We design and market pallet rack based housing kits which provide the urban poor and disaster relief organizations with inexpensive high density shelter & services. Our systems are extremely modular, can be erected and disassembled very quickly, and have a positive environmental impact on the land upon which they rest.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Rapid urbanization has outpaced many cities' ability to adequately accommodate the housing needs of immigrant populations. As a result a large and increasing number of people live in unhealthy conditions on disputed or government land where services are unavailable and political insecurity makes it impractical to invest in their homes.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
Taking advantage of current best practices for sustainable infrastructure we design high density, multi story, pallet rack systems and components relevant to the local conditions in which we operate. Where possible we find local vendors and use locally available materials for our components. We also train local handymen in the construction and maintenance of these systems.
Currently we have built one 3000 square foot structure on an empty lot in Bangalore. We used recycled vinyl billboards from asia to water proof the walls and roof and to create water proof furniture. We developed a rope based system which make it easy to quickly roll up or let down the walls depending on the weather. We are experimenting with wire mesh, plywood and rubber for our floors. In the coming months we will install a solar system, develop a composting toilet, design and fabricate planting boxes which can attach to the pallet racks and set up an electronics lab for designing LED lighting fixtures.
With Urbanology, we are finalizing plans for another project in Dharavi, Mumbai. This will serve as a "social club" for elderly residents and street children and will be operated by a trust and run by the residents themselves.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Unclear ownership of land in slum areas often prevents people from investing in their homes. This leads to unhealthy conditions as basic services are generally not addressed in the makeshift shelters they construct. Investing homes is one way the global middle class saves money. Because of the political uncertainty surrounding the land most slums are built on and the extremely high cost of conventional concrete high rise architecture, the urban poor often can not do this.
Our pallet rack based approach to mobile, high density, urban architecture provides a means for people to incrementally improve their current living situations. Pallet racks enable them to add additional stories onto their homes. Solar panels can provide power. Composting toilets can be set up for sanitation. Vertical and rooftop gardens can provide nutritious low cost supplements to the family diet. Water filtration systems can provide safe drinking water. Because of the modular nature of pallet racks, these systems can be compiled together quickly and with much flexibility as to an individuals needs. If the family must move, the pallet rack building can be quickly disassembled, transported and reassembled at a new location or sold on the open market. We aim to make the components as recyclabe as possible. The land on which the building once stood remains in good condition and can be developed or cultivated. Currently, when a structure is destroyed the debris, including asbestos sheets and other toxic materials used for the construction, stay on the ground creating a long term environmental hazards.
While none of the technologies we use are new, our approach of providing tools to help the urban poor incrementally upgrade their housing is a rational alternative for large scale development radically different to conventional slum rehabilitation strategies involving resettlement in large concrete buildings.