History of the client, group, or target market I was designing for:

The idea of the $300 House originated with Christian Sarkar, an entrepreneur and marketer who came up with the idea while working on a project in Haiti, helping the Solar Electric Light Fund raise money to solar-electrify clinics for Partners In Health. To promote the idea of the $300 House, Christian submitted a blog post to one of his clients at the time, Professor Vijay “V.G.” Govindarajan at Dartmouth, and suggested they send it to the Harvard Business Review. As spokesman for the idea, VG was awarded the Thinkers50 “Breakthrough Idea Award” in 2011.

The goal is to design, build, and deploy a simple dwelling which keeps a family safe from the weather, allows them to sleep at night, and gives them a little bit of dignity. If we can give the poor a chance to live safely and build an inclusive ecosystem of services around them which includes, clean water, sanitation, health services, family planning, education, and micro enterprise, maybe we can start reducing the disease of poverty. By helping create this ecosystem, we believe companies can make money while providing services needed by the poor at an affordable cost.

What competition, comparative, or related design work is out there?

This house is based off of basic construction methods to make it simple and cheap to build. The design appeal is the ability to transform its one room into either a public or private space depending on the activity, by lowering or raising the beds to any desirable height.


The leaf-house is inspired by the shape of a leaf and the system it has to collect water and gather energy for its own lifecycle. The same has been used as an application for a minimum living unit. It is thought for countries with favela problems like Brazil.

The house is based off of the Cordwood house building technique, which is a simple house structure that has standing structures that are over a thousand years old. Many Cordwood houses that are hundreds of years old are still here in the United States. Pioneers built rugged, easy and simple housing for themselves, and now modern homebuilders have returned to this design.   Recent Cordwood houses have been built that are affordable to heat, maintain, and are built for a fraction of other house prices.

What Primary Research already exists?

Thinking Integrated Services: This isn’t just about building houses. Ask: can we design a $300 house village which provides the poor a chance to live safely with access to an inclusive ecosystem of services which includes electricity, clean water, sanitation, health services, family planning, education transportation, and micro enterprise? Can we build jobs into the ecosystem?

Thinking Global: The market at the base of the pyramid is approximately $5tn, according to the World Resources Institute. With communities around the world looking to better their lives, we’re receiving queries from all over the world.

Thinking in Sustainability: Use green and renewable materials where possible, and think of long term project sustainability. Will the community have the skills and know-how and means to operate and maintain their houses a year from now? Three years? 10 years? How can this be built into the business model?

Thinking in Affordability: This isn’t for the middle class. The whole point of calling our challenge the $300 house was to force businesses to focus on radical affordability. If it isn’t affordable, it isn’t sustainable.

Thinking in Collaboratively: Find ways to partner with governments, NGOs, and community members at all levels. Perhaps “hybrid” business models are the way forward.

Thinking with Reverse Innovation: This isn’t just for developing economies. The lessons learned by building a $300 house in India, Haiti, or Indonesia could be translated back to build a $3000 or even $30,000 house in the US. The materials, design, layout, will all be informed by the decisions made in the design of the $300 house.

What feedback can you find from previous projects?

After the $300 house contest, a workshop was held at Dartmouth University where selected designers and architects further sharpened their ideas. Jack Wilson, team leader at Dartmouth, was preparing to build two pilot projects in Haiti, one rural and the second urban.

It is so encouraging that companies were also looking at the issue not just as charity but as a business opportunity. The future of corporate social responsibility is solving real problems. This is where foundations should look to spend their money; not as public relations, but as an attempt to build scalable business models which treat the poor as respected customers. Only then will we be able to solve the problem of affordable housing.

For example, a self organized team from Indian corporate giant, the Mahindra Group, won the corporate award for our design challenge. The team built an integrated village with civic amenities like sanitation, water, toilets, solar power and recreation areas. The project was a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project in Bihar for a community whose village was wiped out by a flood.

The engineers also executed another set of projects in Pondicherry, India, where rehabilitation housing was provided to house tsunami victims. While these were not $300 houses, the team from the Mahindra Group, working in their spare time, designed a low-cost house for the rural poor. The senior management brought together various divisions of the company to rethink their initial design, and ended up building entire planned communities in rural India.

Who is the target market? Demographics? Educational level? Typical Lifestyle? Media, eat, work, holidays? Aspirations? Needs, wants, and desires?

