As populations of the world’s poor continue to grow exponentially, the ratio of the human population living in inadequate housing is expected to escalate from one in seven to one in three by 2030. Not only are new solutions to affordable housing imperative in realising ‘housing for all,’ but the path of development will also determine the future of the human enterprise. Chopra, Tiwari and Parikh have advised that conventional building materials will be inadequate in meeting the growing needs suggesting the urgency for a new paradigm in building materials and architecture. This report delves into the global issues of sustainability, population, poverty and material resources, gaining insights from the many leaders in these fields both past and present. Through their research and experience, the challenges, theories and solutions to housing for the poor are illuminated in both the rural and urban contexts.

KEY WORDS: Sustainability, Poverty, Architecture, Renewable Materials, Urban, Rural, Slums, Resource use, Equity

Challenges to House a Growing Population

Josh O’Meara 2009

Deakin University, Supervisor: Dr. Robert Fuller

NOTE: This Thesis is the intellectual property of Josh O’Meara. Any use of it’s content requires the written consent of the author.


There is a growing concern that we are fast approaching or have already surpassed the limits to which our planet can sustain.[i] The stress on our planet has been driven by a minority in which 20 per cent of the world’s population consume 80 per cent of the world’s resources.[ii] The rapid development of the remaining 80 per cent of the world’s population is believed by Murphy et al.[iii] and Watson[iv] to be the potential tipping point for the future of humanity. Compounding the problem is a growing population driven predominantly by the world’s poorest of the poor. At present 1 in 7 people live in what is deemed inadequate housing and if no drastic interventions are taken before 2030 the population growth is expected to raise this ratio to 1 in 3.[v] It is therefore apparent that there is a critical need for a new architectural paradigm which is both thermally comfortable, affordable and environmentally sustainable if these people are to ever be housed adequately. This project will provide an overview of the relevant global issues such as sustainability, population, poverty and material resources, highlighting the challenges, theories and solutions in tackle the global burgeoning housing needs for both the rural and urban contexts.



