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Chui’s design is a series of repeated L-shaped walls made from earth blocks which are capped with a bamboo and corrugated roof. Each wall section is set 90 degrees from each other to create multiple rooms with an open center. The house was built in Mianyang, in the Sichuan Province which was devastated by the 2008 Chinese earthquake. The size of the home ended up being 800 square feet rather than the original 500 feet and cost $5,925 to build—6 times the challenge, but still a great deal for the amount of living space.

The house can survive an 8.0 magnitude earthquake using the steel-reinforced earthen block, and because of its simple repetitive use of walls, it can be reproduced with a much lower learning curve. Additions can also be easily added to create a complex design complete with courtyards, and multiple homes can nestle around each other into clusters to maximize land use efficiencies while maintaining privacy.

The challenge of reducing costs to $1000 pushes the students well beyond most conventional solutions. Materials need to be local, readily available, and safe. The proposals also look to use simple construction techniques in new ways to provide solutions for heat gain, natural light and ventilation, and robust support systems.

The challenge of building such a lost cost house that meets the requirements of a family comes not only in finding the right materials and labor, but in the performance of such a home. Building conditions and building requirements are so different around the world that seeing a home built for $1000 would most likely be lightweight construction for primarily tropical climates. Chui is now focusing on creating $10,000 homes for Japan– which, considering the notoriously expensive cost of building on the earthquake prone island, would be equally impressive.

+ MIT $1K House