then take it from there.
June 15, 2011
What began as a challenge in a blog post on the Harvard Business Review website has resulted in a collection of 300 design submissions from around the world. The $300 House Open Design Challenge is complete, with judges picking their final selections after much deliberation, and an extension, in order to go through the entries in detail.
Winners were selected in combination with votes from the community and a panel of judges comprised of expert designers, architects, and thought leaders. The winners share $25000 in total prize money which includes $10,000 in cash awards to the top 16 placements as voted by the community itself, and $15,000 in scholarships to attend a prototyping workshop for six participants (three selected by the community, and three by the judges panel).
The winners of the prototyping workshop scholarship are
(listed by username):
"We're delighted by the depth and breadth of the submissions we received," says Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of Tuck's Center for Global Leadership. "Hosting this contest on Jovoto's open, co-creation platform gave us a wealth of ideas and identified the people who we believe have the passion, skill, and commitment, to take the project to the next level, prototyping and actually building a $300 house for the poor. We invite all the participants to continue the discussion at www.300house.com."
June 10, 2011
The new date for the announcement of the winners has been set at June 15. We hope that the community understands why the judges are taking the extra time, and we look forward to sharing the results with everyone on that date.
That's the question I asked myself when I saw the op-ed they ran on the $300 House.
VG and I wrote a rebuttal - here - on the Harvard Business Review blog.
Please let us know what you think by posting your comments at HBR, underneath the rebuttal.