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MIT's $1,000 House Challenge Yields Results

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Earth 203

An anonymous reader writes "MIT's $1k House Project is an extraordinary challenge to provide safe and healthy homes for the world's burgeoning population. The Pinwheel House (PDF), a student project which helped serve as a catalyst for the challenge, has been completed in China by architect Ying chee Chui. Students have come up with a dozen or so designs to meet the challenge and improve living conditions for not just emerging economies but larger nations as well."

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Ummmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453108)

What's wrong with living in my mother's basement?

What is the point (0)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453110)

What is the point of a $1k house when land costs at least 100x that amount?

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453130)

Would you rather pay $201,000? And no land does not cost that much in all places.

Re:What is the point (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453132)

Where in the developing world is land $100,000 for a .25 acre lot?

And even if it was? $101,000 is a lot more affordable than $300,000.

And about that link. A link to a press release. With a link to a stupid splash page. With a link that finally goes to project?

Some of the desigs are intriguing to me. Not sure how they will hold up in some parts of the world.

Re:What is the point (2)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453264)

More importantly, can you go up ... most poor places are also high density. Where it is low density, it is probably because of the elements which this house might have problems with.

Re:What is the point (4, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453354)

Depends on what you are trying to do. For instance in China a huge problem is the massive fight of people from the rural areas to the cities(whether they move legally or not, China still uses the hukou system to basically force people to stay in the area they were born in). This creates huge problems in both the rural and the urban areas. In the urban areas you have a lot of poor, usually uneducated(and often times single male) people flooding into the cities, increasing crowding, making competition for jobs even more intense, etc. Meanwhile the rural farms are left with labor shortages, shortages of young people to take over the work, etc. This in turn helps to drive up food prices which places a lot of pressure on the Chinese government.

As a result the Chinese government right now is trying to find ways to make rural living more palatable to young people so that they will stay in the countryside instead of moving to the city. Affordable, comfortable housing could go a long way towards that goal.

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454384)

Maybe China is ripe should try forceful redistribution of wealth through dictatorship of the proletariat?

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454748)

Just wanted to point out that this was easy to avoid. Had the smarter farmers been allowed to buy up and create ever larger farm where they could bring in industrial farming practices. Right now farming in china is close to the way it's been for the last hundred years. These farmers would be rich enough to import many comforts.

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454676)

Most of the South east UK is that kind of price for a plot with planning permission if not more

Re:What is the point (2)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454920)

The South East UK is not the developing world, though you wouldn't know it from the plumbing ;)

These designs are for rural China, India & Africa.

Re:What is the point (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453160)

What is the point of a $1k house when land costs at least 100x that amount?

Perhaps you don't need to build your $1k house downtown in a big city?

Most land costs far, far less than that. There's lots of land available in Texas (to pick the state I live in) where it's around $200-$300/acre, and an acre is enough to put a few houses on. Granted, most of this land isn't terribly desirable, but getting a 1/3rd acre plot that's not too far from a city and not too bad for $1000 ought to be doable.

House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453454)

What is the point of a $1k house when land costs at least 100x that amount?

There's lots of land available in Texas (to pick the state I live in) where it's around $200-$300/acre, and an acre is enough to put a few houses on. Granted, most of this land isn't terribly desirable, but getting a 1/3rd acre plot that's not too far from a city and not too bad for $1000 ought to be doable.

Then there's the cost of getting services to your chosen site. It costs a bit to get electricity, water, and sewerage to a building site, or to provide a drilled well and septic system in a site that's too remote for municipal services. And then there's the cost of preparing the site for the structure. In much of the world the foundation would need to be much more robust (possibly with drainage, insulation, etc.) than the bare-bones arrangement presented.

This is not to denigrate the concept of an inexpensive functional structure, which is good, but to point out that the cost of making a habitable house involves more than the headline cost of the structure itself.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454432)

"Then there's the cost of getting services to your chosen site. It costs a bit to get electricity, water, and sewerage to a building site, or to provide a drilled well and septic system in a site that's too remote for municipal services."

Mostly due to corrupt laws. Yes a pit Privy can be done properly, but a simple septic leech field is not that hard to engineer and build. Electricity is easy enough to do with very low cost scavenged parts to make wind power and heating can also be done simply by making the place solar efficient.. in Texas you really dont need heat just insulation and a central fireplace for the 2 days a year it drops below 60.

LAW states you must have X outlets per room, and XX amp of electrical service in the house. Hell they even dictate the number of Cable TV outlets required nowdays.

A 500SQ foot pinwheel home is large enough for a family of 4 to live comfortably. If you are not the typical american slob you can get away with a pair of $200.00 Harbor Freight Solar panel kits and a couple of deep cycle batteries for electricity to give you lighting for the entire home and a couple of outside lights, and if you are lucky you can charge that OLPC laptop that is used for the rich kids. if your well is properly sized you can run it also off of the solar+battery system. a propane tank outside will supply cooking, heat for home and water.

Very comfortable and sustainable.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37455250)

I guess we'd all have to move to Texas, then, where we could get enough sun for your cunning plan. The law for outlets makes sense -- they don't want people running wires all over the place, willy nilly, too much of a load on each outlet, they don't want fires. They're not doing it just to oppress you.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 2 years ago | (#37455438)

They're not doing it just to oppress you.

No, they're also doing it to make themselves rich through inspection fees.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37455686)

The county inspection office isn't getting rich off of it. But there is a huge problem with the cost of regulations on the minimum quality of housing in a society where a significant fraction of the poor can not afford to meet those regulations. I know my parents would be perfectly happy to live in a 200sq ft shack if they were allowed to build one.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (2)

JATMON (995758) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454904)

Then there's the cost of getting services to your chosen site. It costs a bit to get electricity, water, and sewerage to a building site, or to provide a drilled well and septic system in a site that's too remote for municipal services. And then there's the cost of preparing the site for the structure. In much of the world the foundation would need to be much more robust (possibly with drainage, insulation, etc.) than the bare-bones arrangement presented.

