microHome Solutions believes that improving access to technical advice, awareness building, and enhancing local mason capacities will improve quality and safety standards in housing construction. The mHS Commitment is to design a widely accessible delivery structure for technical advice that makes relevant home-building information available and accessible to masons and homeowners on an affordable fee basis through community centers called TeAK (Technical Assistance Kiosks).
The new evolved concept of TeAK, which builds off of lessons learned in the previously completed pilot program, is to develop standardized architectural and engineering solutions for the neighborhood. The standards would replace customized solutions that are too high-cost to deliver. The solutions are essentially drawings that are easily readable and illustrated. The drawings could, for example, depict the possible layouts for a 4x5 meter house or the structure (foundations, columns, beams, wall specification) necessary to make the units structurally safe. In the future, an application will be developed for use in TeAK to undertake quick customized delivery of housing design. Based on the architectural and engineering design, the app will provide a list of necessary materials as well as cost estimates (similar to the IKEA planner application).
To summarize, the first part of the mHS commitment thus is to find innovative, structural designs that are cost effective and can be adopted for use in Ahmedabad. mHS will work in partnership with local and international engineering firms to identify a design that meets the seismic conditions of Gujarat and that is acceptable by the community. mHS commits to find structural innovations in construction techniques that are economical, efficient, and easy to adopt.
The second part of the commitment is to make this solution accessible to the communities that are engaged in self-construction and create a delivery mechanism (TeAK) to deliver it to neighborhoods of Ahmedabad. TeAK is envisaged as a one-stop shop, which will provide access to knowledge, enhance capacity of construction workers, and offer customized technical construction expertise in low-income urban neighborhoods. Local TeAKs will be supported by an R&D team managed by mHS and will operate in partnership with local NGOs that are working in such neighborhoods.
The first pilot demonstrated that in order to influence the current construction practices, technical advice should be readily available in order to effectively develop an infrastructure within the community, as opposed to a satellite team making periodic visits. Additionally, linkages with local entrepreneurs in the construction business (masons, contractors, electricians, painters, etc.) will ensure knowledge transfer and long term investment in community capacity. mHS will bring interdisciplinary expertise and play the role of role of project manager. They will coordinate fundraising and bring their expertise in community development, finance, and architecture to incubate pilots and manage the partnerships. NGO partners, Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) Mahila Housing Trust (MHT), and Saath Urban Resource Centres will mobilize the community and provide operational support in running the TeAK Centers. Further, industry collaborations will be initiated to create a TeAK Advisory Group to refine the TeAK concept and develop a strategy to scale-up.
The overall scope of TeAK is to influence and catalyze new construction and incremental housing to ensure that the production of low-income housing stock is safe, healthy, and remains affordable. This commitment will build off the pilot in order to identify scalable solutions to the problems of safety, quality, and health. Evaluations will be conducted throughout to ensure that lessons are learned and other low income households can benefit from TeAK services.
August/September 2012: Engagement with engineering firm, site visits in Gujarat, and development of the technical and structural design solutions.
October 2012: Work in partnership with SEWA MHT, set up the first TeAK, provide center technical construction advice to 100 potential households.
December 2012: Establishment of one more Technical Assistance Kiosk (TeAK) in collaboration with SAATH Urban Research Center in Ahmedabad to deliver the same construction technical assistance to their existing customers.
February 2013: Creation of an advisory team for the TeAK to refine the concept for scale-up and seek other partners; Facilitation of workshops and awareness sessions with stakeholders.
March 2013: Fundraise to scale-up TeAK Centers, R&D to standardize the structural solutions and to support the expansion of the TeAK to one other location.
May 2013: Review and evaluation of customer satisfaction and review of TeAK Center design and strategy.
December 2013: Final evaluation.
India's urban population is expected to increase from 357 million in 2010 to 586 million by 2030, which will exponentially increase the need for affordable shelter and housing for the poor. While the policy focus is on the private organized sector to deliver housing, the majority of affordable housing is provided through self-construction (a practice of incremental housing where low-income households are closely engaged in construction with assistance from local masons). There is a need to acknowledge self-construction as a scalable solution to housing and an efficient bottom-up source of housing and an urgent need to catalyze this market segment and address the challenges it presents, which are complex and multifold.
The first major challenge is the quality of construction. Rampant vertical growth is increasing the risk of unsafe construction and life safety. Homeowners are adding units to accommodate family expansion or to generate income from rentals. These households not only lack access to information such as building bye-laws and codes, but adhering to codes written for formal housing has cost implications and can compromise precious living space. The second major challenge is that poor households lack access to construction professionals such as architects and engineers. The perception in India is that these services are only for the elite class, of high value, and unnecessary for small dwellings. microHome Solutions (mHS) believes that the need to design solutions where it has never been can have great marginal impacts on health, life, safety, and quality of life.
In order to catalyze the self-construction market, mHS undertook a pilot in Mangolpuri, a low-income neighborhood of 100,000 people in Delhi in partnership with BASIX, a microfinance institution (MFI) that provided up to $6,000 in construction finance. Technical assistance was provided to 12 households (selected by the MFI) by a satellite team of construction experts that provided advice ranging from cost-estimates to monitoring support during construction. The main challenges were poor structural quality, lack of ventilation, high levels of humidity, and expensive maintenance. It was particularly difficult to advise clients on the importance of structural safety and to implement the minimum requirements. This commitment will build off of this pilot to create a sustainable and scalable model.