To Each His Home
While perusing the many design ideas for a $300 house I have come to a realistic conclusion. Land is not a part of the equation. How can you loan someone $300 to build a house if they may not even get the house built before they have to move it? How ca

Solution

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First Things First

Pride comes from owning land first. Any house is rented if you don�t own the land underneath.

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Building A System

If you want to encourage a certain building style or system, use it to create the communal buildings. Some things need to be seen to be believed.

Build a manufacturing and distribution building. This can be made using whatever building materials and methods are best and least expensive. It needs to be large enough to house a secure area for tools and equipment as well as an area to work. Another suggestion would be to allow areas for the homebuilders to store recyclables that can be used to build their homes.

Get corporations on board both locally and internationally. Make sure you know what customs charges will be. Bulk buying will save money and corporations may be willing to sell materials at cost or at a discount.

Also corporations who make construction materials may be willing to license and train people to produce or sell their products through the distribution center. It would allow newer companies to test their products in areas where it could do the most good and provide jobs to people who need them.

There are a wide range of building materials that are in testing and that have just come to market that could be used to build less expensive homes. There are also traditional methods of building that are durable and should not be discounted.

There are companies who are working on bottle molds that if adopted by soda and water bottlers would provide lego style building blocks from empty bottles that could be filled with dirt, sand, etc. and used to build walls.

There is a company who makes a cement impregnated canvass that can be formed then just sprayed with water and allowed to dry. This forms a waterproof structure that can be used as a temporary or permanent structure.

There is another company who is making a waterproof, fireproof cement that can be sprayed, trowelled or brushed on walls, roofs, or floors. This cement reduces CO2 emissions.

The method of Nylon Cement uses used nylon fishnets and metal structural components that would allow freeform building styles. This could be used to build underground structures, above ground structures, cisterns, etc.

Plastic grocery bags can be melted in forms at temperatures of around 300 degrees F in an oven to produce very hard durable boards. If you mix chopped plastic soda bottles into the mix it makes a plastic concrete that can be made into large plastic blocks and possibly into entire walls if baked between corrugated sheets of metal. A UV protectant would need to be mixed in or the walls would need to be coated with one. Roofing panels could be made by melting just grocery bags between corrugated sheets. Grocery bags can be filled with sand wrapped over and over again with many bags and placed in a form to make a heavy block that can be screwed together for assembly then disassembled later if necessary. Different sized soda bottles can be filled with sand or dirt and placed in wall panel size forms with plastic grocery bags pressed between then baked to fuse the wall panels together. Forms can be made out of metal pipe, welded metal boxes, rectangular or square tubing, or corrugated sheets, etc. It can be made flame retardant with a spray made from borax and boric acid, coated with spray cement or cement impregnated canvas or burlap. Window panes can be made from layers of plastic from two liter bottles. Widow frames and doors can be molded from plastic grocery bags.

The downside to building from recycled plastic is the new developments in recovering fuel from plastics will limit the amount of plastics in the future. What a shame. Until this happens, though, a lot of pride can be gained from eliminating the enormous piles of garbage that seem to envelope many disaster and third world countries.

Of course recycling any local building materials in disaster areas would help too.

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From Many, One Idea

While perusing the many design ideas for a $300 house I have come to a realistic conclusion. Land is not a part of the equation. How can you loan someone $300 to build a house if they may not even get the house built before they have to move it? How can you know what power, water, and sanitary needs are required if you do not have somewhere permanent to start building? Plastic recycling, Earth bags, cob, tamped earth, adobe, earth plaster, rubble recycling, tire recycling, prefab, etc are all viable solutions if you have somewhere to put your home. I would rather live under a tarp on my own land than to live on someone else�s. People keep bringing up pride in ownership. Land needs to come first.

Some of the solutions are limited to certain areas. The main objective is to teach people to sustain themselves. There are several other problems to address. In some areas people are tied to slums. They pay $10 a month and if they cannot pay they are subject to loan sharks or eviction. The only way to help these people is to buy land nearby for them to assemble makeshift homes until better homes can be built. But this isn�t even part of the deal. Land is not included in the $300 house deal is it? That of course means that the owner must be able to disassemble the house and move it on a whim. How can services such as showering and toilets not be necessary? If land ownership is not involved, what is the point in building a house that will last for 50 years? This project is moot if land is not an option in the deal.

The next question, of course, is whether the jobs in the area are tied to the slums. In other words the only way you can work is if you live in the slums. A lot of the slum lords own the businesses or markets in these areas. Therefore, the people who are relocated from the slums would need jobs or ways to make money. In a lot of areas people are not permitted to build their own homes. In some areas people are required to purchase permits to be allowed to buy land. This would need to be addressed. Is there even somewhere they can build a solid structure they can call their own?

Child labor seems to be bothering a lot of people. I live in the USA and when I was twelve I worked laying brick and block for $2.00 an hour to help pay the down payment on the substandard house I lived in. From this I learned that I wanted a better life when I grew up. My children have never known this type of responsibility and sometimes I think they are worse for it. These situations create drive, ambition, and a willingness to work hard to improve oneself. I do not go so far as to say that 4 year olds should be crawling into deadly holes to bring diamonds out of mines. In fact, I refuse to buy diamonds for this very reason. I use carbide cutting tools, do not have diamond jewelry, etc. I think that the home building effort should employ all members of the household that are capable. Everyone wants to feel useful. Children would take pride in helping their parents build a home. Necessity is a harsh task master but children need to learn the process of building homes, too. This prevents the next generation from being in the same situation. Most people learn best by doing. Trades get passed down through generations until sustainability reaches a point where this is not necessary.

