According to the United Nations UN-HABITAT report, over 2 billion people will live in slums by the year 2030. This includes over half of the worlds urban dwellers. The need to provide safe, healthy, and affordable housing to the worlds poor is immediate. The $300 House Challenge asks, What might a home built for $300 look like? While the methods, materials, and overall character of a home are important- equally important are the systems of delivery which are used to make this home a reality. Designing a home for the poor without addressing the question How does it get there? is much like developing the car before the road. Furthermore, these systems and the physical characteristics of the home must fully integrate in order to address the specific needs of the population which they serve. While commonalities amongst the urban poor exist, the best building solutions will speak to varying terrains, population densities, material resources, political & social realities, as well as threats from natural and man-made disasters. With these realities in mind, SLUM_SHOP Community Building Center was envisioned to better organize unique building efforts in impoverished areas. This community operated facility would provide better access to suitable building materials and equipment, as well as training and information regarding better building practices with available resources. SLUM_SHOP will be a forum where methods, materials, and labor can be exchanged among communities where building and repairing homes is typically the responsibility of individual families who lack proper resources or training to create effective housing. In order to demonstrate the potential results of the SLUM_SHOP program, as well as to meet the requirements of this challenge, a speculative $300 House has been included in this proposal. Each home built as a result of SLUM_SHOPs mission will uniquely address the social and environmental conditions of its location. The home illustrated in this proposal is formulated for one of the largest slums in the world: Dharavi, India. This impoverished area of Mumbai is extremely dense, prone to flooding, and resources such as clean water are scarce. Using SLUM_SHOPs simple labor, equipment, and information resources, the community could develop a home such as this which is built from readily found materials and using methods already familiar to them. This home, built using currently available reclaimed and ultra-low cost materials, employs basic structural principles in order to weather floods and storms. Its small, two story footprint contains spaces for sleeping, cooking, storage, as well as social and entrepreneurial functions. It uses passive heating and cooling concepts to provide a dryer, healthier interior. It also contains off-grid water purification and cooking amenities in an area where power, fuel, and clean water are scarce. It is hoped that by empowering the community to address their own housing challenges, a reduction in the amount of time, money, and resources on the building and rebuilding of homes will be realized. These commodities can then be redirected towards better education, health, and positive community involvement such as entrepreneurship and political activity.
While unique shops can be deployed to any part of the world, a typical center consists of a portable storage/shop shelter, materials storage and refinement yard, and an education space where workshops and community forums can be held. Within the training center would be satellite-fed access to the internet, where a database of effective slum building solutions can be documented and shared with other centers around the world, as well as offering basic lessons geared towards specific locations such as how to make buildings more storm resistant or create a water catchment and purification system . The education center also acts as a labor swap where community members can record & exchange work hours spent on other homes and at SLUM_SHOPs material refinement center for assistance in their own construction efforts. SLUM_SHOP can also be a portal of interaction with aide and training volunteers, community health officials, and advocacy groups. The portable shop component can be created using methods such as modifying a standard shipping container. This secure container would arrive on-site containing a basic construction equipment and tool library, such as saws, welders, and hand tools. Tools which could be used to make other tools (such as the ability to make a moped-powered concrete mixer, for example) are heavily weighted for inclusion in the centers library. The storage container can also be equipped with off-grid power and water resources, such as photovoltaic arrays and rainwater retention systems. Another important feature of the SLUM_SHOP is its adjacency to material resources. Slum housing is commonly created using found objects from construction, industrial, and agricultural waste or natural deposits. This center would use community labor resources, coupled with improved equipment and information access, to more efficiently process found building materials and thus improve living conditions within the community.
As an example of the potential of the SLUM_SHOP program, the design of a sample home is described in this proposal. This home is built using materials and systems developed and created in the SLUM_SHOP material refinement and education workshops. It is also created by a group of community members in the centers labor exchange program. On the ground floor, thick masonry walls create a secure area for family gathering, storage, social and entrepreneurial activities. These walls are created using bottle bricks: reclaimed plastic bottles which are filled with debris, trash, and earth to create a modular building material. The bricks are then laid using an earth and concrete mortar mixture. These load-bearing walls are situated to be parallel to expected flood surges. Infill doors and walls are designed to break away in a catastrophic flood, creating a planned outlet for intense pressures created by flood surges, thereby leaving the major structural components of the home intact. Flood vents created by a concrete beam and pile fashioned from reclaimed oil drums allow flood waters to recede out of the home while securing it firmly to the ground. The second floor consists of a sleeping loft created by walls made from found materials. These materials, such as tire rubber, plastic bags, and other containers, are cut into strips and weaved into a mesh using traditional weaving techniques. Within this mesh, vertical supports of wood or metal poles are embedded deeply into the masonry walls to resist lateral & uplift wind stresses. Lashes made from metal harvested from spent tires are used to firmly tie the roof to the foundation. The mesh is woven tightly enough to keep out a driving rain, but it is also pervious to cross breezes. The thermal mass of the masonry walls below absorb energy during the day, shielding the daytime activities on the ground floor from the heat. At night, when the air cools, this energy dissipates and is drawn into the sleeping area through floor openings by cross ventilation promoted by the mesh walls. In the rear of the home, a covered cooking area collects rainwater into a reclaimed drum vessel and a SODIS pump system is installed. Collected water from rivers and other sources can be added. An ergonomic, modular concrete rocking water pump draws water from this source tank to a rooftop array of inexpensive plastic tubing. Using the filtration concept of SODIS, promoted by the World Health Organization, pathogens in the water are deactivated while exposed to the heat and UV radiation of the sun over time. This water can then be safely used for consumption. Also in the cooking area is a solar shelf where a solar cooker can be placed to reduce dependence on cooking fuels and an efficient means of pasteurization. Solar powered devices such as lanterns and cell phone chargers can also be placed here for charging.