September 15, 2011

MIT’s build prototype houses for $1,000 each

MIT has built the first prototypes from the Institute’s “1K House” project. It is an effort to see if low-cost homes for the poor can be constructed for $1,000, total.

The prototype, called Pinwheel House, was designed by Ying chee Chui MArch ’11, a graduate of MIT’s Department of Architecture, and has been constructed in Mianyang, in Sichuan Province, China.

The interior of the house designed by Ying chee Chui as part of MIT's 1K House project. Photo: Ying chee Chui

There are other groups working on basic housing for $300




Chui’s house is one of 13 plans that emerged from the first 1K House design studio, in 2009. It features hollow brick walls with steel bars for reinforcement, wooden box beams, and is intended to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

The Pinwheel House prototype was more expensive to build partly because it is larger than Chui’s original design — about 800 square feet, rather than 500 square feet. The smaller version of the house could be built for about $4,000, says Chui, now an architectural practitioner in New York City. That figure could be still lower if a large number of the homes were built at once, she adds.

The 1K House project has proven successful enough, and attracted enough attention, that Chang is overseeing a related MIT design studio this fall, along with a number of outside collaborators. This one aims to create a series of home designs, intended for Japan, which would cost $10,000 to build. Participants in the studio include architects and designers from Tokyo University, the Japanese architecture firm Tsushima Design Studio, Atelier FCJZ, the Japanese retailer Muji, and Vanke, a real estate development firm in China.

“The idea of the 1K house is very much about how could we, as architects in research institutions like MIT, work on world poverty,” Chang says. “This semester, the mission is more about how design could reach a bigger percentage of the population, in the middle class.”

The new design studio also aims to create homes that could be built inexpensively following natural disasters, such as the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan in March. Rebuilding in such situations, Chang says, often entails three stages of construction: the creation of temporary shelters, then stronger temporary homes sturdy enough for winter weather, and then permanent replacements for damaged or destroyed buildings.

Outside the actual house

A model of the house with the roof removed. Photo: Ying chee Chui

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