This is not to denigrate the concept of an inexpensive functional structure, which is good, but to point out that the cost of making a habitable house involves more than the headline cost of the structure itself.

Instead of doing one house, what if a developer were to build a subdivision of these houses. The infrastructure (electricity, water, sewer, phone, cable) should be a lot cheaper per house. I bet you could sell these for at least $20-30k and make a tidy profit. Depending on the subdivision amenities, and who you market it to, you could probably get more.

Re:House plus site, services, foundation, etc. (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37455070)

Most of the world isn't developed.

Composting toilets. way cheaper than a sewage hookup and you get free compost for your fields. Reed bed to filter grey water and you get material for furniture and basket construction. Rain catchement with artificial pond for overflow. Way cheaper that a water hookup, and with bamboo sand bio-filters you get clean drinking water all year round as well as a place to farm fish. Solar ovens and driers and rocket stoves built out of compressed earth. Bamboo perimeter gives you privacy, construction materials and even food,mmm, pickled bamboo shoots. Lime instead of concrete 1/3 the price, fortified rammed earth foundations which are water/flood resistant.

Really you don't need much else but a basic understanding of permaculture for your region. That is living a life of leisure and luxury for more than half the population of the world. Throw in expensive solar pa.les and you'll even make the westerners happy.

You just have to stop thinking like a western sheep where economics are driven by consumption.

Re:What is the point (2)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454330)

Maybe in America. Anywhere decent in Europe where you can get planning permission to build a house is going to be at least £100k. We don't have any unused land.

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454398)

You can comfortable put 16 houses on 1 acre. problem is your corrupt governor makes that illegal and you can only put 1 hours on a 1/4 acre.
Thus wasting a LOT of land. Help to have laws passed that allow dense housing built on a 2 acre plot of land to allow the rest of the 1.5 acres to be farmed for feeding and sustenance the 4 homes built on the 1/2 acre.

Oh wait, that kind of thinking frees the poor from the control of the rich. Allowing the poor to feed themselves and produce things to sell is unacceptable.

Re:What is the point (2)

ascrewloose (2428700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453164)

I'm sure $1,000 was set just to house cost/generic baseline. Obviously, there will be lots of variables. Cost of products, labor, land, taxes. I just like house the house can be infinitely expandable, building larger pinwheels around the outside until it becomes insanely difficult to reach the center.

Re:What is the point (1)

exploder (196936) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454364)

Yeah, that pinwheel design is great--scales nicely from 7 to 200 bedrooms, short paths from the beds to the dining hall, and you can get a tremendous number of positive thoughts just by sticking a platinum statute beside the main stairway.

Re:What is the point (1)

MattSausage (940218) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454470)

Does anyone have a link to this Pinwheel design house? I'm not as up on my modern architecture as I should be I guess. Wikipedia is surprisingly unhelpful

Re:What is the point (1)

Tarsir (1175373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454658)

It's the (PDF) link in the summary.

Re:What is the point (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454816)

Does anyone have a link to this Pinwheel design house? I'm not as up on my modern architecture as I should be I guess. Wikipedia is surprisingly unhelpful

Sure, here [mit.edu] you go.

Re:What is the point (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37455784)

Yea, but then you could have problems controlling traffic and it can be a pain to seal the whole thing off in case of a goblin invasion or digging to deep.

First off... It's a $5,925 house. (4, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454654)

Which is a funny way of writing $1000.

Second, that is slightly over a $1.5k more than the Chinese per capita GDP of about $4,382.
Compared to the average US per capita GDP that is about as much as a $60k house.
Do I really need to comment that?

And all that is before even getting a building permit.
Which is often the greatest single expense when building a house in the third world and other "growing democracies" due to inefficiencies of the bureaucracy and the built-in culture of bribes and corruption.

Now... as this is apparently hailed as a "low-cost home for the poor", let's go see what the really poor make.
You know, countries where that imaginary $1000 is approximately around or over the per capita GDP. [wikipedia.org]

Even at a $1000 per house an average Nigerian could not afford it - regardless of the picture all those CNN commercials for Nigerian banks are trying to paint.
At $5,925 he might as well start making plans for a house made out of gold.

I just like house the house can be infinitely expandable, building larger pinwheels around the outside until it becomes insanely difficult to reach the center.

See? This is why Lex Luthor is such a brilliant criminal mind.
He knows (as did his father) that the land is the only resource they are not making more of.
Well... other than time. They are making even less of that one. But time-travel is not really his thing.

You expand UPWARD - not outward.
Expanding out wastes space. That is why all those big population centers, I think they are called cities, have all those tall buildings.

Re:First off... It's a $5,925 house. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37455664)

Now... as this is apparently hailed as a "low-cost home for the poor", let's go see what the really poor make.
You know, countries where that imaginary $1000 is approximately around or over the per capita GDP. [wikipedia.org]

Absolutely! I mean, there's no way that the price would ever come down. It's going to be $5k now and forever.

Really, no government or NGO would ever think of helping subsidize the cost.

And, of course, nobody ever buys a home that costs more than they make in a year.

I mean, even if they did, there's no organizations or mechanisms that would allow an individual to pay off the cost of such a major purchase over time!

Besides, everyone knows that cities are the only place people live anymore.

Re:What is the point (3, Informative)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453258)

If you read the article you'd see that one of the points of this project is to rebuild houses after disasters, so in that case the people already own the land.

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453474)

I live in a medium size city in the US among good housing stock. Empty lots here are $40-60k. $100k for some undeveloped lot in the third world is a fiction that exists exclusively inside your head.

Re:What is the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453892)

Nevermind that. Permitting, one-time taxes, environmental reviews, and various other government fees will kill you. Worse yet, you have no idea how much all that will cost because the government agencies bill for professional services by the hour. You think AT and T would be bad as a monopoly again? At least your phone bill had a stated rate. The permitting and inspection process has no such animal. It will "cost a lot", but you have no idea how much.