Solar Power  

The most widely used definition for Sustainable development comes from Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Whilst this encapsulates the generality of sustainability, it remains rather vague and some assumptions must be made, such as, the abilities of future generations to adapt. Avery believes that the Earth Summits Agenda 21 (1992) was slightly more direct highlighting the fundamental causes of environmental degradation attributed to “the growth of world population and production, combined with unsustainable consumption patterns, places increasingly severe stress on the life-supporting systems of our planet.”[i]
Sustainability – poverty
The combating of poverty and the need for ‘international co-operation to accelerate sustainable development in developing countries’ are regarded in both reports as pivotal in humanities goal towards sustainable development. Enrlich stresses the need for knowledge and technological acquisitions.[ii] Murphy et al. highlight that if India has no technology change they can expect emissions to multiply by a factor of 5.4 between the years 1990-2020, which the authors believe could be a tipping point in global sustainability.[iii] Not only are these measures important for the protection of the environment, but as Graziana and Fornasiero,[iv] and Avery[v] agree it is also critical for the stability and peace of the world.
The Brundlandt and Agenda 21 reports both place great significance on the relationship between economy and environment. Work done by biologists such as Enrlich, have brought awareness that an economy based on boundless consumption is thwart with danger, warning that our environment provides limits inescapable biophysical constraints.’[vi] Thus, the population in which the planet can sustain is subject to our efficiency in the use of resources. Avery states that ‘if any species, including our own, makes demands on its environment which exceeds the environment’s carrying capacity, the result is a catastrophic collapse both of the environment and the population it supports.’[vii] Deforestation, desertification, extinctions, global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer, soil degradation, vanishing non-renewable resources and famines are all indicators which Enrlich[viii] and Vitousek et al. use to highlight that ‘the size of the human economy has reached or exceeded the limits of sustainability.’[ix]
The Solution…
The search for a solution towards sustainability has born to separate schools of thought. The first is believes in reducing consumption and an emphasis on low-technological solutions. In this view society needs to reprioritise its values, leading to a cultural shift, based on teachings from philosophers such as Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).[x] The other school of thought led by McDonough and Braugart[xi] is that through technology and innovation all obstacles can be overcome, believing commerce to be ‘the driver of change.’ Both of these views are highly plausible and whilst technology is likely to play a primary role, the feasibility of implementing new technology to the world’s poor is likely to be a distant prospect, favouring low technological solutions for the immediate future.
Growth of Developing Nations
Whilst these findings suggest a serious need to alter human behaviour to reverse the trends, the UN’s latest population projections of 9.2 billion people by 2050[xii] and the rapidly expanding global economy are likely to make this challenge increasingly difficult. In fact, in the immediate future the trend appears likely to worsen as Enrlich suggests; ‘the poor aspire and plan to consume as the rich do’ with Szenasy highlighting that ‘from the outside this looks very attractive.’[xiii] Whilst this is a growing concern, there is also a fundamental need for many developing nations to expand their economies as I will later discuss in detail. Glaring inequalities around the world indicate that the developed world needs to show leadership on the issue, accepting that ‘we are living beyond our means’[xiv] and insuring that the developed world avoids the same mistakes. The authors of Sustainable Cities and Ehrlich suggest that for the developing world to meet their needs the developed world will be required to ‘curb on their consumption and share with the developed nations,’[xv] which Sustainable Cities regards to be essential for the long-term prosperity of all. Graziana and Fornasiero highlight that ‘the limited availability of resources makes urgent the adoption of suitable strategies in the raw materials and energy sectors.’[xvi]
The role of buildings on sustainability and the material direction
As an individual sector the construction industry is likely to play the largest influence on sustainability. For example, in India, Parikh and Gokarn found the sector to be the biggest carbon emitter accounting for 17% of national emissions,[xvii] of which, Tiwari attributes largely to energy intensive materials.[xviii] Buildings also consume vast quantities of energy in their use and Murphy et al. calculated households to consume 12% of India’s energy.[xix] Whilst indicating significant contributions consumption percentages are again higher in the developed world, accounting for an estimated 23% of Australian greenhouse gas emissions[xx] and household energy consumptions of nearly 30%.[xxi] The developed world’s higher percentages indicates a striking disparity as the total emissions per capita are also significantly higher further re-iterating the need for a new path. The construction sector also represents a primary consumer of material resources. Shortages as well as increasing costs have led Chopra,[xxii] Tiwari and Parikh[xxiii] and Subrahmanyam et al.[xxiv] to advice that if developing nations are to ever realise ‘housing for all’ alternative materials are needed to complement or entirely replace the more conventional materials such as cement, steel, bricks and aggregates.[xxv] In Tiwari and Parikh’s work discovered that meeting criteria for affordable housing and sustainability were ‘interlinked’[xxvi] and could be addressed simultaneously, the solution to both, they found is the use of low-cost, locally available materials.
Sustainable Architecture?
Hardoy et al criteria towards sustainable development for architecture is ‘the minimization of non-renewable resources, sustainable use of renewable resources, staying within the absorptive capacity of local and global waste absorption limits and meeting basic human needs.’[xxvii]


The faces of poverty 

The World Bank estimate that half the world – nearly 3 billion people – lives on less than US$2 per day. Of the 3 billion, 1.2 billion live on less than US$1 per day which they consider to be living in extreme poverty.[xxviii]

Malthus’ dismal science and the UN’s goal to combat poverty

In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus published a book discussing poverty and population. Malthus argued that poverty was inevitable arguing that the poorest would always be in a struggle between survival and starvation, whereby prosperous times result in more births, consequently demanding more food and resources, thus, perpetuating the population’s struggle against starvation and poverty. Contemporaries such as Avery and Enrlich acknowledge the role in which population plays on improving living standards, signalling a need to reduce populations. Enrlich suggests that ‘most fundamentally important is the education of women, because that education is then applied to improving the health, nutrition, and well-being of families, which in turn results in lower infant and child mortality. And increased survival of children reduces the pressure to overproduce as insurance for support in old age.’[xxix] Educational facilities for females could therefore play an important role in a nation’s development and could be the focus of an architect’s work.

