Micro-sized houses with potentially huge impact around the world

Great news from the humanitarian ideas department. In 2006, Doug Sharp, of Des Moines IA, put together a team of architects with the goal of designing a sturdy home, made of  lightweight materials, that would be easy to ship and could be built in one day by one family. All this for as little money as possible.

Sharp intends his Abod project to be philanthropic, rather than a personal moneymaker.

Abod’s tiny homes address an international need, says the Abod website:

The need for safe, sanitary and durable housing is global. It’s the first crucial step for improving the health, safety and quality of life for millions of people living in poverty, as well as victims of natural disaster.

GLOBAL POVERTY Today, a billion people—32% of the global urban population—live in urban slums. The United Nations projects that if no serious action is taken, the number of slum dwellers worldwide will increase to 2 billion over the next 30 years. Adequate housing is vitally important to the health of the people as well as the world’s economies. Abod is an affordable, flexible solution that could serve as a foundation for a healthier micro or even macro community to emerge.

ECONOMY 1.2 billion people in the world experience “income poverty,” meaning that they live on the US equivalent of less than $1 US per day . And in Africa, households need an average of 12.5 times their annual income to buy a house, making it a nearly impossible achievement.

Creating factories in countries and communities that adopt the Abod housing solution would not only help the housing crisis, but also create jobs for local people and boost economic development. Good housing in communities in turn attracts economic investment, contributes to potential education systems, and promotes positive community development.

NATURAL DISASTERS Natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes and hurricanes create the immediate need for housing on a massive scale, particularly in countries already plagued by inadequate housing and poor construction. Often times, when disaster strikes in a country already gripped in debt, its government is unable to help its people, leaving families to sink or swim. Since the Abod can be constructed in one day, it could help provide quick relief to some when the need arises.

HEALTH With poverty often comes infectious disease, due to overcrowding, lack of access to healthcare services, and lack of immunization. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and millions die each year. Each year also brings 350-500 million cases of malaria, and 1 million deaths. And according to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day . A stable micro community built of Abod units could provide just the stability and sanitation needed to combat disease in impoverished area

As reported on Inhabitat:

Highly affordable and flexible in design, each shelter can be can be customized to fit each owner’s particular needs. Everything from kitchen and toilet units to end walls, loft expansions and special doors can be added to the core structure.

Mostly constructed out of corrugated metal, a translucent plastic panel can be used to incorporate natural lighting – a boon for slums that typically lack decent access to national electricity grids. Gutters incorporated into the shelters ensure that rainwater is directed away from the tiny homes to improve sanitation and a number of the houses can be linked together to create a small community… The first Abod community was constructed just outside of Johannesburg as a test pilot.

According to the Abod website, the tiny homes have the following characteristics and advantages:

Compact and cost-effective to deliver. By truck, ship or plane, the lightweight home can be delivered onsite for quick and easy assembly. • Readily manufactured in large quantities. All components are made from stock materials. • Quick and simple to assemble. An entire single unit structure can be completed in one day by four people. •High-quality, enduring structure has a projected low cost via mass manufacturing.

Secure and permanent yet easily moved: This is especially vital where land can only be leased, not owned. The Abod is designed so that if an owner doesn’t like where it was first placed, or has to move, they can quickly and easily disassemble, relocate, and reassemble the home. • Low fire risk: The Abod is comprised of primarily non-combustible materials, so the risk of fire is minimal. • Exceptionally load bearing: The Abod is designed to reflect the catenary arch which is the most stable form in nature. • Exceptional weather shielding: Integrated rain gutters direct water away from structure.

Abod is a high-concept example of a wider, tiny-home movement. Earlier ideas for micro homes sprang more from people interested in scaling down and minimizing their lifestyles. Abod, and other humanitarian projects like it, such as one in Austin, Texas, focus on tackling the problems of chronic homelessness and slum living. Yes! Magazine recently reported on a tiny-home village for homeless people in Olympia, Washington.

As someone who is frequently outraged by politicians’ disregard for poor people, it’s nice, for a change, to find practical projects aimed at helping, rather than punishing economically down-and-out folks. They’re not necessarily government programs, but they offer an excellent model that awaits a new era of progressivism in government.