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May 27, 2015

Affordable Housing: Moladi's Hennie Botes on Innovation & Perseverance

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Hennie Botes founded Moladi in 1986, after building a global business as an entrepreneur and inventor.  His ability to think outside the box has led him to found a company that is revolutionizing the affordable housing market through design, innovation, and good-old fashioned ingenuity.

Can you tell us about how Moladi came about? How did you come up with the concept?

I think it starts with Abraham Maslow and food and shelter.  Without the basic needs of life, little else can happen.  So that's why housing is priority - across Africa and across the developing world.

But let's start at the very beginning. As it happened, my first invention was a plastic baby bath that fit across the bathtub and gave young mothers an easy and safe way to bathe their newborn children.  The design was sold the world over, and gave me the freedom to found Moladi. 

Moladi was the result of my own difficulties with building with brick and mortar. 

In South Africa, and many developing countries, we suffer from a colonial mentality.  Our education system does not teach us how to plant and grow food or build things.  And that is a tragedy. Africa will have to uplift itself, and learn how to build things itself.  

The challenge for so many local housing developments is the lack of skill. We know how difficult it was to put bricks on top of each other in a straight line, and, once the wall is built, to plaster it.

Moladi was a way I saw to build a construction system which could evolve into a job-creation tool itself, since it does not require skilled labor - in fact, over 90% of a construction team on a Moladi housing site consists of unskilled laborers.  

My first attempts at building the right mold was not exactly a success but the geese on the farm got a dam as result. Gradually, and this the way with all innovation, you learn from your mistakes.  The result was the Moladi building system.

You say system, and not house. What do you mean by that?

We're a system, a way of thinking, not simply a product, and that is why we are different. 

The Moladi building system, which incorporates green technology and sustainability also happens to provide the best solution to address six key challenges that hinder the successful implementation of low-cost housing projects in Africa:

- lack of sufficient funds
- shortage of skilled labourers
- lack of resources
- work flow control 
- time constraints 
- wastage. 

So the Moladi building system involves the use of a unique removable, reusable, recyclable and lightweight plastic formwork mould which is filled with an aerated SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) approved mortar to form the wall structure of a house in just one day.

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The process involves the assembly of a temporary plastic formwork mould the size of the designed house with all the electrical services plumbing and steel reinforcing located within the wall structure which is then filled with a specially formulated mortar mix to form all the walls simultaneously.

We use Moladi technology as a means to alleviate many of the cumbersome and costly aspects associated with conventional construction methods without compromising on the quality or integrity of the structure. When we first started, people would say things like Moladi structures won't last.  Now we have some that have been around for 30 years. From the very start, we were focused on solving the problem of affordable housing.

I thought the world would chop a path to our doorway asking for the solution, but it has't been that easy.  

And why is that? 

The masonry industry likes to protect its knowledge and its interests.  Change has never been easy. But now things are changing. Whether through necessity or because of desperation, we are seeing more and more interest from private partners and governments that view us as a building block for the country's future.

We work hard to gain social acceptance from the local communities we work in.  That is something that makes all the difference.  Add to that the we are cost effective, we create local jobs, and we are environmentally sustainable, and you understand why we are now growing at a much faster pace.  We've also added toilet systems, window and door systems, and kitchen systems to the Moladi system, all at a much lower cost than the hardware store.  Now we are in a position to say that we're world leaders at building entire village housing ecosystems.

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Are you finding interest for Moladi extends beyond Africa?

Yes, that is most definitely the case. We have been in Mexico, in Panama, in Haiti, across Africa, and now we are in talks in Nepal.  Moladi is currently deployed in 18 countries, reaching 20 within the next three months by adding India and Sri Lanka to our list.

You know, all materials used in the construction of Moladi homes, other than the formwork, are sourced and supplied from within the local community. Other than contributing to the local economy, this drastically reduces the need for additional and unnecessary transport and handling of goods and building materials. This follows from the logic that the fewer the number of operations, the higher the quality of the product, resulting in a predictive timeline and ultimately cost savings.

Can you tell us about the local benefits of building a village with Moladi?