In competition to Malthus’ view, the UN in their Millennium Declaration indicate that combating poverty whilst a long-term goal, is possible. There appears two ways in which this can be made possible, the first that the inequalities in resource consumption are smoothed, or in the long-term, technology allows sustainable economic growth.


Poverty and Housing
Yeh highlights that ‘income is the most important determinant of housing characteristics.’[xxx] The UN are critical of policies which have traditionally not dealt with this underlying cause, placing greater attention to the surface issues rather than developing economically sustainable solutions.[xxxi] The fundamental dilemma of the housing problem as Yeh describes ‘is that, on the one hand, the community and government cannot afford the resources commensurate with the housing need, and, on the other hand, the great majority of the urban population is too poor to build adequate housing without public assistance.’[xxxii] The solution must therefore either be growing the nation’s economy or providing more affordable alternatives. The latter obviously results in more immediate outcomes. Despite the obvious benefits of such alternatives these appears to undergo a high degree of opposition. Fathy[xxxiii] and Wegelin[xxxiv] both describe the lucrative nature of the construction industry, who because of their invested interests, build walls, ensuring governments direct their money to conventional projects. This indicates that there are many forces at work and often the optimum solution will be made impossible due to internal and hidden factors indicating a greater need for individual interests to be put aside. The opposite view is highlighted by Yeh that ‘an effective housing program can serve as an incubator for positive social and economic change.’[xxxv] Whilst conventional building are likely to bring greater benefits to the economy, Fathy criticises the experts who ‘postulate alternatives that they know don’t exist,’[xxxvi] fully aware that conventional building is beyond the means of many governments and poor. Tiwari highlights that despite having less benefits to the economy, low-cost techniques are often labour intensive providing greater per rupee employment, in other words jobs for the poor.[xxxvii]


‘Urbanisation of poverty’
The UN describes the current phenomenon of unprecedented global urbanisation as the ‘urbanisation of poverty.’[xxxviii] In 1996 the UN estimated that people living in life- and health-threatening urban environments accounted for 600 million people, with this number expected to triple by 2025.[xxxix] The UN’s 2003 report states that ‘almost 1 billion people, or 32 per cent of the world’s urban population, live in slums,’ and in the least developed nations this percentage can be as high as 78.2 per cent.’[xl] The UN believes that ‘urbanisation holds out both the bright promise of an unequalled future and the grave threat of unparalleled disaster,’[xli] and this will be dependent on the interventions taken.


The perception of slums has developed from the ‘tendency to evaluate them according to inappropriate middle-class values and standards’[xlii] to a greater understanding of their ‘dynamism and high potential for self development.’[xliii] Turner played a pivotal role in evolving society’s stereotypes of slums writing in the 1960s that ‘alongside shacks and shanties, squatter neighbourhoods also had virtually ‘standard’ houses. The UN recognises that this has led to policies evolving from largely ‘negative such as forced eviction, benign neglect and involuntary resettlement, to more positive policies such as self-help and in-situ upgrading, enabling and rights-based policies.’[xliv] Skinner[xlv] and Ward[xlvi] agree that one of the most critical factors in slum self development is the ownership of land or the feeling of security as they highlight that occupants are unlikely to invest their time and money if there is the threat of eviction. Delago suggests that not all slums are progressive and all slums generally suffer from factors which contribute to inadequate housing as listed in the UN’s The Challenge of Slums.[xlvii] The UN describes efforts to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers to be feeble and incoherent over the last decade or so’ and as the phenomenon grows exponentially unprecedented co-operative efforts will be required. Furthermore Wijkman and Timberlake suggest that ‘political economic structures are such that hardships are always passed onto the oppressed’[xlviii] suggesting that as resources become more scarce it will be the poor who are affected first, perhaps suggesting a need for greater self-sufficiency. The complexity of the issues involved are epitomised by Skinner, who highlights that upgrading, which would appear utterly beneficial often leads to people being unable to afford official prices and rent gains. Skinner suggests that governments must flood the market to ensure the poor residents are more secure.[xlix]


