Brief: To design a resilient, modular and affordable home that costs under $10,000 for disaster (earthquake) affected sites. The houses should be quick to assemble, require minimal tools and expertise and be adaptable to utilise available materials.
Challenges: Creating a home which is earthquake resistant, quick to assemble, lightweight to transport to remote sites while being robust, durable and low cost.
Solutions: A modular plywood structural frame that can be easily and rapidly assembled without specialist equipment. Once assembled the frame can be readily adapted to accept a variety of local corrugated or flat sheet metal cladding, thatch or membrane type weatherproof skins. The modular design and robust portal frame structure allows the home to resist immediate aftershocks and future earthquakes. The modular nature also allows the home to be easily added to as family needs change.
Highlights: Applying advanced parametric architectural tools and prefabrication technology to respond to under-served populations in most need of innovative building solutions.
Design Statement: Ram and Gita’s Place is a modular building kit that encapsulates the simplicity and elegance of ancient woodworking techniques with the efficiency and sustainability of pre-fabrication and plantation timber. The design provides Ram, Gita and their three young children with a building kit that they can assemble themselves without prior training and repurposes materials from their earthquake damaged house, providing shelter within days, and saving on labour and material costs. The modular design and robust portal frame structure allows the home to resist immediate aftershocks and future earthquakes while providing longevity and adaptability to changing family needs.
Context: Ram and Gita Tamang, and their three children Shyam, Sita and Nima have just lost their home.
Their quiet, mountaintop existence in the small village of Bhattedanda Nepal, located 5km south-east from Banepa and 30km from Kathmandu, has been shaken by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. They need to rebuild their lives, their home and the community.
The site is only accessible on foot via rocky, steep sloping terrain. Rubble and roofing iron from the damaged home is available for reuse. Not much else is salvageable. The aftershocks keep recurring 6 months in, and with a harsh Himalayan winter closing in, Ram, Gita and family need a new resilient home to shelter in safely and without fear of collapse, now and for the next 20-30 years. The home needs to remain small and peripheral to crop and livestock that are vital for income production and subsistence.
Resilience: A design solution that is able to withstand lateral movement, has a small footprint preserving the land for subsistence farming and income-generation, can be assembled quickly to avoid winter exposure at high altitudes, and integrate local standards and building materials is key to achieving resilience to what life brings.
Construction ease: Step by step instructional diagrams are provided with the building kit ensuring instructions are clearly comprehensible without literacy skills or prior building experience. The structural frame is assembled using timber wedges and a timber mallet provided with the kit. Once the frame is erected local cladding and lining materials can be applied, module by module as funds become available or all at once. New modules can be added to the home with the same process and ease of assembly.
Cost effectiveness: Prefabrication and use of CNC technology minimises waste during fabrication, and the automation of repetitive cutting reduces labour costs and also makes use of composite panel products with superior strength to weight and environmental sustainability credentials. Structural pre-certification and DIY assembly by the family also contribute to keeping costs low.
Looking forward: The modular nature of the design makes it ready to respond to the specific social structures and cultural conditions of Bhattedanda, allowing for families to grow, and build new pavilions or extend existing ones as children grow up and have kids of their own. It also allows for the easy assembly of supporting building types crucial to financial sustainability of villages reliant on farming, such as animal shelters and small shop fronts, as seen in and around Ram and Gita’s place.