Friday, May 18, 2007

struggling to put food on the table

A short article from IRIN News notes that women are more often than not the principle breadwinners in their families in the shantytowns of Nairobi.

--thanks to Mohamed for pointing me towards this article.

9 comments:

Mark said...

Do you answer your blog comments? This is an idea concept I wanted to share with you, posted at your TED talk at www.ted.com on the "shadow cities" at:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/36

One solution for architects interested in helping the "shadow cities" would be to adapt something like the Huf Haus (described below) for work with more local materials.

1.

Best House in England

HufHouse
http://www.findaproperty.com/displaystory.aspx?edid=00&salerent=0&storyid=221
see pic, halfway down the page

The overall winner of the coveted Best House in England award was the Huf House on St George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey.

This remarkable project, a radical departure from traditional bricks and mortar, combines a flexible wooden frame with floor-to-ceiling glass walls to produce an exceptional energy saving building which can be erected and made completely weather proof, with all walls, windows and a roof fitted, in just one week (or two if it has a concrete basement).

Designed by a firm of German architects, it's most striking features are its amazing versatility and flexibility.

All the walls and glazing panels can be removed and re-arranged to create alternative layouts, and the house can have anything from one to five bedrooms and one, two or three stories.

The whole construction process is so stream lined and precise, the whole design so flexible, that you can even dismantle the entire building and move it to another site.

The structure comes with a 30 year guarantee and costs £80-100 per square foot, which, when you consider average prices in London of £170 to £800 a sq ft, means its pretty good value as well.

http://www.findaproperty.com/displaystory.aspx?edid=00&salerent=0&storyid=221

[The only drawback would be that it requires a team of specialized builders to assemble/disassemble it, it seems, see below, though this may be for legal issues instead of anything else.]

2.

http://www.findaproperty.com/displaystory.aspx?edid=00&salerent=0&storyid=3482
Another Huf Haus, with lots more pictures, and description

Dulwich Delight
28 Jan 2004

Not all housebuilders are obsessed with period pastiche: the stunning Huf Haus project in Dulwich Village owes nothing to its Georgian and Victorian neighbours...

It says something for the sea-change in British attitudes towards modern design that an innovative development of contemporary houses is currently under construction in Dulwich Village, one of London's leafiest and most well-protected corners.

Here, on a sensitive site tucked away off the High Street, in the heart of a conservation area famous for its mill pond, pristine period properties and country village exclusivity, Wates Homes has embarked on a daring collaboration with the acclaimed Germany company Huf Haus.

The upmarket timber-framed houses, notable for their dark Spruce beams and extensive glazed panels, are a far cry from the period brickwork typical of the area.

[see pictures at above link]

But Southwark Council chose this project over several more traditional proposals, local residents are said to be delighted with the scheme, and the government has already dished out a Housing Design Award and praised the development as "a welcome breath of continental fresh air".

Beam Me Up

Although the extensive glazed panelling gives the Huf houses a striking contemporary feel, the 'post-and-beam' method used by the company to assemble their system-built houses has been around for several thousand years.

Huf Haus 2

"It's a very old method of building," says Joe Branco, development manager of Huf Haus UK. "We combine this traditional method with modern technology. The beams, for example, are laminated for extra strength and this allows us to use concrete floors. The houses are heavily insulated and eco-friendly, and the components used are all high-specification."

Huf Haus have been perfecting their unique building system for the past ninety years and produce all of the components for the houses in their factory in Germany. New houses are shipped out from there and assembled by a skilled team of German craftsmen who must have five years of training before they can work on-site.

"There's not cutting or waste on site," Joe explains. "The houses are erected and water-tight within a week and are completed and ready for their new owners within twelve weeks. The system is very flexible. The walls are not load bearing and can be removed and re-arranged to create alternative layouts - the house can have anything from one to five bedrooms and one, two or three stories".

Woodyard Lane

Huf Haus 3

The judges who recently added another accolade to Huf Haus's long list of awards were especially impressed by the intelligence and quality of the design and singled out the vast useable space inside each home - a benefit of the non load-bearing walls - for special mention.

"The internal planning is rational, compact and generous, and allows considerable flexibility in the use of space."

The creative use of wall to ceiling glazing is a signature feature of the houses and allows the outside environment to become an integral part of the homes themselves.

