Habitat Observatory

    Paper Log House A rehabilitation solution for disaster victims
  Disasters render people homeless and immediate construction of homes with traditional/conventional raw materials is an expensive proposition. Use of raw materials like paper tubes and plastics, can be used for quick assembling and building, provided the techniques are known?

“Paper Log house” is an innovative solution to rehabilitate disaster victims. The technique has been used for constructing 20 houses of earthquake disaster victims in Kachchh, Gujarat. The solution promotes the use of locally available materials and simple techniques of design so that the local community can construct/replicate the same form of construction. The houses were designed to withstand the extreme weather conditions of the region. The paper log house uses hardened paper logs or card board tubes for constructing temporary structures. The tubes are also light weight, so it doesn’t require heavy machinery to work with them. To provide shear strength, logs are tied up with steel rods horizontally ensuring that the houses are earthquake resistant. Bamboo is used for arched roofing with a tarpaulin (thick plastic) for protection from rain and the plywood grid running along the roof base ensures that the roof is pinned properly to the walls of the hut. While for external protection, paper log walls are made damp proof by applying anti corrosive paint in the plinth, a compounded mud component is applied to the floor inside the hut to give a feeling of earthiness to the inhabitants. For cost effectiveness, concrete is used only in the foundation to give strength to the building.

Structural Details:


1. Main Frame: Split bamboo purling

2. Roof Cover: Cane Matting in 2 layers and Tarpaulin (thick plastic) in between.

3. Plywood grid/frame connecting the 4 corners of the roof, laid horizontally acting as bracing for wall and roof.


4. Steel rod for horizontal bracing

5. Paper tube wall placed vertically and plaster of paris (PoP) poured in corner tubes for stiffness and finishing.

Plinth   6. Painted with Red oxide/anti corrosive paint on external wall
Floor   7. Mud compound with manure for flooring
Foundation   8. GI Channels placed on pre cast concrete foundation base

9. Floor area: 3m x 4.8m

10.Height: 3 meters.

Shigeru Ben’s passion for experimenting with materials in providing shelter to disaster victims, has been recognized by the jury of Pritzker Architecture Prize for his outstanding contribution to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The award will be conferred to him on June 13, 2014, in Amsterdam.

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    Affordable Housing for the Urban Poor
  Under contemporary urban affordable housing schemes, be it JNNURM and its submissions or RAY, satisfying the demands of central guidelines and, at the same time, creating habitat worth of their beneficiaries is like squaring the circle. The schemes impose substantial constraints in terms of cost-efficiency: under ‘Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programmes’ (IHSDP) for instance, the ceiling cost for a dwelling unit is capped at INR 100 000/-. Under Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) and IHSDP, the maximum carpet areas for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) are capped at 27 sqm and 25 sqm respectively. Middle and high rise blocks of flats found in rural areas lack flexibility and do not allow for further expansion of the houses when needed by the families. Yet, surveys of communities living in JNNURM developments are unanimous: low-income urban families want, and need more space in order to welcome new family members, store their belongings, for children to study and for parents to run businesses from home.

In Trivandrum, the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) an NGO was appointed as a consultant by the Municipal Corporation to conceive and implement a redevelopment plan for the 9.73 acre Karimadom settlement. Under BSUP, a design that maximises usable space for every beneficiary family was created. Earlier most of the houses were dilapidated and barely inhabitable. Basic services are limited and the threat of epidemics looms large, especially during the rainy season when the entire area remains waterlogged for days.

The 14 Crore redevelopment project is structured into 28 pyramid - shaped blocks of flats, which will accommodate a total of 560 families. Each block comprises of 20 dwelling units: 8 on the ground floor, 6 on the first floor, 4 on the second floor and 2 on the top floor. The flats located on the ground floor can expand into the open space in front of the block of flats. Many residents have created space for livestock or small gardens in front of their houses. On the first floor, the two dwelling units located in the center of the building have a larger carpet area, to make up for the absence of a terrace. On the two upper floors, each flat has an individual terrace. Many of the residents have built on this terrace, turning it into a semi - permanent structure that can accommodate a variety of activities.

COSTFORD also devised a series of techniques to maximise residents’ well-being within a tight budget: by using bricks with a rat-trap bond masonry technique, the NGO was able to cut costs by 25 percent as compared to traditional brick constructions. This also dramatically improved the thermal insulation of the houses, as the air located in the cavities created by this sort of bond acts as a good insulator. The same thermal benefits were achieved by using filler slabs for roofing, which also cuts the costs of roofing by 30 percent. The development is also highly energy - efficient, as it includes a biogas plant that turns waste into energy for street lighting.

“The infrastructural facilities and services in this type of design are more economical than providing for individual units. The parks and open spaces facilitate better social interaction,” explains P.B. Sajan, Executive Director, COSTFORD. COSTFORD through their innovative model has indeed, squared the circle for low-income families.

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