For starters, the local impact is immediate.  We are a major job-creation strategy at the local level. But most important is the change in the lives of Moladi customers. A house is still a castle.  It is an asset for wealth creation and empowerment. 

We see three types of developments - upgrading informal settlements, green-field development, and rural village development.  Governments now understand how critical infrastructure and housing is for a prosperous future, for lifting citizens out of abject poverty.

That's really why we do this.

You mentioned sustainability.  How are Moladi houses more eco-friendly than traditional building techniques?

We have found that we are about 61% of the CO2 footprint for the same size of a house built with traditional brick and mortar.  That's because we don't use bricks at all, and two, we recycle our moulds which are used to build 50 houses out of one set of moulds.

Add to that the fact that a house is built in a day, and you significantly reduce material wastage.  That in itself adds to both cost effectiveness, cycle time, and sustainability.

What are your plans for the future?  

We are expanding across the world. And we are not just housing for the poor. We think that decent, beautiful houses don't have to be the province of wealthy citizens.  That is why design and aesthetics are important as well.  We want our houses to fill residents with joy and pride.  

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It is not an accident that developers in the richer countries protect their markets from competition.  But the world is getting smaller every day, and the tide is shifting.  We want to partner with private companies across the globe, creating new business for them as well as us.

Despite all the bad news you hear about in the news, I feel optimistic about the future, and the real impact Moladi is having on the war on poverty.

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Continue reading Affordable Housing: Moladi's Hennie Botes on Innovation & Perseverance.

January 13, 2015

Adrian Woolridge: "Capitalism begins at home"

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Once again The Economist’s Adrian Woolridge writes about the issues surrounding housing for the poor:

to fix the housing problem one has to solve a lot of others: obtaining land and getting permits; persuading banks to provide mortgages to poorer people; and getting sluggish utility firms to provide electricity and water connections.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is desire.  The vested interests are not really interested in a systems-based solution.  Exhibit A = Haiti.

Until we get good governance, not much is going to change.

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."

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!

May 23, 2011

Update: The Prototyping Workshop

Over the weekend we were surprised to learn that COMMON (via Alex Bogusky) was not going to be hosting our prototyping workshop after all. They pulled out at the 11th hour, telling us that they decided they "would not be able to meet our expectations for the event."  Big disappointment, but hey, this is an opportunity to rethink the workshop - from scratch.

Just wish they had told us earlier!

This morning we had a chat with Scott Tew of Ingersoll Rand (the workshop sponsor) and they're as committed as ever to going forward with the prototyping workshop - at a new venue and under new management. 

Shaun Abrahamson, one of our great advisors, suggests the following:

once we have the winners, it seems that it might make sense to agree on SCOPE of prototyping with them. from the process so far, it seems we will have

+ diverse range of material and equipment needs
+ some decisions on what we will focus on - whole buildings vs specific components (bricks, earthbags, etc)
+ modeling and estimation for time and cost assumptions

I also think it would be helpful for people to talk to stakeholders, including potential customers. dont want to keep pushing for local, but having been on the ground in brazil, south africa, zimbabwe, etc, I think the local realities are hard to grasp without first hand experience.


We think that this is a better approach than what we had planned in Alabama. We're still going to have a prototyping workshop, but now we get to decide (a) the venue, and (b) who the workshop mentors will be (we've asked David Sands to participate already) and we're looking for a few more visionaries to get involved.  They must be able to roll up sleeves and build prototypes!

If you have any suggestions on (a) or (b) - drop us a line at info [at] 300house.com !!

Finally, and most importantly, the contest deadline has not changed.

Have you submitted your entry yet? 2 days to go, go, go! >>

Stay tuned for the details on the prototyping workshop, and thanks for your support.

Lesson learned.

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 26, 2011

The $300 House in the City: Sunil Suri on the Urban Challenge

Sunil Suri, one of our advisors, has posted an insightful look at how the $300 House might end up in an urban setting. He answers the critics who say that the $300 House is simply a waste of space in the crowded cities of the emerging world.

Read all about the Urban Challenge on the Harvard Business Review blog>>

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:

January 22, 2011

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:

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 >>

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 www.holdon4haiti.org].

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 >>