This combined with the double height ceilings ensures that the homes feel light and spacious. [though probably rather drafty in winter or cool--though I guess you could move from a 'summer open plan layout' to a 'winter layout' of walls to close drafty down air flow--this would b like most traditional houses worldwide that were built before the invention of open-plans (an outcome engineering requirement to make air conditioning work that affected lots of building architecture, in ways people don't normally consider, by the way: in terms of home air flows, whereas before it would just make the home drafty to do so.]

Electrically operated external blinds are fitted to all the windows, providing shade and security; [like Korean/Japanese traditional homes] underfloor heating, thermal insulating glass, and turn-tilt windows make for exceptional energy-efficiency.

Woodyard Lane, London SE21

...

Four Bedrooms lead off a central first floor landing, which also doubles as a comfortable communal area. The award judges were again impressed by the intelligent layout and observed, "money is spent on useable space, and on high quality components, rather than on tacked on 'features' or minute additional bedrooms."

Huf Haus 4E

Each Huf Haus also has a full sized basement floor with natural light wells. This extra floor comes with a choice of fitted options including utility room, shower room, and two other spaces which can be adapted to a variety of purposes: as an office, gym, games room, home cinema, wine cellar or nanny annexe.

The low pitched roofs have wide overhangs which both protect and shade the house, as well as providing large covered external areas. The arrangement of the nine houses in a secluded courtyard style guarantees each home high levels of privacy.

Euro Vision

In Europe, Huf Haus has developed an enviable reputation for producing high-quality eco-friendly houses and the company has created several small villages of Huf houses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Huf Haus 5

In the UK they've been in business for several years and have won just about every major housing accolade worth having, but prior to The Woodyard collaboration with Wates Homes [to build a group of them] they had confined themselves to individual commissions.

Paul Phipps, Wates MD says the partnership is in keeping with Wates' desire to build on their reputation for innovation: "This is an exhilarating project which has attracted an enormous level of both industry and public attention. We welcome this; it's where the company wants to be, challenging assumptions at all levels of the housing market and creating environments for today's highly discerning generation of house-buyer".

The Dulwich development of nine semi-detached and terraced houses is certainly like nothing else on the market but the enthusiastic response from planners and the public gives the lie to the notion that British homebuyers are innately conventional and conservative. Wates and Huf Haus are definitely onto a winner and it seems likely that the success of this development will pave the way for future schemes.

Michael O'Flynn

http://www.findaproperty.com/displaystory.aspx?edid=00&salerent=0&storyid=3482

Well, my advert for the Huf Haus is closed now.

CONNECTED TO NEUWIRTH'S TALK:

If only a "Huf Haus" solution could be found for the shadow cities.

The fact that other levels of a Huf Haus can be later constructed on top of each other--without the walls really bearing any weight only the post columns--would be ideal to the sociology of how Neuwirth describes the housing/land market as literally accretively built and sold out of roof rights of previous lower tenants, in many slum cities.

I would picture a one level Huf Haus arrangement being constructed with far more localized material solutions however.

The fact that they can be dismantled and mobile would serve as well if a government suddenly wanted to knock everything down. Instead of destroying the work, it could quickly be moved away as it is quickly "disassemble-able" as much as quickly assembled. It would save the material and labor that created it in the first place.

Moreover a local industry making the standardized pieces could be started, which could be endlessly adapted to particular single level or multiple level frameworks--with ongoing changes in the non-load bearing walls to adjust to sun, typical wind/draft direction, etc., or adjust with the seasons.

That's one rationale why I think a Huf Haus for slum cities would work out rather well: it fits really with what is already being done socially by building taller and taller structures, and would remove the danger of creating overburdened load bearing walls.

It would have the energy efficiency and plan flexibility for on site (and ongoing seasonable) adjustment which the Huf Haus seems to have as well.

It can be built quickly, and taken apart quickly, and the price could be brought down by using different materials I'm sure.

On this point once more, how it could be adapted:

This combined with the double height ceilings ensures that the homes feel light and spacious. [though probably rather drafty in winter or cool--though I guess you could move from a 'summer open plan layout' to a 'winter layout' of walls to close drafty down air flow--this would b like most traditional houses worldwide that were built before the invention of open-plans (an outcome engineering requirement to make air conditioning work that affected lots of building architecture, in ways people don't normally consider, by the way: in terms of home air flows, whereas before it would just make the home drafty to do so.]

and on this point, how to adapt:

Electrically operated external blinds are fitted to all the windows, providing shade and security; [like Korean/Japanese traditional homes] underfloor heating, thermal insulating glass, and turn-tilt windows make for exceptional energy-efficiency.

