Description of Challenge
The project aims to provide a solution to three converging issues:
1. Models of affordable housing that are not truly affordable for India's low-income families;
2. An understanding that a "good" home must be made from steel and cement: unsustainable products that are not sources locally;
3. A growing divide in quality of education, life and values between rural and urban communities in India (and beyond).
We set out to design and build a model home for rural, sustainable and affordable housing.
We have since used local waste and natural materials to construct this home/community centre.
Here are some details of the build itself:
The foundations of the house are twelve foot stone pillars, sunk three feet into the ground and
cemented in place with rubble. To ensure structural integrity, we have used a cement-sand mix in all
The walls are made of glass bottles and bricks and finished with traditional mudding. Glass bottles are
a globally available waste material, they are also strong and can be laid between bricks to lower the
total number of bricks used. They also act as windows: glass bottles positioned outwards bring sunlight
into the house by day and those positioned inwards bring in-house lights out, creating a glow from
The mudding is a mix of local mud, cow dung and hay husks to bind the material, mixed by feet and
thrown and smoothed by hand. The mudding goes on in several layers, building up thick walls that
provide heat in the cold months and maintain a cool temperature in the summer, all without added fuel
or air conditioning. Mud walls are a form of natural building found around the world. The floor is also
mudded, resulting in a strong, smooth surface that can be touched up as needed. The roof is made of hand-woven grasses laid on a bamboo and wood-beam frame, mounted on a central metal pole. Both roof and walls can be maintained by hand on an ongoing process, and all the skills and materials to do so are available in the village in which we have done this build.
Our goal for this build was to provide a model for sustainable, locally sourced and affordable
housing in rural contexts. For this goal to be met, zero waste thinking is crucial. By transforming our
perception of waste from garbage to a usable resource—everything from construction site waste to
household kitchen waste—we not only cut down the amount of material going to landfills/burning, we
also decrease the need to buy new materials, thus increasing affordability and sustainability.
A key advantage to using local materials and traditional forms of building is: this means employing local
people and drawing on indigenous knowledge. This is where ―local and ―sustainable‖ come together.
Any material and all the skills required to build and maintain this house are available in the locality itself.
The design itself reflects the surrounding landscape and economy of materials. In terms of local
impact, drawing on local methods and materials means ensuring ongoing employment to traditional
natural builders, and providing a market for natural and otherwise waste materials.