by , 08/12/06

ashoka, habitat for humanity, changemakers, affordable housing competition

August seems to be the month for competitions. Right on the heels of Electrolux’s Design Lab 2006 is the deadline for the “How to Provide Affordable Housing” competition co-sponsored by Ashoka’s Changemakers and Habitat for Humanity.

The competition will award up to $5,000 for “the best innovative solutions for affordable housing on a global level.” Proposals will be judged on how significantly they would impact quality of life for a large number of low-income people. Although environmental sustainability is encouraged, this particular competition is more focused on “the financial and social dimensions of sustainability.” In other words, they’re looking for solutions that are culturally appropriate to the regions they serve, and that will be self-sustaining or even profitable in the long-term, rather than one-off acts of philanthropy.

You can view all of the competition entries on the Changemakers site, and even “review” the ideas as they come in. To date, a proposal from a Canadian team to build low-cost housing using waste wheat straw is particularly apropos, as we recently mentioned waste straw as a sustainable material in Part 2 of Green Building 101.

The competition deadline is just eleven days away: August 23.

+ Changemakers
+ Habitat for Humanity
+ Ashoka

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  1. Madeline August 15, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    Very interesting comments. I’m working on the Changemakers competition and appreciate all that is being offered. I want to make you aware of three things:
    1. We’ve extended the deadline for entries to the affordable housing competitiong to September 6th.
    2. You are invited to come to to comment on the entries to the competition.
    3. Go to for an example of a house made of what’s in your backyard.

    Thanks very much to Inhabit for posting the notice of the competition. Everyone, please alert anyone you know who has demonstrated an innovative design in affordable housing to enter.

  2. troy August 13, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    The main problem being that $5,000-$10,000 is an unrealistic amount to spend on housing for the vast majority of the world.

    Affordable sustainable housing, needs to be affordable. Lots of fancy ideas, but they just aren’t based in reality. Design like you give a damn; walk outside into your backyard and build a house without buying anything, just with what is available around you. That is the reality for affordable housing worldwide.

  3. Richie August 13, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Great Idea !

    Please continue coverage of this contest. It will be great to see the winning designs.

    The ‘Dog Trot House’ design by Jim Fox, Leslie Ford, Marcuss Bushong, Geoffrey Adams & Karen King of the University of New Mexico School for Architecture & Planning might be a very strong contender here. It was a winning entry in the SECCA ‘Home / House’ design competition ( ). If anyone knows how to contact them, please let them know about this ‘Changemakers’ competition. I’ll try as well.

    Basically, their design consists of (2) shipping containers, whose long sides are spaced 16 feet apart, sitting atop a robust wooden deck/platform. They’re then joined together (front and back) with Aluminum Storefront framing with glazing. (Substituting 2 x 4″ wooden stud framing, w/o full glazing, would make sense for a lower budgets) Another wooden platform with 4- 6 foot(?) overhangs sits atop these containers as a ‘flat roof’. (A slight pitch would make this roof an excellent water catchment surface). This overhanging wooden roof, solves the problem of Sun heating up the metal of the shipping containers in a simple and cost effective way. In high wind areas, the outer margins of the wooden deck and the roof could be joined together with metal plumbers pipe or ‘split post’ wooden ‘bent’ type ‘ribs’.

    Because shipping containers are cheap & plentiful, and knowing how to build wooden platforms and roofs are are skills known worldwide… their design could be a strong entry in this competetion. It’s a GREAT, cheap and simple design. It’s also a realistic design for a self – build, or local contractor built (w/o architect), type project. In places like Africa, this design might only cost between $5 – $10,000 to build… and if it was mass produced, it could arrive in kit form, ready to assemble. That would be great !

    As for the foundation… I recently saw an elevated reformated truck trailer house that sat atop metal I-beams welded to 12″ reclaimed iron pipes that were in ground about 4 feet, with 4 feet clearance aboveground as well. Something like this could be used for this design. Either that, or sonotubes filled with rebar reinforced concrete, with I-beam rails atop them, would work.

    All the best,

    Richie K

  4. Thea August 13, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    I think the Changemakers link on this posting was actually meant to go to:

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