It could be turned into a form of berm heating or solar house, or where the concrete floor could be exposed or heated in the daytime, and closed up to provide ambient heat at night.


Best,


Mark Whitaker
http://biostate.blogspot.com/
Toward A Bioregional State (2005)

[just put a comment at my blog and I'll automatically get a note it's there; hope you could pass the idea on to the correct people...]

rn said...

Mark:

Wow. The Huf Haus does look amazing and may be an architectural innovation that can work in certain circumstances in the developing world.

But simply replicating it in shantytowns--even with as many local materials as you can use--ignores the 'culture of building' paradigm sketched out by architects like Christopher Alexander and Howard Davis.

Other issues:
--the cost, while quite low for the UK, is still quite high for the developing world.

--the density that you can achieve may not be great enough for most squatter communities. From the links you have provided, it looks more designed for the suburban setting.

--the energy saving and thermal efficiency may be valuable in the northern hemisphere, but what would be the impact of glass walls in the tropics?

I don't want to be too discouraging. You've made a very valuable suggestion. Maybe the huf haus can be changed and adapted. Maybe it can be vital to think about a house kit--the kind of thing that can be erected and, if need be, disassembled for transport.

I hope we speak more about this.

Mark said...

Hi there, I just thought that

[1] based on what you described as the "roof real estate" model in many shadow cities, the Huf Haus seems ideal for that (if a way could be found to turn what was once a flat roof, into merely the floor of the next level, or a way to keep raising the roof itself each time, perhaps by jacks that could be temporarily mounted below the roof line to jack it up on all sides, while the next floor is built later...

[2] based on how quick it can be put up (or quickly disassembled to "escape") to save the materials and labor. I just hate to see it torn down each time, that is the reality that I expect will be going on for quite some while so a solution should be adapted for this now--despite Turkey's interesting adaptations to turn slums of 2,000 into incorporated areas if they file for it, and elect their own government, as you noted in your talk.

[3] how concrete could be converted somehow into a solar house motif (obviously instead of glass walls) some form of energy absorption during the day and heat at night. (Pehrhaps with some local fibers netted within it, a composite could be made or 'poured,' as a slurry of something in a mold laying flat on the ground; when it dries, it could be lifted and carried as a stable, weatherproof, and hopefully lightweight and sturdy fiber-reinforced non-load bearing wall.)

[4] the inner 'apartmentalization' possibilities of non-load bearing inner walls could mean that it could start out larger and then be subdivide to fit different family styles or multi-family dwelling as they grow or shrink, without damaging the soundness of a structure by knocking out walls, for instance.

[5] a start up company could be a local business for any shadow city, for the building materials, or the business could be (similar to how the Germans are currently doing it) simply through providing training in the art of assembling it. Or it could be a sort of 'barn raising' party, etc.

[6] Yes, it's sort of "prefab", though that was the point, a 'quick kit'--though a kit combined with how the Huf Haus motif fail to have the typical drawbacks (of non-adaptability or of 'one size fits all' being enforced) that any prefab typically implies.

[7] It could be open source based architecture. There is a huge international network of architects who could be sent to ponder how it might be done. Have you seen this other related TED talk on that?

For architectural issues of such bricoleur shadow cities--or anywhere--architect Cameron Sinclair seems to have an interesting solution that may lead toward more rapid ways of addressing this slow motion pile on into urban slum areas: by generating more sustainable housing infrastructures cheaply--and interestingly--arranged through a Creative Commons arrangement for architects who want to help though hate to have their ideas stolen. It's sort of 'non-profit' architecture designs in other words.

It's a particularly good idea to use Creative Commons uses for architecture to solve some of the social barriers of people willing to work to spend some time designing such 'plug and play' architecture, though are unwilling to have their designs stolen by others in for-profit uses though don't mind them being used in such Third World contexts.

"Cameron Sinclair's TED Talk Prize wish was Open-source architecture to house the world, and he got his wish:

TEDTalks: Cameron Sinclair
23 min 14 sec

"Accepting his 2006 TED Prize, Cameron Sinclair demonstrates how passionate designers and architects can respond to world housing crises. The motto of his group, Architecture for Humanity, is "Design like you give a damn." Using a litany of striking examples, he shows how AFH [Architects for Humanity] has helped find creative solutions to humanitarian crises all over the globe. Sinclair then outlines his TED Prize wish: to create a global open-source network that will let architects and communities share and build designs to house the world."