Planning and designing for the poor
Yeh highlights that when planning and designing for the poor, ‘there is really no useful model to follow from either Europe or America.’ Yeh attributes this to the peculiar socioeconomic conditions and constraints’ often involved.[l] Fathy also suggests that an architect designing for the poor must essentially abandon all that they have been learnt through ‘the system of private urban building,’ and develop more affordable systems free from costly ‘building contractors and sophisticated materials.’[li] Whilst Fathy successfully implemented alternative systems in a rural environment, the challenges are likely to be again greater within the urban context. Another economic consideration is the relationship between the cost of labour and materials, which could have profound implication on design and construction methods. For example, due to India’s abundance of available labour Tiwari has labour intensity as an objective,[lii] which is quite opposite to the objectives in developed countries where labour is expensive. Tiwari also highlights that on-site energy consumption in construction of housing in India is very low between 0-10%, whereas in developed countries it is closer to 30%,[liii] again suggesting that decisions be based on local circumstances.




Housing the Rural Poor

Rural Vs. Urban
Murphy et al. found that those living in rural India had 25% lower CO2 emissions in comparison to similar socio-economic persons living in the urban context.[i] This could suggest rural living to be more favourable for sustainable development although Murphy et al. suggest rural emission could turn out higher in the future, which they fail to elaborate on.


Poverty in the Rural Context
Rapid urbanisation and the growing of slum settlements has resulted in the issue being well reported. As part of the urban environment, slums are also readily seen. Less obvious is poverty in rural contexts and Chopra warns that despite the ‘urbanisation of poverty’ ‘the rural housing problem, if anything, is likely to get more accentuated with time.’[ii] Despite this, Yeh highlights that the rural context remains conducive to people building ‘their own shelters, using local materials and indigenous technologies’ which would undoubtedly be advantageous in meeting housing needs.

Chopra environmental guidelines for designing in the rural context

– Rural materials

– The strategy for meeting requirements of materials for

– rural housing should be :

– (i) the use of naturally occurring materials available locally so as to lower the cost of materials in housing ;

– (ii) the use of local craftsmen and their skills and build houses in the slack season ;

– (iii) no disturbance in the natural environment, ecological balance and socio-economic fabric of rural society; and

– (iv) avoidance of industrial pollution.[iii]


Fathy and Palleroni

Two architects who have had success with the rural poor are Hassan Fathy, who worked in Egypt and Sergio Palleroni, who has worked in Mexico. Despite the many decades separating the work of the two, their views on architecture for the poor are strikingly similar.


Mass production
Yeh suggests that ‘the art of low-cost housing development lies in adjusting design standards and costs without endangering the short and long-term welfare of the target population.’[iv] Fathy and Palleroni are most critical of these sentiments which fail to consider the occupants as human beings but rather numbers. Palleroni questions whether the designers would ‘live in the buildings that they are designing for others.’[v] Fathy highlights that the costs of concrete is beyond the means of the poor and therefore cuts are made in design, whereby the architect designs ‘one house and adds six zeroes to it.[vi] The results as Palleroni argues are houses with no relationship to the people or place, all the same and with no consideration of climate or culture.[vii] They both suggest that ‘it costs more to produce this form of ugliness.’[viii]