That kills the project right there. A lot of us would love to do a project like that. We can predetermine the cost of the land. We can predetermine the cost of a pre-fab structure. We can even get reasonable estimates for foundations if we know the dimension of the structure; but that's as far as you can go. After that, it's anybody's guess. Unless you have money to burn, or are willing to risk not being able to complete the project within a reasonable budget, you have to say "no".

I have actually seen uncompleted projects for sale by desperate sellers. It's a sad state of affairs.

This is in California, BTW so it might not be so bad elsewhere; but something tells me it's not much better.

Re:What is the point (3, Informative)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454222)

Nevermind that. Permitting, one-time taxes, environmental reviews, and various other government fees will kill you. Worse yet, you have no idea how much all that will cost because the government agencies bill for professional services by the hour. You think AT and T would be bad as a monopoly again? At least your phone bill had a stated rate. The permitting and inspection process has no such animal. It will "cost a lot", but you have no idea how much.

That kills the project right there. A lot of us would love to do a project like that. We can predetermine the cost of the land. We can predetermine the cost of a pre-fab structure. We can even get reasonable estimates for foundations if we know the dimension of the structure; but that's as far as you can go. After that, it's anybody's guess. Unless you have money to burn, or are willing to risk not being able to complete the project within a reasonable budget, you have to say "no".

I have actually seen uncompleted projects for sale by desperate sellers. It's a sad state of affairs.

This is in California, BTW so it might not be so bad elsewhere; but something tells me it's not much better.

Huh. Second time I get to reference the Earthship guys. They've put up a map of what they call Pockets of Freedom [earthship.net] which are places in the US that don't have building codes or allow for "experimental architecture". Too bad none of them are in my area. :-(

Re:What is the point (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37455594)

There are still places in the US where you can get a free land grant.

Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453140)

MIT epitomises the competitive, winner-takes-it-all, might-makes-right environment which is keeping half the world in poverty. Every dominant man starts forming his network at one of the elite universities, supporting research in collusion with exploitative business. When you've accepted that offer, you've already asked to be part of the system - to pretend to do something against it is ineffective hypocrisy.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453146)

What's your solution ?

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (3, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453252)

For people who
(i) are sufficiently intelligent to enter MIT (or similar); but
(ii) are interested in application of technology to benevolent causes rather than application of technology to their bank account
to refuse an acceptance or to leave the university and instead do what they believe is right on their own?

If you want to force any organisation to change its behaviour, as any fule kno, you withold labour. Top universities exist on the reputation of a tiny minority of dedicated academics, but their business is processing journeymen who either stop at graduation or do a small amount of research work to launch them into a high-paying commercial job.

To take an example, the director of my MSc programme resigned in angry disgust at the increasing commercialisation of higher education but most academics are too scared to leave the security of their tenure (or quasi-tenure). His action encouraged me as a student to take a look at politics in the university and higher education in general, and I aborted my research plans out of principle. Interestingly, my cousin at the LSE did the same as a final year PhD student.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453554)

Have I told you lately, that I love you, Hazel Bergeron?

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453584)

Weird. Ten years ago I called universities disgusting money-grubbing cults that turn out brain-washed debt slaves. I was ridiculed.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454036)

Weird. Ten years ago I called universities disgusting money-grubbing cults that turn out brain-washed debt slaves. I was ridiculed.

That's because that is ridiculous.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37455210)

Then why do you need bachelor's degrees for jobs that never needed them? Why do you need a bachleor's to work as a paper shuffler in HR? What do you think is used to separate the good from the bad jobs? Why is the cost increasing all the time? I thought in a free market the cost of a commodity goes down? Why do you need new textbooks every year for centuries-old subjects? You can't learn by yourself?

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453236)

You sound like a sad little hippie who still has a chip on his shoulder because some jocks picked on him a decade or two prior.

What is wrong with competition?

And you propose a losers-distribute-winnings-equally environment?

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (2)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453266)

What is wrong with competition?

Competition isn't inherently bad, but competition can be pointless and even a lot less useful than competition.

In general competition can be fun, it can be a challenge. But, in today's world we're expected to always compete whether we want to or not, all day every day you're expected to constantly try to be better than the other guy (or girl). We're living in a world where "Good enough" for many people means you're first on the chopping block when the next round of layoffs starts. Where "Good enough" just isn't good enough...

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453272)

"...even a lot less useful than cooperation."

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453970)

But, in today's world we're expected to always compete whether we want to or not

This has been a fact of life since the first proto-cells started eating each other about 4Gyrs ago, the very reason cooperation evolved in the first place was it imparted a competitive advantage. You and I may not like relentless competition, but there's fuck all we can do about the fundamental facts of life.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (4, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454044)

You're missing the point. What I meant was that when compared to say, my parents' generation, my generation clearly has to compete on a different level. When I was out of work straight after college my father was baffled by this, when he was that age jobs could be had by just going to a company you thought looked fun to work for and asking them for a job. And in the workplace these days the level of performance expected by each employee is higher (at least in a lot of white-collar jobs). Basically our (western) society has become a lot more competitive and for the average person I just don't think the everyday gains outweigh the cost.

Now yes, if you go back to the 19th century and the wave of industrialization that swept through the world things were worse, the point is that we took a few steps forward and then we started taking steps backwards again.

Well... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454450)

You're missing the point. What I meant was that when compared to say, my parents' generation, my generation clearly has to compete on a different level.

The world did get a lot smaller in the meantime, while the number of competitors surged to twice what the entire population of the world was back then.
That's what happens when former ideological enemies become competitors - particularly when the guiding philosophy of the winning side is that "it's a dog-eat-dog world".

Your parents probably had to "compete" with only the local population of your state, or even only the local population of your town.
You, me, the next generation... we now have a whole world to compete with.
And that is a losing battle for any individual.

Which is why the god invented teams. Or was that one of those Marxists? Groucho possibly?
Problem is, when your underlying philosophy is one of competition and individual-hero worship, your teams are only good for breeding leaders and team-commanders through in-team competition.

