Homeless Housing Project

Torrential rainfall during Indian monsoons forces hundreds of homeless families in Delhi to huddle under trees or be drenched in makeshift cloth homes. Most of these families arrive in urban cities from rural villages in search of employment, but the construction jobs they obtain provide insufficient money for basic sustenance, let alone shelter. According to the Census Board of India, there are an estimated 200,000 homeless people in Delhi alone. Harnessing my passion for design, I embarked upon a journey to create an affordable shelter for migrant workers and homeless families. 

Understanding the Issue

In order to begin the design process, I began by submerging myself into the context of this issue. I followed families during their daily lives, compiled interviews, and gathered insights into their struggles. Here are some of the primary issues I learned about:

Heat

Humidity and heat was a chief complaint of many families that I talked to. The conditions were such that families were forced to sleep outside – inside the tent was sweltering – in the company of mosquitos and unsafe conditions.

Rain

In the heart of monsoon, the largest problem was the frequency of harsh storms, paired with the inability of families to protect themselves. I listened to stories of tents flying into the wind, of gaping holes forming in roofs and of water drenched families shivering together. Coupled with the presence of strong winds, the situation of these families was no better than the children I witnessed soaked and shivering under the branches of a tree. In these conditions, simple colds often spiraled out of control.

Mosquitos

In the monsoon, the biggest travail for these families was the prevalence of mosquitos. Humidity and rain are the perfect environments for dengue and malaria, and without access to a sealed shelter or bug spray, mosquito bites are inevitable. The lack of healthcare also means a single bite could be devastating. It came as no surprise when Pooja, a mother of five, told me that two of her children had already passed away due to sickness.

The Idea for an Affordable Shelter

Between conversations with government officials, interviews with the homeless, hundreds of sketches, and overflowing trash bins, my eureka moment finally occurred on my commute to school when I noticed rows of concrete stormwater pipes lying abandoned and waiting. All the ideation and concepts fell into place as I envisaged transforming these eight-feet wide pipes into a shelter. More importantly, I was determined to make this shelter solve the main three issues aforementioned. 

Prototyping

Using the materials I had around me, I went into a phase of rapid prototyping to come up with a range of solutions.

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1:10 Scale Model
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Sketchup Render

As part of this investigation, I heavily researched the properties of these stormwater pipes, and I began tailoring the shelter according to what I learned. To effectively convert this pipe into a house, I decided to create bamboo panels that could fit into the side-ends of the pipe; I chose to use bamboo – after experimentation with various materials – as it was affordable, sustainable, and locally available. In addition, in order to provide for the needs of the homeless families I had talked to, the panels included plastic flaps and mosquito nets in order to seal the inside of the pipes. These flaps would have the ability to be removed or attached using Velcro, while the nets would provide respite against mosquitos.

Construction

Upon constructing the panels, there was a fair amount of on-the-spot problem solving that ensued. The first issue: the panels would need to be easily transportable. Revising the concept, I tweaked the design of the panels to make them fold up for transport and unfold during installation. I had also initially planned to add hinges to the doors, but in order to make it foldable and transportable, I had to come up with another solution. Instead, I created wire joints that could simultaneously act as a hinge while allowing the panels to fold flat. From finding nails that wouldn’t split the bamboo to refining the velcro attaching mechanism for the flaps, small refinements like these contributed to a more effective final product.

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Nailing together the frame, bamboo, and plastic sheets
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The panels were designed to fit inside a regular minivan – no special transport required
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Setting up the panels at a construction site near some abandoned pipes
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Installing the panels on the first pipe

Final Concept

Installing modular bamboo panels at the ends of the pipe, this home provided reprieve against heat, protection from mosquitoes, and shelter from the weather. Inside, two bamboo beds accommodate two adults; they can also be folded up for additional interior space. Light fixtures (with a connection for a solar panel if available) also give families an alternative to gas lamps and out-door fires formed by burning trash.

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Finished installation of the first product
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Interior bamboo beds that can be folded up
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Swinging door for access into the pipe
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Permanent mosquito nets seal the insides while plastic flaps can be opened or closed for ventilation

The concept’s prime advantages can be tied to the stormwater pipe. For one, stormwater pipes like these are built according to a standard set of dimensions. This means that the bamboo panels I designed could be scaled across the country without requiring individualized specifications. Furthermore, the concrete structure is sturdy, and the concrete’s capillary action with the Monsoon rains allows cooling during peak summer. Finally, the inside of the pipe is continuously ventilated, as the shape incurs a wind tunnel effect. Naturally, standing inside the pipe was actually quite pleasant without any cooling energy required. To further capitalize on this wind tunnel effect, I created a jute bag that could be hung on the side ends of the pipe. Upon soaking this bag, the wind will automatically blow cool air into the pipe using evaporative cooling and zero energy.

Problem → Solution

Heat → Jute Bags Create Evaporative Cooling with Wind Tunnel Effect

Rain → Durable Concrete Structure

Mosquitos → Insides are Sealed with a Net

Video Proposal

Future Steps

  • Creating artwork on the exterior of pipes to add a humane touch to this home
  • Determining scaling plans for various communities
    • I will primarily be focusing on working with construction companies, as pipes are often dead space at construction sites, and the migrant workers who are not offered housing could utilize these pipes.

 

Stay tuned for V2 coming June 2019