Sunday, February 7, 2010

Incremental vs. Traditional

Some thoughts related to incremental housing vs. traditional approaches in the case of Haiti.

1) People could get homes built initially much more quickly because they are building less. However, there would probably need to be as much planning up front. But once, a system or framework is in place, the planning doesn't have to go on and on, it can be tweaked for each place or context....without creating cookie cutter mass produced stuff. That is what is beautiful about it....it can take on a life of its own, and have individuality, culture, context, and place embedded in it without the architects designing it in. Also, like many good projects, there will need to be deep community involvement. Incremental housing would allow such involvement to exist, but keep it more focused and take up less time, which is critical in this case.
I am also wondering in haiti's case, if it would be possible to get people to start to rebuild their homes (with some planning) once the rubble has been cleared, etc. and then just wait for the infrastructure to return. They shouldn't have to wait for all the infrastructure to be fixed, etc.
2) It would also be designed for flexibility and changes to take place over time, if needs/problems arise, etc. This is not the case with how most buildings are built today. One more formalized strategy such as this is open buiding...
3)One challenge is that architects and engineers, even banks,etc, all work to design a finished building. There must be a plan, etc. A community leader in India said that when working with poor communities, it can be hard to get support for a project because everyone on the oustide wants a plan. But, poor communities in general don't have plan....they are just hustling to get through the day and make sure all the basics are provided. This is not to say that poor communities can't develop incredible plans, but outside entities need to be more flexible, etc. such as smaller loans, etc. Incremental housing could be interesting if you begin to think about it under a micro-financing possibility as well. But, these larger changes are hard to come by and pose great difficulties....

4) Another challenge for it work well, is that people would have to work within some sort of guidelines and rules as their house progresses and gets built. Communities that are effectively organized can do this, but with the situation in haiti, it might prove to be a challenge. But, getting a little but of regulation in there instead of trying to regulate all parts of the building process would be a huge advantage. I think we have over-regulated many parts of our built environment here in the US. So, less regulation is not bad, it just has to be strategic.

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