Which is great for everyone, cause as soon as you have someone above you to command you - you don't have to think for yourself anymore! No... wait...
Which is great for everyone cause it breeds an ideology of permanent leader-climbing, making all your team members (and everyone else you know) just another stepping stone on your road to your personal happiness... Hmm...
Which is great for everyone cause it's neater to remember just one man than the entire team of people and simpler to ascribe the accomplishments to hard work of many to "the genius" or "the leadership" of one... No... that's not it either...

I GOT IT!
Which is great for everyone cause it validates individual greed as the core driving force of the society making it a perfectly moral motivation!
Yes! That's got to be it!

Cause we all know that any commie-pinko motivation for the greater good of the team, community, society or the world and the human race leads to all of us speaking Russian and eating borscht.
In the snow. Lots and lots of snow. But no Christmas.
There is no Christmas (or presents) in the GULAGS!!!

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (3, Insightful)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453290)

You sound like a sad little hippie who still has a chip on his shoulder because some jocks picked on him a decade or two prior.

Where I went to school, "jocks" wouldn't have passed the entrance exam. I dislike my elite past, but I'm not going to deny it.

What is wrong with competition?

What is right with competition? There are times when it seems to work but there is nothing inherently good about it.

And you propose a losers-distribute-winnings-equally environment?

You're paying no attention. I propose that the intelligent act out of a desire to achieve good things in their discipline rather than to profit. There are 7 billion people in the world - more than enough who are both clever and benevolent. We simply have no need of the "gr8 people like me need $$$ incentive to support you!" mantra any more - it's a more outdated idea than RIAA, which is why certain groups are trying so hard to cling on to it.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453418)

Alright, you have explained in several posts above your point of view about what is wrong with the current system. You also explained that both you and your cousin refused to take part in the status quo. Refusal is only the first half of a solution though.

Now what is your suggestion to establish a better system? Especially, what alternative system do you propose that provides an educational and scientific environment that is on par with or at least not substantially worse than that at the MIT? What steps do you propose to reach that goal?

For the record: I am taking you seriously. Sad that I have to say that, but this is Slashdot after all.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453664)

Especially, what alternative system do you propose that provides an educational and scientific environment that is on par with or at least not substantially worse than that at the MIT?

I'll have a stab at this.

At a very basic level, MIT is a series of houses filled with smart people. Maybe also some special equipment is required. If so, we might have to find for example miners and truck drivers and people who know how to build the machines that can build that specialist equipment, unless those can be found in existence all ready.

There is nothing magic about the free market and capitalism. What it can conjure up by means of millions of entrepreneurs poking in the dark to see what will stick, could also be just decided together, organized together and done together. That kind of model has brought you the best encyclopedia and maps, it could be used for other things as well. Decentralized, democratic and unoppressive just do it-ism I call it. Sometimes I call it Ralph. It doesn't matter. Point is, it's a simple concept. Everyone gets to decide on everything. And we should try to do the right thing. (What is the right thing? I don't know, everyone should get to decide on that as we go along.)

Solution? Talk to those you are trying to "help" (5, Insightful)

adam (1231) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454344)

The New York Times rad an op-ed [nytimes.com] a few months ago on a similar project (Harvard's $300 house) that says basically everything I'd want to say here. It's worth reading, but I'll quote the most relevant portion(s):

The writers created a competition, asking students, architects and businesses to compete to design the best prototype for a $300 house (their original sketch was of a one-room prefabricated shed, equipped with solar panels, water filters and a tablet computer). The winner will be announced this month. But one expert has been left out of the competition, even though her input would have saved much time and effort for those involved in conceiving the house: the person who is supposed to live in it [in Mumbai] We recently showed around a group of Dartmouth students involved in the project who are hoping to get a better grasp of their market. They had imagined a ready-made constituency of slum-dwellers eager to buy a cheap house that would necessarily be better than the shacks they’d built themselves. But the students found that the reality here is far more complex than their business plan suggested. To start with, space is scarce. There is almost no room for new construction or ready-made houses. Most residents are renters, paying $20 to $100 a month for small apartments. Those who own houses have far more equity in them than $300 — a typical home is worth at least $3,000. Many families have owned their houses for two or three generations, upgrading them as their incomes increase. With additions, these homes become what we call “tool houses,” acting as workshops, manufacturing units, warehouses and shops. They facilitate trade and production, and allow homeowners to improve their living standards over time. None of this would be possible with a $300 house, which would have to be as standardized as possible to keep costs low. No number of add-ons would be able to match the flexibility of need-based construction. In addition, construction is an important industry in neighborhoods like Dharavi. Much of the economy consists of hardware shops, carpenters, plumbers, concrete makers, masons, even real-estate agents. Importing pre-fabricated homes would put many people out of business, undercutting the very population the $300 house is intended to help. Worst of all, companies involved in producing the house may end up supporting the clearance and demolition of well-established neighborhoods to make room for it. The resulting resettlement colonies, which are multiplying at the edges of cities like Delhi and Bangalore, may at first glance look like ideal markets for the new houses, but the dislocation destroys businesses and communities.

A recent (PBS-affilliated POV) film, Good Fortune [pbs.org] , expands further on the damage that can be done via good intentions when it comes to rehousing folks.

Many economists, journalists, physicians, and so forth have written extensively about the aid industry, and the White/Educated/Western/Elite-knows-best mentality. I certainly am no exception — I moved to Ghana with notions of making solar lights in my spare time, so that persons without grid-access could see at night, only to come to understand that this was a product that most people in the place I was living would have little interest in. It didn't matter that I'd spent months figuring out how to cram solar panels and LEDs into wire-bale jars, media blast them with garnet to diffuse the light better, and so on ... it wasn't something they would have wanted. I helped vaccinate kids, which was something they wanted, and everyone won.

For some more literature on this sort of thing, I'd recommend William Easterly's The White Man's Burden [amazon.com] , or Linda Polman [guardian.co.uk] 's various works [amazon.com] . Also, Joan Baxter's Dust From Our Eyes was also pretty good.