Locally renewable materials, self-help, traditional techniques, sustaining tradition and culture
Fathy concludes that there is essentially only one possible building material that the poor can easily acquire at essentially no cost, ‘the earth beneath their feet.’[ix] This in partnership with the people’s labour and under the technical, aesthetic and economic guidance of the architect was to provide the solution. Despite the economical mud brick walls, Fathy found the roofing to be expensive due to the timber.[x] His search for an alternative led him to discover historical mud-brick vaults, which he proved to be a highly economical alternative, costing less than a quarter of that of concrete.[xi] Palleroni shares the view with Fathy that buildings are more powerful than just the physical benefits they provide, but sees their empowerment on the people who gain ‘ownership of their political and social processes.’ Ward highlights that an understanding of leadership was crucial in interpreting the relative successes and failures of each community.[xii] Perhaps most importantly Palleroni’s work ‘reassures the people that the way they live is good and like Fathy designs to their social, environmental and economical needs.’ Palleroni highlights that he tries to create houses that ‘are fully economical, economical in the long-term, so considering heating costs, cooling costs and maintenance costs.’


Construction method – contract, self-help
Tiwari highlights that ‘in India, like other developing countries, house construction is predominantly a self-help activity.’[xiii] The reason for this as Fathy suggests are the economic advantages over a contract system. Fathy states that the high cost of rural housing schemes (contract system) ‘result not only from the expensive materials used; it results from the system by which the execution of the work is placed in the hands of private builders. In this system Fathy argues much of the funds are lost to middle men.[xiv] Fathy adopts the traditional method of village building, a co-operative system and makes it work under non-traditional conditions. Fathy highlights that the houses in Gourna, built under this system cost L.E. 84 per house[xv] in comparison, Fathy states that under a contract system a house would not cost less than L.E. 500.[xvi] Whilst self-help is generally seen as the best solution for housing the poor, Burgess criticises the process, regarding it as a way governments redistribute the burden back onto the poor’s shoulders.[xvii]




Rio Slums

Yeh believes that providing affordable housing in urban environments is unquestionably more challenging than the rural counterpart.[i] Contributing to the challenge is the need for residents to be near the city epicentre for their employment, raising the prices of land, demanding higher densities and often the need for multiple-storey construction and even high-rise. High-rise building makes the implementation of local and renewable materials more difficult and the more sophisticated structures often require imported materials and higher levels of skill levels in their construction, generally placing this typology beyond the means of the poor.[ii] Medium- High-rise construction leans towards a commercial contract in which governments are required to play a much greater role.[iii] Abrams points out that self-help housing is predominantly a rural phenomenon, but in urban environments manifests itself as slums.’[iv] Perhaps it is slums that provide insight into the solution, as they manage to achieve high population densities without growing upwards permitting self-help housing and renewable and locally available materials. For example Ward found that the criticism slums received for their low densities were unwarranted as in Los Reyes in Santo Domingo densities were 211 people per hectare. Ward highlights that these densities are seen to grow significantly over time where he found that in the older Sector Popular densities of 753 people per hectare were seen.[v] In the 1960s John Turner was influential in altering the stereotypes held of slums writing that ‘alongside shacks and shanties, squatter neighbourhoods also had virtually ‘standard’ houses.[vi] Thus, indicating the naturally progressive transition of squatter developments. Whilst Skinner highlights that squatter settlements generally start out using ‘waste materials urban economies generate in abundance’[vii] but as Turner suggests as assets are accumulate the material selection becomes more conventional. Wijkman and Timberlake highlight that ‘political economic structures are such that hardships are always passed onto the oppressed’[viii] suggesting that as commercial materials become increasingly scarce, the poor will suffer most, highlighting urgency for developing alternatives. There appears a need for the commercialisation of locally abundant and renewable building materials, as these are not so readily available within the urban context.


Development of naturally abundant products
The development of the most appropriate materials will inevitably be subject to place and building needs and as Graziana and Fornasiero highlight that the ‘distance between the source of energy and raw materials and cities,’[ix] are also pivotal consideration. Subrahmanyam et al. saw a great opportunity to develop laterite as a building material, not due to any certain characteristics of the material, but as can be seen in figure 1. it is located in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where a high percentage of the poor and developing countries are found. The result of their work was a low-energy commercial product, Latoblocks, whereby lime is mixed with the Laterite and pressed by a portable machine.[x] As Fontana highlights Natural Materials have large variability in their characteristics[xi] compared to Industrial products and their inherent weaknesses often require the addition of additives. Chopra highlights the importance of Research and development in improving the potential and versatility of natural and locally available materials, also important in making them more affordable.[xii] Tiwari suggests that there is also a misconception that cost-effective environment-friendly (CEEF) technology cannot be applied to multi-storey buildings[xiii] and therefore this potential could be further developed.


