Appropriate Technology Sourcebook: Housing and Construction

Appropriate Technology Sourcebook: Housing and Construction
Appropriate Technology Sourcebook: Housing and Construction

“It is not so much ‘how to build’ as ‘how to choose techniques and materials appropriate to a given situation.’ ”
—letter from a volunteer in Papua New Guinea

There are housing problems everywhere, in industrialized as well as developing countries. In Jakarta, Manila, Mexico City, and Calcutta millions of squatters camp indefinitely in structures made of cardboard, sheet plastic and flattened cans, on strips of land beside canals and railways, sometimes even in the shadows of high-rise “low-cost” housing. In the urban United States, the great majority of homeowners could not afford to purchase the homes they live in today if they had to do so at today’s prices. In these and countless other urbanizing areas, the cost of a place to live is rapidly outstripping the ability of ordinary people to pay. Inflation of land values triggered by the growth of gigantic urban centers is one factor. The cost of energy intensive manufactured building materials, which inevitably rises faster than the other costs of living, is another.

In developing countries, the amount of attention and resources that public works administrations and development assistance agencies devote to housing is probably second only to that devoted to water supply. And the history of housing projects, like that of water supply projects, is largely a history of disappointments worldwide. In Housing by People (this section), John Turner notes that,

“ … it is common for public agencies to build houses or flats to standards which the majority cannot afford, nor can the country possibly subsidize them on a large scale. On top of this, it is not unusual for governments to prohibit private building of the type of housing the vast majority can afford and are satisfied with.” [That’s what we’ve been saying for years, and that’s a key reason for this blog.]

Turner argues that governments should not provide houses built to arbitrary specifications, but should instead make building codes more flexible and provide opportunities for secure access to land. An appropriate housing strategy would rely on a community’s initiative, thrift, and ability to organize and turn local resources to advantage to meet the basic human need of shelter. Many of the entries in this section provide illustrations and documentation of the power and validity of this approach.”

See more at Village

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