Transitional Housing has identified two distinct market segments of customers based on age; those who are under 30 and those who are 30 and over. The distinction is important because of the high percentage of clients with children, and those in the younger market segment having far younger children. The under 30 age group is growing annually at 9%, and the 30 and over age group growing at 8%. The two groups respectively have 165,454 and 158,745 potential clients. The overwhelming majority of clients come from lower socio-economic population groups. These segments can be difficult to communicate with, yet their use of Transitional Housing’s services would give them some profound benefits. The good news is if the people are willing to accept help from Transitional Housing they are far more likely to be able to get out of the dire circumstances that they currently face.

The other service providers are temporary shelters that only allow stays of less than 30 days. These service providers are only housing shelter; they do not offer the in-depth self empowerment programs. Some alternative service providers take the form of religious service organizations that assist clients, but on a much smaller scale. The lack of true competition makes Transitional Housing the premier source of interim housing and life skill training. Other agencies would like to offer the comprehensive services that Transitional Housing offers but are unable to because of organizational design constraints or economic restraints. The following sections provide demographic detail regarding the target market.

What Secondary Research will you conduct? Do you have a statistical composition of the user group? If not, then how would you create one?

The vast majority of homeless veterans (96%) are single males from poor, disadvantaged communities. Homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. The number of homeless female veterans is on the rise: in 2006, there were 150 homeless female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; in 2011, there were 1,700. That same year, 18% of homeless veterans assisted by the VA were women. Comparison studies conducted by HUD show that female veterans are two to three times more likely to be homeless than any other group in the US adult population.

Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor.

Roughly 56% of all homeless veterans are African-American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8% and 15.4% of the U.S. population respectively. About 53% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities, compared with 41%of homeless non-veteran individuals. Half suffer from mental illness; two-thirds suffer from substance abuse problems; and many from dual diagnosis (which is defined as a person struggling with both mental illness and a substance abuse problem). Homeless veterans tend to experience homelessness longer than their non-veteran peers: Veterans spend an average of nearly six years homeless, compared to four years reported among non-veterans.

What are the criteria you used in your Secondary research? What was the feedback from this research?

For the secondary research I look for the statistic about the people that are homeless and the reason why there are homeless. Transitional Housing has segmented the market into two distinct categories: women under 30 years old and those 30 and older. This is a significant distinction since the children of the younger group will be younger as well. Some demographic information that is relevant to both groups.

What Qualitative Information exists? What Quantitative Information exists?

The typical sheltered homeless family is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children.

  • 84% of families experiencing homelessness are female-headed. This is due to a number of factors:
  • Most single-parent families are female-headed (71%). Single-parent families are among the poorest in the nation and as such, are extremely vulnerable to homelessness
  • Many family shelters do not accept men into their programs, causing families to separate when they become homeless
  • Families of color are overrepresented in the homeless population. Nationally:
  • 43% are African-American
  • 15% are Hispanic
  • 38% are White, non Hispanic
  • 3% are Native American
  • Families experiencing homelessness usually have limited education:
  • 53% of homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma
  • 29% of adults in homeless families are working
  • 42% of children in homeless families are under age six

What are the drivers influencing this project? What barriers need to be overcome?

While I was out of the country visiting Colombia, I had the chance to get to know about its culture and met habitat of people that also struggle with housing. I did some research on the materials that can be used to solve this problem that will allow me to make a house for a budget of $300. I found out that is a lot cheaper to buy the materials in Colombia. The biggest barrier that I had to overcome is finding the right material at the right price. Next I will explain what is the price of the materials that are needed to build the house.

Value of the dollar in Colombian pesos:

$1.00 dollars is equal to $2,944 Colombian pesos.

$300.00 dollars is equal to $883,200 Colombian pesos.

Prices of Materials:

One steel panel dimension width .90 meter and length 2.45-meter cost $23,950 pesos

One construction tube dimension 1 ½” x 3” 6-meter-long cost $32,900 pesos

One sheet metal screw cost $.80 pesos

One angular 3” x 3” 6-meter-long cost $22,500 pesos

One hinge cost $5,888 pesos

One roof ridge cap 10 ft. long cost $17,958 pesos

Amount of Materials we will need:

21 steel panels dimension width .90 meter and length 2.45-meter cost $502,950 pesos

9 construction tubes dimension 1 ½” x 3” 6-meter-long cost $296,100

1000 sheet metal screws cost $8,000 pesos

2 angular 3” x 3” 6-meter-long cost $45,000 pesos

5 hinge cost $29,440 pesos

1 roof ridge cap 10 ft. long cost $17,958 pesos

Total of material cost: $899,448 is equal to $305.52 dollars