So is there anything wrong with these projects at Harvard or MIT? I don't think there has to be. But it seems like in the MIT project the same criticism — that those behind the project never even bothered to ask those who would 'benefit' from it — is true. The first couple paragraphs of the first link from TFS make that clear:

[in India] "When I saw some shelters by the side of the road, the idea for the $1000 house jumped into my head." Ciochetti explained that soon after, he had met with his friend Yung Ho Chang, Professor of Architecture and Head of MIT's Department of Architecture. Ciochetti had asked if the idea were viable, and Chang enthusiastically embraced it. Chang proposed that his students explore the project as a studio intensive, and that he and Ciochetti teach the studio together. Thus was the 1K House Project born.

I have posted on slashdot previously [slashdot.org] about Paul Farmer [slashdot.org] and his NGO, Partners in Health, so I am wary of sounding like a cheerleader, but he is especially relevant here because he is head of Social Medicine at Harvard. He is also an anthropologist. So he understands that you need to consider others' needs, desires, and worldview, rather than telling them what you think is best for their situation.

And speaking of anthropology, I think maybe the biggest American downfall — at least when it comes to health, which is where I am more acquainted — is the belief that we can engineer ourselves out of every problem. I'm not saying the world's poor shouldn't get $300 houses, or tuberculosis medicine, indeed they should. But the underlying problem is the social and economic structures that would breed tuberculosis, that would mean someone can afford no more than a $300 house.

Ghana is not nearly as bad off as many other sub-Saharan African countries, and yet still there is much poverty. People living in the region (their equiv. of a state/county) where I used to reside are finding themselves pushed out of their houses as rents rise from $25-40/month to $100 or more per month due to an influx of oil contractors (now that Ghana has offshore oil pumping as of 2011). The problem is not $100 rents, or even $1000 rents; the problem is that some can afford such rents, and some cannot. In short, the problem is inequality. I am not so naïve as to expect the world will be perfectly fair, but surely we can strive for some basic assurances for all humans — adequate food, water, medical care, social productivity, and basic economic security.

Three-hundred dollar housing is a stopgap, much as some vaccinations are a stop gap. I am strongly in favor of vaccinating kids in poor countries against measles because it might kill one in ten that it infects, and that is truly tragic. I am, however, even more in favor of lifting these kids out of poverty, so that if they aren't vaccinated their mortality rate will be more like the one-in-two-thousand that the United States enjoys. It's just that solving the problems of poverty and inequality is a much bigger task. And we cannot even begin to approach this task until we attempt to understand, to find solidarity, with those we claim to want to help.

Re:Solution? Talk to those you are trying to "help (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454968)

The problem is not $100 rents, or even $1000 rents; the problem is that some can afford such rents, and some cannot.

Interesting. From that angle the $1000 houses start to look like homeless shelters or subsidized housing. (If people can't afford housing, then *obviously* the solution is to lower the price they pay.) In this case, the goal is to actually drop the cost rather than make up the difference between what people can pay and what housing actually costs. That's fine and good, but it doesn't get to the root cause.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453512)

MIT epitomises the competitive, winner-takes-it-all, might-makes-right environment which is keeping half the world in poverty.

I have my doubts that "competitive" is the problem. If you ask people to participate in improving something, some will join for the sake of it, for some greater cause, but only if they perceive the goal to be of equal benefit to everyone. If instead the goal is considered profitable for a corporation or person, they will demand a prize or refuse to participate even on a winner-takes-it-all basis and ask for renumeration whatever the outcome / the quality of their contribution. Conclusion? Most goals we are taught or asked to pursue are perceived as "not for the greater good" and of less benefit to the pursuer than to someone else, including academic honours and solutions to global issues - and our time is our money, we're all capitalists now. Furthermore, I haven't noticed (non-competitive?) women standing out from the crowd...
But what would make you design a $1000 shelter for earthquake survivors? The absence of a prize? An NGO starting a competition instead of MIT? 100 people already working on a design and publishing their work for free? Renumeration for your time?

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

BlackSabbath (118110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453558)

> When you've accepted that offer, you've already asked to be part of the system

My MIT diploma? I threw it on the ground!

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454400)

MIT epitomises the competitive, winner-takes-it-all, might-makes-right environment which is keeping half the world in poverty. Every dominant man starts forming his network at one of the elite universities, supporting research in collusion with exploitative business. When you've accepted that offer, you've already asked to be part of the system - to pretend to do something against it is ineffective hypocrisy.

Actually, students at MIT end up there because they are obsessed with some aspect of science or engineering and are driven to seek out and solve problems, like this housing exercise. The problems may be profound or trivial or even silly (how to get a fake police car up on the dome, for example), but they are all just problems crying out to be solved.

If these students had actually put some thought into getting rich by exploiting the world, they would have applied instead to Harvard, networked with the prep school future paper pushers, gone to Harvard Business School and then to Wall Street.

If they happen to be at the moment solving some problem that doesn't strike your fancy, then take a stroll down Mass Ave and suggest to them the problem you want worked on instead.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454474)

MIT is not a university -- or at least they didn't claim to be when I went there. As far as it being elite, so far as I know you can't get in by being rich. I don't know their stance on "legacy" admissions, but it really is a non-issue because the bigger problem is *staying* in. At MIT they cover what would be two semesters of calculus in most places in under a semester. And as far as I can see there is no "old boy's network" for MIT alumni, although the institute would probably like to see that happen.

As far as "old boy" networks at places like Harvard, I know they exist, but I think only in certain professions. If you are interested in investment banking, perhaps. But that's not really an elite university thing; it's part of the package of being rich and connected. People in money-centric professions like to connect with people who have money and know people with money. See the Clark Rockefeller case, where a con-man landed jobs in several financial institutions because of his falsely assumed name and his affected demeanor. He claimed to have gone to Yale, and despite having no connections from there that did the trick.

I think the Clark Rockefeller case shows that the problem is elitism per se, not "elite" universities. Because they are hard to get into, social elitism attaches to it just like it does to anything else perceived as desirable but hard to get.