The gist of all of this is to find out what the people need and find ways to teach them how to get it. Micro loans are a valuable tool in achieving this goal. Care must be taken that people are not exploited in the process. Ethical management is a must. This management must be passed as soon as possible to the people.

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First Things First

1. Figure out who wants help and what kind of help they need.

2. Provide for what they need not what you think they need based on your standards and customs.

3. Start with the basics: safety, food, clothing, health, water, and shelter.

4. Do not offer what you cannot provide. Do not promise more than you can deliver.

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1. Figure out who wants help and what kind of help they need.

Just because you want to give the needy what you think they need doesn�t mean you are doing the right thing. The only way to find out what someone needs is to ask them.

Interview:

What do you need?

What tools do you have? What tools do you need?

What materials do you have? What materials can you get for free? (Scavenging)

What are your dreams and aspirations?

Do you want your own home?

Would you and your family be willing to build the house?

Would you be willing to repay the loan for the house?

Would a $500 loan be reasonable? (House and land at $10+/- a month for 5 years?)

$500 loan

4% interest ?

Loan term 5 years

1% property tax?

Monthly Payment $9.62

Total of 60 payments $577.50

Total Interest paid $52.50

Total Taxes paid $25.00?

What is your monthly income?

How much do you pay in rent?

Do you have access to clean water?

Do you have access to electricity?

How much do you pay for these?

Will you lose your job if you move out of the slums, relocate?

Would you be willing to learn new skills?

What do you do to survive?

What other skills do you have?

What skills do your family members have?

What kind of house do you live in?

What kinds of houses are traditionally built here?

What building materials are available?

What do these materials cost?

How much living space do you have?

How much living space do you need?

How many family members are in your household?

What are their ages?

Do you have animals? What kind?

How is your house set up?

What are your religious needs?

How do you cook your food?

Can we see your home? If not, can you draw a sketch of your home?

What things do you have for your house? What things do you need?

Would you be willing to make things if taught how and provided with materials or tools?

Would you be offended by using recycled building materials, plastics, and tires to reduce the building costs?

Would you be willing to assist in building the entire community and other peoples houses?

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2. Provide loans for what they need not what you think they need based on your standards and customs.

Often, people have religious needs and customs that do not mesh with western world thinking. These need to be respected. Teaching people valuable skills like how to build a business, business plans, marketable skills, how loans work, etc. will help people succeed. Listen to peoples ideas and help them to realize there goals.

Many families sleep in one room. Often, privacy issues such as a separate bedroom for parents are not the same in all cultures. This should be respected. House plans should be selected based on the buyers wants and needs and only so.

In some areas they have more dire needs than housing. There are villages where women are raped because they have to travel through dangerous areas to get water. They are raped daily while completing this task. They do not send their husbands because they will be killed so they suffer this humiliation daily. Many die from aids leaving children who also get raped going to get water. If they had a well, they could be a little safer at least.

3. Start with the basics: safety, food, clothing, health, water, and temporary shelter.

Relief efforts are the first priority. People cannot begin to dream of their own home if they are sick and dying. This has been addressed for years.

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4. Do not offer what you cannot provide. Do not promise more than you can deliver.

I would never ask someone to get a loan for a house without land to put it on. If the people decide to relocate later, they can sell their property with or without the home back to the �bank� so that someone else can buy it. Nearly all of the houses in the competition would be difficult to disassemble and move. If they are easy to move or disassemble they do not meet other requirements.

This project will require a huge commitment of time, money, patience, intelligence, and effort. If the people involved are not willing to commit years of their lives to this endeavor it will fail. My hope is that it doesn�t fail before it succeeds.

Protection is another issue. It is all good and well to want to help but will the government let you? Will the armies shoot you down? Will the resistance kidnap you to raise money for their cause.? Will loan sharks, drug lords, slum lords, �the haves�, politicians, etc. let you come in and interfere with �the way things are done�? CAN YOU PROTECT THE PEOPLE YOU ARE HELPING? Can you ensure that when they buy their land and build their house that as soon as you step out of the picture (when it�s paid for) that someone wont come kick them all back to the slums and rent the houses to others for more money?

Consider everything before you promise people a better life. Make darn sure you can give it to them.

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Setting Up the Community

1. Relief Efforts and talks with government.

2. Buy land and permits. (Make sure there is a water source big enough to support your development. Is electricity available and at what cost? Allow for expansion.)

3. Set up temporary housing for relief workers.

4. Interview the people you want to help.

5. Subdivide the land.

6. Layout Communal Buildings

7. Water and Sanitation

8. Electricity

9. Bring the people you are helping together for meetings to discuss everything.

10. Involve all of these people at every stage explaining how and when you are doing things.

11. Figure out work schedules and what and when each person can help.

12. Materials and tools to build communal buildings.

13. Build and set up a distribution and manufacturing center.

14. Build Communal Structures

15. Have people bring in and store recycled items to help build their homes.

16. Decide who gets what piece of land and the type of house they want to build.

17. Figure out who wants single or group structures.

18. Build the houses.

19. Set up markets.

20. Have a party.

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