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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 >>


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.  

June 15, 2011

$300 House: Open Design Challenge Winners

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"

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!

March 24, 2011

Is Artificial Photosynthesis the Disruptive Solution to the Energy Problem?

Looks like the Tata Group thinks so. They’ve just partnered with Sun Catalytix to save the planet. In this Fast Company article, we learn that MIT’s Daniel Nocera and his team stuck an artificial cobalt- and phosphate-coated silicon leaf into a jar of water and managed to create power—at an efficiency that surpasses today’s solar panels!

Here’s the official propaganda:

Bring it!

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 >>

November 29, 2010

Buyers Flock To Tiny Homes During Downturn

See this article: Buyers Flock To Ridiculously Small Homes During Downturn >>

The problem I have with these houses is the price: between $20,000 and $50,000; looks like a major reverse innovation opportunity for the $300 House!

November 28, 2010

Why $300? Is it a real house?

Why $300? That’s a question that keeps coming up.

To answer this question, let’s look at what inspired the $300 house. It all started with this video of Partners In Health in action [disclosure: at the time I was putting together a project involving PIH, SELF and the reggae group Steel Pulse at].

Watch Dr. David Walton’s story at the 4:24 mark >>

At 4:57 we see Dr. Walton visit a girl with a heart ailment. She lived, as you see, in a one room hut with 11 other family members. Her house is what started this $300 house idea rolling - first as a blog post, and now as a project to bring together the people and organizations to make it a reality.

So why $300? Three reasons:

1) the Tata Nano was built around the idea that a car should cost $2000/-  They then engineered everything to fit that price point - which in turn forced a lot of innovative design thinking. So our point was that if we set a hard number like $300, well, then we’ll be forced to innovate to meet that number. We’re simply setting a target.

2) We then used an old formula which we used to use when I was a kid in India - anything that cost 100$ in the US, you could get re-engineered for 10$ in India. Following that logic, a $3000 shed available at Sam’s Warehouse should then cost $300 in an emerging country like India or perhaps even less in a poor country like Haiti.

3) Finally, we looked up the cost of what a poor person’s house is in a place like Bangladesh.  From Yunus’ book - where he describes 10 attributes of people who have escaped poverty in Bangladesh - we found an estimate for $370 for a house of  Grameen members who have escaped poverty.

So we set $300 as a target price; for a social business that should be doable.

Now, can we do it? Join us >>