The issue of business involvement in academic research is a complex one, but I think the answer is that if we don't want business driving the research agenda we should pony up the money in federal grants to support all the research that needs to be done. I don't know what you expect researchers to do without money from the public or the private sector.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454568)

I think you've mistaken MIT for one of the Ivy League law and business degree mills. Come back after you've done your homework.

Re:Mit is the problem, not the solution (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454922)

???? Really you're making this comment on an open design that can be manufactured by hand by yourself with local building materials?

How many houses for the developing world have you designed and published for the world.

Forget it, you have to be a troll, can somebody so ignorant exist otherwise?

Not in the US... (4, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453154)

This wouldn't fly in the US.

Some construction union would intervene claiming substandard construction or what-not, code violations etc, etc just to protect their jobs.

The pipe-fitters unions did the same thing when PVC piping came out--they lobbied for code changes that required copper tubing, changes that ruled out Joe-Homeowner doing the work himself. Most building codes make it very hard for the do-it-your-selfers, sometimes requiring them to actually get a contractors license. There is no reason for this if the work passes inspection--it exists simply to protect the jobs of people that need to get with the times, adapt and get on with their lives rather then holding back the rest of humanity.

Re:Not in the US... (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453176)

Some jurisdictions have had their codes changed to support houses made from materials you might not expect -- hay bales, recycled tires, etc. Many areas might not, but it's worth talking to your local people to find out if you could do something like this. It might just pan out.

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453434)

Generally the local people will approve anything that has the engineering paperwork to meet local safety/efficiency bylaws.
They're ALWAYS in CYA mode as they're on the hook for signing off on something that might kill people, and they're probably lazy. If you can prove that it will meet regulations and you're willing to work with them they're often quite reasonable. Once a design type has been approved and nobody dies, things get easier for the next guy.

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453316)

No problem. The US isn't flying nor taking off in any time soon...

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453464)

This wouldn't fly in the US.

It would fly anywhere, just not sure you'd want it to despite the very high surface area-weight ratio.

Re:Not in the US... (2)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453482)

Nor in Sweden. I don't know about the specific regulations here, but just looking around, it is clear that one can't live in just any old shack over here.

The standard of living doesn't start with a shack. It starts with a reasonably nice apartment (although in recent years the bourgeoisie have been laxing the rules for renovation). If, on a scale from 0 to 10 in standard of living 0 is the pavement, 1 is a shack and 10 is a castle, over here you get an apartment of standard 5 or thereabouts. If not, you're at standard 0.

I don't know if we should let people live in shanty towns, though. I'd rather we built enough nice enough apartments and let everyone have one.

Re:Not in the US... (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453704)

Well, I think the housing situation here in Sweden would improve a lot if the rules were a bit more relaxed. These days even if you do all the work you can yourself, call in favors from friends and all that you're still unlikely to get away with building a small single-household home for less than SEK 1,500,000.

Hell, brand new studio apartments regularly cost SEK 5,500+ to rent (even though they're in less attractive neighborhoods).

I would love to be able to build my own house but with the prices these days I couldn't afford to build a small summer cottage, much less a house (and this is in Norrland, not Stockholm).

Re:Not in the US... (2)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453754)

Yes, I think I agree at least a bit. But it should not be let out of hand so that "slum lords" (to the extent that they exist in Sweden) can let their houses decay even more while still not lowering rent. I guess those regulations should be easy enough to keep separate. No cockroaches and mildew is acceptable for the renters, for example.

And while I like the nice standards for living conditions, homeless people should be given sub-standard barracks to dwell in until proper apartments are available, I think...

Giving people homes would do a lot of good for society. An amphetamine addict (a common variety of homeless) will not lay about lazily on the granite floor of the doorway they broke into in the center of town. They'll get up bright and early to wander the streets looking for mischief.

Give them a home with a warm and cosy bed and they'll get up much later and might not go out committing crime all day some days, even if they don't have their fix. Giving people homes leads to a spiral of good.

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453552)

It wouldn't fly anywhere. If the purpose is to support the growing population, then you should make homes that last 50+ years. Look in Europe, where most of the old buildings are found. Some hundreds of years old. Yes, it's expensive to restore them, but you only do it a few decades at a time.

They mention in the article houses destroyed by earthquakes. The USA also has hurricanes that level houses, most of which are prefab made to last a few decades and if it's not hurricanes, then it's landslides or floods (though those are the owners to blame, or the contractors for not foreseeing them) or, my very favourite, termites.

I'm not saying to build using granite blocks and english oak, but we're in the 21st century, surely they can do better than that! (Oh, it would also help if the architects would be able to tell beautiful from ugly, lots of the "modern" designs are just plain hideous).

And you know what? The cost difference between a prefab and a well build house is fairly small. In fact, if you compare their lifespan, prefabs are actually much more expensive. Especially since we're talking about family homes, that will see a few generations.

But you know what? In China and Indonesia 1000 dollars is worth a lot more than in the rest of the world.

Re:Not in the US... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453604)

(Disclaimer: I'm not a conspiracy theorist, nut.)

If you feel the need to make such a disclaimer in your sig, I'd say you should probably try to figure out why people keep thinking you are one.

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453706)

I think I've heard about this thing. I think they call it hju-moor.

Re:Not in the US... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454346)

This wouldn't fly in the US.

Neither would a job picking crops, but that doesn't make picking crops a bad idea.

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454524)

Lego Houses.

Melt waste PET or bottles into Lego. Build. When done, run a ultrasonic welder over things and paint/splatter clay for fire / uv protection.
There is a swirling ocean mass of raw material - practically free!

Re:Not in the US... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37455352)

Actually, the building codes are not there to protect the contractor's jobs. They'd be just as happy doing shoddy work with cheap materials. That way they'd get even more work when the whole thing falls apart. The contractors can also take comfort in the fact that 98% of the population can't properly use a screwdriver. Joe homeowner is no threat to their jobs.

The real reason the codes are in place is to protect the banks who really own the majority of your house. They want to be sure they can re-sell it and get their money back if you default. PVC breaks pretty easily when not installed properly. I had to dig a tunnel under slab to fix one once after a lawn mower hit the spigot. I didn't notice it until the slab shifted on the saturated soil. Oh, I almost forgot - the building codes also protect the insurance companies.

C'mon, get with the times man!

Re:Not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37455668)

It's like jobs requiring a bachelor's degree that never needed one before...

Rosen Hotels Haiti house project (2)

ildon (413912) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453268)

Harris Rosen from here in Orlando (owner of a huge hotel chain) was trying to start a project to create $5,000 homes for victims of the Haitian earthquake. This story reminded me of that (mostly because I wanted to double check how much they thought they could build each house for).

Link. [rosenhotels.com]

What's the point? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453306)

The design in the PDF broke most of the build cheap rules. Things like if there's a kitchen and bathroom you put them back to back to share plumbing and drains saving on pipe. If there's no traditional kitchen or bathroom then why call them out in the plans as if they aren't included? There's options like Lorena Stoves that are basically built out of sand and clay so other than metal exhaust pipes and burner covers they require little money. Unless you are building what amounts to a shack basic plumbing and electrical will run more than a grand. The same with windows. A structure can be build with little cash other than for things like fasteners, as in nails and such, if there are materials like wood or bamboo on the property. You can do your basic dirt floor if you have linseed oil to stablize it but even that will run you a few hundred. You can build a basic house for $2,500 to $5,000 if the bulk of the materials are gathered rather than being bought but making one for a $1,000 that has plumbing and windows let alone basic wiring is impossible.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453470)

Wiring is cheap, electricians are expensive.
I rewired my house (waaaay more circuits then necessary) for around 750 bucks and most of that was in breakers, A 150m spool of 14/2 is $75 down at the local Home Depot and a box and an outlet are around $2 is small quantities. Buy in bulk and things are much cheaper. That minimal 5 area house only needs a few outlets and a couple of switches/lights. Easily under $100 in materials to wire it up, probably closer to $50. Hell, build it in China and you don't even have to pay to ship the materials half way around the world, it's all made there anyway.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453516)

Oh yeah, plumbing is cheap now too. PEX and ABS cost next to nothing for basic stuff. I'd bet a good PEX crimper would cost more then the rest of the plumbing.

Not for colder climes (4, Interesting)

Son of Byrne (1458629) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453320)

I understand that the project was formed with the developing world in mind, but I think that the concept is worth pursuing in the developed world as well.

The trouble is that all of the concepts that I read about sounded like ideas for a cabana on the beach. While that may work in spots where temps stay moderate year round, the rest of us could never make that work. Also, most of the ideas I read about sounded pretty light on engineering and heavier on design (architecture).

I'd like to see this project expanded into something resembling the next generation of manufactured/modular homes. We're in sore need of reasonably priced structures that are within the realm of an average person's abilities that retain style and form beyond an ugly box.

I agree that the developing world needs cheap ways to house their citizenry, but let's not forget to solve some of the problems that we still face here at home (in the US).

Re:Not for colder climes (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453576)

The hay bale house had a pretty large thermal mass,it looked like. I've read about them before, and they're pretty interesting. They might be more workable in a colder climate.

Re:Not for colder climes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453768)

In some colder climates they're already working quite well.

Re:Not for colder climes (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454844)

straw bale homes are still expensive because the straw bale is just infill for a post and beam house and big honking pieces of wood are really expensive and the labour more so.

Re:Not for colder climes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453676)

I agree that the developing world needs cheap ways to house their citizenry, but let's not forget to solve some of the problems that we still face here at home (in the US).

Well, one of the problems I see is the large amount of inconsiderate assholes that doesn't care about anyone but themselves.
Do you have any suggestions on how we get rid of that problem?

Re:Not for colder climes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454224)

I do, but the inconsiderate assholes always seem to have the guns; a situation which makes my solution far more challenging.

Re:Not for colder climes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454962)

Looking at this from somewhere near the equator I get just the opposite impression. Most of the designs specify thermally insulating materials, angles for the walls, direction facing south or north, configuring the partitions for winter and so on. Lots of thought seems to be given to making a warm house during winter without the need for central heating.

Around here most of that is a waste. In a cheap house you're more likely to need an open, airy design so you don't suffocate. That and sturdy walls and doors to avoid getting robbed at night :)

Still this is an interesting exercise. The hex house is an interesting idea. The use of steel slag to make cheaper concrete is a good tip, which I don't think is used around here. The pinweel house is odd. The lack of windows is offset by the inner courtyard. Add bars on top of the courtyard and sturdier doors facing out for safety and it might just work for many people. I don't know how it would hold up in the rain though, the design doesn't specify drainage or inner walls to keep the wind from pushing in the rain.

Still, cheap house designs like that might be a good strat for architects trying to figure out how to make affordable housing.

how much are they now? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453508)

I know I've seen houses for sale in developing countries for $10k, including land. The houses are made of poured concrete walls and a concrete floor, which can be done in a day or two (they have subdevelopments much like we have here, but cheaper). Then they screw the roof on, which is some kind of composite. If you lock your keys out, you can unscrew the roof to get in.

Also, surely cinder-block housing is around the same price as this house, which if you read the article, cost a lot more than $1000.

Compared to some UK houses its luxurious (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453722)

Some of the houses in the UK barely have room for the bed [bbc.co.uk] .

Re:Compared to some UK houses its luxurious (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453864)

"Some of the houses in the UK barely have room for the bed."

I remember reading another article on the same subject (no reference--sorry) and there was a comments section after the article. Someone had posted that one of the development companies building these mini-me housing tracts was also building nearby self-serve storage rental facilities. They sell you a tiny flat...and rent you the space to store your stuff.

A mortgage AND rent, from one sale--amazing.

Re:Compared to some UK houses its luxurious (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453960)

The problem is that the UK advertises houses in terms of the number of bedrooms, rather than the floor area. If you look at an estate agent's web site, you'll see that prices are more or less broken down into 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-bedroom properties, with only a little bit of overlap between them. When I was looking for somewhere to buy, I found that a lot of old houses had had partition walls installed in the bedrooms so that one reasonable-sized bedroom became two small rooms. And, weirdly, this increases the sale price. The place I ended up buying is two bedrooms, but both bedrooms are at least twice the size of bedrooms I saw in other places I looked at and the total floor area is comparatively huge (according to that article, it's about the size recommended for 5 people!). Yet, because it was only two bedrooms, it was very cheap.

