January 2011 Archives

January 25, 2011

Hello from Lauren

Hello Everyone! 

I am a senior of Communications Design at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design studying under Fred Murrell. In the fall of last year, I knew I wanted to work on a large scale project, in my last semester at school, offering real ways to help people instead of the usual hypothetical settings we work within during our college years. After talking and exchanging ideas with people around me, I brought my ideas to Fred. It was then he introduced me to $300House and I become immediately excited over the possibilities this project presented. 

After researching many places around the world in need of housing help, I could not steer my head away from Haiti. A year since the horrible earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, displaced Haitians are still living in vast and crumbling tent cities with little means to begin building a better tomorrow for themselves. A lot of international help to Haiti has been receiving a lot of criticism from Haitians. While the outside help may be providing things for the temporary, it is ultimately enabling a poverty stricken state.

As a student at RMCAD, I'm interested in finding a way to truly help the displaced citizens of Haiti. I want to collaborate and design with people to find a way to help people, in the truest sense.

I'm very excited for this semester of work and am grateful to be a part of this community!

Lauren Mae Cales

January 22, 2011

The Homeless Houses from Emily Carr University

This was a few years ago, but these Homes for Less houses look great. Led by Emily Carr University's Christian Blyt, these 64 square-foot living spaces for homeless citizens had a price point of $1,500




There is a "bottom of the pyramid" in the US as well. The housing problem will get worse before it gets better. The social cost of doing nothing or trying to ignore the problem could lead to civil unrest. What if these model homes were built into small communities - for women w/ kids, for small families, for homeless kids?  With shared facilities, and most importantly - security. And what if they charged rent - like, $50 a month?  The other objection to taking action is, of course, nimbyism.

Inspiration: Samuel Mockbee

The late Sambo Mockbee:

Watch the full episode. See more Citizen Architect.

The Rural Studio lives on…

January 21, 2011

Rafael Smith's Über Shelter

Meet the Über Shelter, from $300 House advisor Rafael Smith:

Scenes from Haiti

These images are from Partners In Health >>


Alex Fisberg: Snapshots from India and Brazil

The following snapshots are from Alex Fisberg, a Brazilian journalist in India. He sent in the photos to share with folks working on the $300 house.

Alex’s blog - Um Jornalismo Social - is here >>

Scenes from India


Scenes from Brazil:

An opportunity for the $300 House…

January 16, 2011

The Economist: "...much the most interesting was Vijay Govindarajan's idea for a $300 house"


The latest issue of the (ever improving) Harvard Business Review contains a selection of ideas from the likes of Eric Schmidt, Laura Tyson and Klaus Schwab, but much the most interesting was Vijay Govindarajan's idea for a $300 house.


Wow! >>

January 8, 2011

Raj Anand: On Converting a Slum to a Sustainable Community

Editor's note: Raj Anand is the President & CEO of Southern States LLC. He shares his thoughts on slum renewal with us >>

Almost all urban areas of the world have slum dwellers, developed countries have slums and developing countries have slums.  The common elements and operations of all such areas can be looked at from a systems science standpoint. 

Essentially in any slum or slum equivalent boundary, each resident is an open subsystem exchanging resources with the larger system at its boundary.  Each subsystem is driven to optimize its own resource exchange with the larger entity at its boundary with limited or no regard for other subsystems in the slum boundary.  This dynamic leads to the creation of a perpetual slum.  Once this dynamic is changed the slum can be transitioned to a sustainable perpetually improving community, with a developed infrastructure. 

The question is then: Change the dynamics to what?

Link the open subsystems of the slum into goal oriented closed slum system which trades resources at the limited interfaces at the boundary with the larger system in an organized way to the benefit of the slum system

How to bring about the change?

  • Map all the resource interchanges between the slum subsystems and the larger system.  This can be done by collecting data of revenue flow into the slum area and revenue outflow from the slum area.
  • Diverting a large part of the revenue flow going out of the slum area to circulate inside the slum area by setting up services needed by the subsystem by the residents of the system ( example if residents are getting al their food supplies outside the system, set up a small food supply business inside the system run by a resident)
What social/political/economic infrastructure is needed? How to develop the social /political/economic infrastructure?

This needs input from social political scientists, the key is to organize as a self directed, sustainable entity with controlled interface with the outside system to move the equilibrium point to higher standard of living.

What physical infrastructure is needed?

Housing, potable water, sewer system, sanitation, toilets, electricity, medical care, education, communications. Prioritize the physical infrastructure needs and find creative way to generate these, for example if the infrastructure element is at the end of the value chain where its value has been exhausted by the larger system it can be recycled into the slum system.

An example of this end of life planned value chain:

If a dual purpose shipping container is developed which maximizes the space usage of trailers, the slum system can provide a service for picking up discarded containers for a fee and recycle them inside the slum system as building blocks for houses.  The residents would actually build the houses.

The shipping containers could be developed and promoted by trucking companies for it would improve their hauling capacity utilization.  This would also save wood and diminish landfill space needed for discarded wood crates.

Each of the other Physical infrastructure needs could also be filled by creative value chain ideas.

Finally, once a self contained community is created it can be relocated as a whole self contained community to a better geographical location if physical improvements or land title is not possible at the current location.

How do we begin?

Let's bring together three coordinated Grad School  Teams to:

  1. Map the revenue flow of the slum & recommend changes for conservation of the value flow inside the slum
  2. Study the existing Social, political ecosystem and recommend changes to build a closed system with limited interfaces with the larger system
  3. Creative value chain ideas to provide physical infrastructure

I'm interested in hearing your feedback in the comments section below.