$300 Homes– Sustainable solutions for building affordable houses

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: August 2, 2011

In a city famous for some of the world’s largest slums, including the internationally iconic Dharavi of Slumdog Millionaire, there is plenty of inspiration for affordable and sustainable housing. The homes that makeup Dharavi, Mumbai’s other slums, and slums the world over are seldom permanent structures. Dwellings are built from whatever is available – plastic, cardboard, scrap metal, wood, mud or clay.  Built on unstable foundations (or none at all) it is no surprise that these structures are prone to dangerous collapses and fatal fires.

$300 Homes– Sustainable solutions for building affordable houses

With booming populations and rural-urban migration, mega-cities are growing, and the slums within them are inevitable. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 93% of urban growth will take place in the developing world – 80% of which will be in Asia and Africa. In India, the slum-dwelling population has more than doubled since the mid-1980s. Slum eradication is not a feasible goal, but improving the living standards within slums is within our reach.

Can self-built slums be turned into livable housing? This is exactly the question Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, and Christian Sarakar, marketing expert, asked. In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review website, Govindarajan and Sarakar opened the question up to the public: We ask CEOs, Governments, NGOs, Foundations: Are there any takers?


They laid down a few ground rules: the house must be made of mass-produced materials, tough enough to sustain torrential rains and earth-shattering earthquakes, green, and–oh yeah–cost no more than $300.

Leave it to the power of an idea. The race took off. It was such a popular topic that eventually a dedicated website at www.300house.com was created, and on April 20thGovindarajan announced a competition for prototypes of the house. Teams and individuals from around the world signed up and submitted their ideas, including Mumbai-based Mahindra employees Shantanu Upasani, Karnani Devi, Sourav Kumar, Rahul Bhole, Sachin G. Jain and Mohan S. Raghavan.

Working nights and weekends on their design, the Mahindra team submitted an entry that would eventually win them global recognition. With no formal architectural background, they used their knowledge of the local environment, their experiences living in crowded cities across India, and their understanding of the emerging market consumer to create a winning model. In fact, the most innovative elements of the design were the simplest: the basic materials used to build the house.

$300 Homes Blue Print

When first drafting a blueprint, the team called for the use of bricks—but bricks pushed the budget over $400. Scrapping that idea, the team settled on suru wood, bamboo, and FRP (Fiber-glass Reinforced Plastic) sheets – all locally used and widely available in India. What’s more, they are flexible enough to sustain normal wear-and-tear, but strong enough to withstand violent weather patterns. Most importantly, the combination of bamboo, suru poles, and FRP sheeting reduces costs by 140% and ensured that the house’s construction was under $300. It was reverse innovation at its best – Indian innovators designing for the Indian audience.

The Mahindra team will travel to the US later this year to participate in a prototyping workshop. To see their proposal, follow the link: http://www.jovoto.com/contests/300house/ideas/12803.


Subscribe to our mailing list

Sign up for the rise blog newsletter to keep up on new stories on Rise

Related Links:

  • Vijay Hole

    nice job by Mahindra to improve life

If you enjoyed this article, keep up on new stories and conversations about Rise