The article you link to is about new-build homes, and it's even worse there. The person they interviewed says:

We made a big mistake when we bought it. They call it a three-bedroom house - but really it's only big enough for two

As you can see, she's judging the house size by the number of bedrooms, not by a sensible metric. Property developers know this, which is why they build tiny 3-bedroom houses. These houses are probably quite a reasonable size for two bedroom houses, if the second bedroom is a spare or a study, but they've partitioned it into a lot of tiny rooms so that the usable space is nonexistent and they can sell it to people who only look in the '3 bedroom' category, and then look for the cheapest properties in that category.

Re:Compared to some UK houses its luxurious (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454380)

People buy a house because they want to live there. You're right that people are blinkered into only considering # bedrooms in the UK; however number of bedrooms is an important consideration. If I want three seperate places to sleep in my property then it makes very little difference how big the rooms are in a 2 bedroom property, I'm still missing a room.

If you're buying a property and only really need 1 bedroom then of course you can consider whatever you want. Most people buying want/need more than that.

But the real peasant-killer is... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453746)

... where to put the damned thing that won't result in demands to forfeit one's firstborn. For fuck's sake, if one is truly desperate one could live in a tent with a price tag far less than a thousand dollars, but who's gonna let you squat on THEIR land for free with your inexpensive tent? That's right: NO ONE. The people who own land in excess of their need for personal space own it for one reason only, and the reason ain't philanthropic nor egalitarian.

Land has always been and will always be the class divider.

Re:But the real peasant-killer is... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454818)

Have you not heard of the housing market in the states? There are complete houses with land selling for $5000. But the you would just complain about the la.d or the neighbourhood right? Here in mexico if you squat somewhere for 5 years it's yours.

These are developing world housing structures, what makes you think they have developed world metropolitan land prices?

$1,000 is pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37453872)

They should put up more prize money than that!

Yeah but... (1)

Firemouth (1360899) | more than 2 years ago | (#37453958)

So they want to use these when a natural disaster occurs, right? How well are these houses going to hold up when they get hit by a natural disaster?

Re:Yeah but... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454790)

Let's see, go read the article and you might just find out.

News for nerds? Or news for lazy people who can't research anything on their own let alone click on a link.

www.architectureforhumanity.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37454252)

Look it up.

The devil is always in the details (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454322)

This is a cute student project, but most would be considered "seasonal" shelter in even basic developed countries. I applaud the creativity, especially of the pinwheel house. Other houses sounded a bit more like a scavenger hunt that could have been done by any 5th year studio student in US architectural schools.

I would certainly hope that, given an entire year of studio work, there is more to the final product than the marketing brochure that came out of the pinwheel house. Part of the practice of architecture (which these students, we presume, would like to eventually be) is making buildings which are buildable. That means detailed drawings of each part which is not OTS hardware - but I see nothing. Does the robotics team get to draw a picture of a walking robot, or do they have to actually do piece drawings and wiring diagrams to actually build the robot?

To be fair, with skilled assembly, it is certainly better than most slum housing - but without skilled labor it may not be much better. None of the designs, save possibly the concrete roof, could be considered water tight for any length of time as initially reviewed, and few appear to have any chance of surviving a 50 year environmental event, much less protecting the occupants. I guess if they're cheap to build (just 6 years of the average 3rd world persons salary, by the website's count), you could see them as disposable and just build them again after each typhoon or earthquake.

From one of the linked sites:

"MIT 1K House is partnering with Skanska and Next Phase Studios to construct three exhibit 1K House prototypes in on MIT campus in Cambridge, MA. The project is moving forward, and the goal is to construct the prototypes by MIT Commencement on June 4, 2010. "

What I want to know it - if Skanska supposedly built 3 of these prototypes on the MIT campus in 2010, how much did it cost? I didn't see pictures, so I presume that the Skanska bid came in somewhere north of $3000 (or even the $6000 estimate for Philippines construction). IT doesn't appear that any of these houses has actually ever been built.

Re:The devil is always in the details (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454764)

Perhaps you need to read the links better. The price of actual construction and the province in china are all there.

Perhaps you've never been to developing countries? This is a palace compared to some of the shacks here in mexico, even in the mountains where there's snow and water freezes. A large part of the country has no indoor heating maki.g nights here in the mountains colder than winters in canada.

But in the USA.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454356)

http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/ [tumbleweedhouses.com]

This is the trick to get around the obtuse American building laws. Make it a trailer. Still a lot more than $1000.00 if you go nuts, but you could build one for around that price if you were good with scavenging and built it yourself.

solving the wrong problem (1)

optimism (2183618) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454600)

...an extraordinary challenge to provide safe and healthy homes for the world's burgeoning population...

We don't need more homes; we need a smaller population.

Treating this symptom will only make the disease worse. Give people a "safe & healthy home" and they are more likely to have more kids in it.

The smart kids at MIT should be working on global birth control education instead.

Planning for the future (1)

WileyC (188236) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454838)

While some of these designs are brilliant (and I haven't read all of them), what I would want as a poor rural homeowner is expandability and repairability. Sure, you can a cheap/easy from-the-factory solution today but what happens in six months when you need to patch a hole in the wall? To be a truly transformative force, the ideas behind the design should be easy to apply with local materials/labor even if the final cost goes above $1000 eventually.

I am certain that it will work (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 2 years ago | (#37454890)

So let's say you go to haiti, and offer these to the government where they can spend money to help rebuild their houses..the problem is once all the houses are rebuilt, you are left with a sh*t load of these lying around....unless they were to evolve it further, and allow connections between multiple houses, making them bigger and one unit....that would then let some of the people just use these full time instead of rebuilding their houses, in a country that cant afford anything right now.

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