Renewable materials
The development and choice of renewable materials will also be determined by location and their sustainable exploitation will require a large degree of vision, planning and management. Chopra highlights that India, like many other developing nations has ‘diminishing resources of timber,’ and highlights the imperative need to conserve these remaining forests.[xiv] Hilborn et al. raise similar concerns stating that ‘assessments indicate that a high proportion of the world’s primary production is already being appropriated in one way or another for human uses, so we may be very near (or even beyond) global limits for total yields of natural products.’[xv] It is therefore apparent that the use of renewable materials will be limited to some extent under current circumstances, and there to be a critical need to invest land into developing these resources to meet future needs. Avery highlights that ‘this will be easiest in countries where the population density is low, and difficult in countries that already have problems in feeding their people.’[xvi]

The versatility of renewable materials becomes evident in the work done by Smith and Fontana suggesting that ‘with the correct choice of building methods 20 storey or taller timber buildings are technically possible.’ Whilst this is likely to be beyond the means of the poor in the immediate future, medium- rise constructions could become feasible if the development of timber resources created locally available sources. Timber also being more workable could allow a less skilled workforce in comparison to steel, which for many countries is an imported material. Renewable materials could also be readily implemented in secondary and non-structural elements of buildings with Chopra suggesting bamboo and coir fibre to be implemented in functions such as roofing and as partitioning materials.[xvii]


Designers, Place and People
The need to adopt locally available materials, suggests that designers develop their mindset and become more perceptible to place. In an age of generic cities and buildings, our goal towards sustainability provides the need for a new direction and a need to consider the local. Through the work of architect’s such as Palleroni this is critical not only for the sustainability of environments, but also cultures.





In conclusion the solutions to poverty and environmental sustainability appear to be linked as Tiwari hypothesised. If both are to be realised, Enrlich suggests that the developing world’s population be controlled and the consumption of the developed world reduced, as to provide greater global equity. It is apparent that unprecedented global co-operation will be needed as well as cultural shifts at the individual and national levels. Environmental technology is likely to play an important role and it should be made readily available to the developing world. There is a need for a new architectural paradigm which utilises renewable and passive energies, local and renewable materials and relates to the culture and people demanding that designers gain a greater perceptibility to place to allow them to utilise these resources to the fullest. The author suggests the need for a counter-movement to the generic framework used in urban and building design which neglects the unique opportunities each location presents. Renewable materials, such as timber, by their nature must be considered in the long-term and strategies should be developed to expand these resources to provide resources for future generations. Locally abundant and renewable resources should be further developed through research and experimentation as to improve their properties and potential applicability. Commercial interests need to be set aside to allow for the development of low-cost materials and construction methods, pivotal if the poor are to be housed adequately. Fathy’s unconventional system for organising construction, developed specifically around the circumstances of the poor, appeared to be successful, but the verdict remains unresolved as it was used only once and many decades ago. A contemporary experimentation would be beneficial. Unprecedented urbanisation indicates the role in which cities must play in sustainable development and the use of renewable materials in high-rise applications should be further developed. Perhaps most critical is the need for action and the belief that sustainability and combating poverty to be obtainable, but this both will not come without a fight.


Lessons in Structural EfficiencyMelbourne's Best Architect



Book about Architecture for the Poor

Achieving Sustainable Development and Promoting Development Cooperation, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, United Nations, New York, 2008


Avery, John Scales, Energy, Resources, and the Long-Term Future, World Scientific Series on Energy and Resource Economics – