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January 29, 2014

Whatever Happened to the $300 House?

The Harvard Business Review blog titled Whatever Happened to the $300 House? gives us less than half the story of what's been going on. I'd like to set the record straight for those of you who've asked: "what's going on?"

Here's a chart to explain the journey so far >>

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Part of the confusion stems from the idea of ownership.  You see, the $300 House is not a project with an "owner" per se.  Rather, it's an idea - to get individuals, businesses, and institutions to participate - collaboratively, if possible - to come up with solutions to solving the problem of affordable housing for the poorest of the poor.  

To me what matters is that the journey has actually begun, with individuals, institutions, and businesses working on it at their own pace. Some are choosing to work in an open spirit of collaboration, while others have chosen a more traditional, closed approach. Both are fine. But to say that the only thing that's happening with the $300 House is what's happening at Dartmouth is just missing the boat.  

September 3, 2011

Dartmouth Team to Visit Haiti

A group of Dartmouth faculty, graduate students and administrators will be visiting a number of locations in Haiti from September 5-11, 2011 in order to sound out the possibility of moving forward with a "$300 House" pilot project that would be focused on the concept that good housing and community building are an integral component in the promotion of improvements in the health of the Haitian people. It is our hope that this model for very low cost housing, combined with sound infrastructure and creation of jobs can be adapted to meet the needs of challenged communities globally.

On the trip they will meet with community members, leaders and various organizations.

Team members include:

vmay.jpgVicki 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.


jwilson.jpgJack 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.

mbode.jpgMolly 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.


tpavlowich.jpgTyler 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!

June 30, 2011

The Mangyan Challenge: A Letter from Ian Fraser

Dear $300 House members,

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.

mangyan.jpgI 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.

Ian Fraser
Sydney
Australia

IanFraser [ at ] sydney [dot] net

June 15, 2011

$300 House: Open Design Challenge Winners

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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):

An award of recognition for corporate participation goes to a team from Mahindra Partners - the jurors decided to judge corporate entries separately.


 
"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

Our Rebuttal to the $300 House Op-Ed in the NY Times

Have they stopped fact-checking at the New York Times

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.

May 27, 2011

299 Design Ideas for the $300 House

Thanks to everyone for their enthusiasm and support!  VG and I are thrilled to see the creative suggestions and the spirit of co-operation that became more and more evident as the $300 House Open Design Challenge went along. 

Special thanks to the Jovoto team - Nathalie, Nadine, Peter (x2), Bastian, and Shaun at Mutopo for making this happen - without your generosity we'd never have gotten off the ground.  Thanks also to Scott Tew from Ingersoll Rand for your willingness to try this experiment.

Now, let the judging begin!

April 20, 2011

Rafael Smith: More Notes from Haiti

Rafael Smith's blog continues to give us insights into the experience of living in a Haitian camp. Let's visit and learn >>



Smith is a judge in our Open Design Challenge.

April 9, 2011

Shraya's Interview: The $300 House

shraya.gifThe following questions were sent to VG and Christian by Shraya, a 4th grader in Miss Mancosh's class. Her mentor for this project is Miss Emily Pasquale. Thanks for your questions, Shraya!

How does your organization work?
We are not a formal organization - simply a collection of concerned individuals and companies trying to find a solution to the problem of low-cost housing for the poorest people on our planet.  So our "job" is to help people come together - across organizations, businesses and governments - to solve the problem.

How do you plan to get the money to construct these houses?

We are not planning on asking anyone to fund us as an organization, but rather to fund different projects or phases. For example we are getting ready to have a design challenge where we ask people to submit their plans for a $300 House. We would like to offer the winning team(s) a small financial reward for their hard work and the opportunity to join a prototyping workshop where we will build a $300 House. This may be done through sponsorship. We already have a sponsor: The Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll Rand, and we're talking to others as well.

Does your organization operate all around the world?
Yes and no.  We have members from all the different continents who have signed on because they are interested in solving the problem.  But we are not a formal organization, so we don't spend any money operating anywhere.

What are challenges in building houses outside the USA?
Great question. The biggest challenge for poor people anywhere is money - they don't have enough money to buy land or to buy a house. Sometimes they lack the money to even rent a place to live and have to resort to living in anything they can find that gives them some protection from the elements.

Our hope is that we can create affordable houses which are comfortable and durable enough to provide the poor with a safe place to live. Every country has different issues, and we're going to have to understand what they are to be successful.

Are you constructing any houses in India currently?
No, not yet. But India is one of the countries we want to build a few test houses, to see how they work. Other countries we are thinking about to start this project are Haiti and Indonesia.

Are you working with other charities? If so what are they?

We plan on working with charities and businesses. You see, we think businesses can make money and help poor people at the same time. It's simply a matter of designing the house at a price that poor people can afford. We are also working with non-profits like the Solar Electric Light Fund, and shortly, we hope, with Partners In Health.  In India we are talking to a number of non-profits as well. Of course, we welcome everyone!

What type of problems have you encountered so far?
What problems?  If it was easy, the problem would have been solved a long time ago. So we don't really view our difficulties as problems, but rather as a way to learn.  You can't run without falling, and we're learning to fall quite well!

How has the response been so far about this initiative?

Tremendous. We have people like you writing us - and we have almost 800 people from all over the world who want to do something about this issue.  It's great!

What is it like being in this organization?
It's fun to try to do something that most people think can't be done.  And what will be really cool is if we succeed! Wish us luck - and send in your design for the $300 House.

VG and I love that kids are getting into this project along w/ the adults. Here's an example of a submission from another concerned citizen of the planet >>

Continue reading Shraya's Interview: The $300 House.

March 10, 2011

Building a $300 House for the Poor: HBR interviews VG

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VG explains the rationale behind the $300 House. Watch >>

February 13, 2011

Design for the Other 90%

“The problem is that 90 percent of the world’s designers spend all their time working on solutions to the problems of the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers. A revolution in design is needed to reverse this silly ratio and reach the other 90 percent.”

Paul Polak in Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail

Here are Paul’s 12 steps to practical problem solving for the poor:

  1. Go to where the action is.
  2. Talk to the people who have the problem and listen to what they have to say.
  3. Learn everything you can about the problem’s specific context.
  4. Think big and act big.
  5. Think like a child.
  6. See and do the obvious.
  7. If somebody has already invented it, you don’t need to do so again.
  8. Make sure your approach has positive, measurable impacts that can be brought to scale.
  9. Design to specific cost and price targets.
  10. Follow practical three-year plans.
  11. Continue to learn from your customers.
  12. Stay positive: don’t be distracted by what other people think.


For all the designers out there, these principles should be applied to the design and implementation of the $300 House.  Paul Polak’s approach at D-REV and  IDE is the direction is which Design must go if is to make a difference in the world.

Watch:

February 4, 2011

David Sands: The Sustainability Challenge

davidsands.jpg

Bamboodist and architect David Sands blogs about the $300 House in Harvard Business Review:

"It's easy to say a $300 House for the poor should be designed a sustainable solution, but it's no easy feat. To be sustainable, all the elements must be good for the user, good for the environment and good for those who made them. Where do the materials come from? Of what are they composed? Are they nontoxic? Or better yet, are they biophilic: Is life on earth improved for everyone and all creatures because this product is being made? Also, if it is not affordable, it is not sustainable! With their reduced economic means, fewer choices are available to the poor and cost precludes many otherwise sustainable options."
Read the entire post >>

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

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emily_carr_homeless_housing_project_interior-450x337.jpg

emily_carr_homeless_housing_project_2-450x300.jpg

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:

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.

December 12, 2010

Dai Haifei's Egg House

First you laugh, then you start to think: "Not bad!"

Dai Haifei, 24, a newly graduated architect, decided to make his own egg-style home after being unable to afford Beijing's sky-high rental prices. The two-meter high house with two wheels underneath is made from sack bags on the outside wall, bamboo splints on the inside and wood chippings and grass seeds in between.

"The seeds will grow in the natural environment and it's cold-proof," Dai explained.


egghouse.jpgMore here >>

December 5, 2010

Seth Godin on the Marketing Challenge

From Seth Godin's post in Harvard Business Review:

Triple the U.S. population by three. That's how many people around the world live on about a dollar a day. Triple it again and now you have the number that lives on $2. About forty percent of the world lives on $2 or less a day.

What's that like? It's almost impossible for most of us to imagine. I mean, $2 is the rent on your apartment for about 45 minutes. It buys you one bite of lunch at a local restaurant. And yet, two billion people survive on that sort of income.

In just a few sentences, Seth tells us just what it means to eke out a living at the bottom of the pyramid. 

Read the full post >>