Best, just sparking some ideas,

Mark Whitaker
http://biostate.blogspot.com/
author, Toward A Bioregional State (2005)

rn said...

Thanks, Mark. As I said, I think your suggestions are valuable.

But, as you probably have gathered from my talk, I don't think the 'solution' to the problems plaguing the shadow cities is primarily architectural.

Yes, people could use better dwellings than mud huts (though mud huts are infinitely preferable to tin shacks). Perhaps the Huf House has a role to play, depending on the costs and the easy of assembly, and the ability to manufacture and repair it locally.

But many of these communities have no electricity, no water, no sewers, no infrastructural investment, no political representation, and no true security.

Absent organizing, a house is an empty vessel.

That being said, I would certainly urge all architects to get involved in Cameron Sinclair's open architecture network.

But I would also encourage anyone who gets involved in this kind of work to recognize these communities as what they are: legitimate urban neighborhoods. Before running in with 'solutions,' anyone who wants to be involved in these communities has to spend some time on the ground getting to know the people and how they live.

Mark said...

rn said:

But many of these communities have no electricity, no water, no sewers, no infrastructural investment, no political representation, and no true security.

Absent organizing, a house is an empty vessel.


I think that's a rather polarized view. I don't see it that dichotomized. A house can be an organizing vessel.

Building infrastructure can be an organizing experience for many of these points above.

Humans are pretty infrastructurally dependent and relational creatures.

It could provide water storage (roof runoff). Berm storage (heat). Something to solve what seems like a precarious danger of crushing the occupant below, etc.

Of course without the political tenure stability, the whole thing is literally built on sand regardless. That is why I think that something for the 'interim now' would definitely be worth it-- since something like this could be quickly disassembled as rapidly as it was assembled.

I decided to put up a post about it at the Sinclair website as well.

On that website, it seems to me that most of their architectural ideas are very abstact or rural in assumption--with little attempt to ponder on the urban sociological issues that your talk/book gets into in terms of the working constraints of materials use as well as in terms of time/tenure and space or even basic sanitation.

(It seems to me that one of the projects that should be at that Sinclair site would be some form of open source urban ecosan(itation) project that might generate methane fuel as a resource, or some kind of dried pellet fecal matter fuel, etc.)

Most of the plans still at the Sinclair site assume permanent tenure, which is not going to be the case for billions of people. That's why I think something "Huf Haus adaptive" is called for to fit this different situation of "semi-permanent" dwelling.

I still think that stripped of high tech materials, the Huf Haus in terms of ideas and its agglutinative and adaptable 'stacked load' bearing qualities can be an organizing crucible built to fit the sociology of the situation you described.

The semi-permanent land tenure urban areas will be a far more problematic and required area for architectural inventions than many of that website's over sexy pictures of decidedly rural depopulated areas with assumptions of permanent or at least undisturbed tenure.

I'm surprised that no one there seems to have noticed that yet, that most of the population already lives in a completely different mode...

rn said...

mark:

People are more comfortable working in the rural environment because land is readily available. As opposed to the city, where, if you build something, you're likely going to have to destroy something to make room for it.

As for your point about polarization: yes, but. I'm a believer the organizing comes first, from within, to build solidarity and capacity.

When you go into squatter communities, you may find that the first issue people want to engage does not involve new homes.

Let's keep the discussion going!

Mark said...

rn said:

"When you go into squatter communities, you may find that the first issue people want to engage does not involve new homes."

When you find the time, elaborate on that if you would? I suppose it's obviously in your book, though a short summary or an example or two that you are obviously thinking about would suffice?

rn said...

Many people in Kibera, one of the most deprived communities I've been in, were more concerned about roads, streetlights, and crime, than they were about replacing their mud homes.

Similarly, in some squatter communities in Mumbai, people were more worried about evictions drainage (the monsoon rains can be devastating) than they were about the state of their own homes.

What's more, as a former organizer, I know this: you have to start small. People who have spent years on the outside can't just jump into the process at the highest level. They have to learn how to move forward with a community agenda by starting with very low-level items. This will, over time, open their horizons to larger issues that may include built form.

sakthi said...

The pictures are really disgusting,I think we can't even cross the streets like this,how they living there? Even though they are ready to work hard,they're not getting regular work/pay..Thanks for the link.
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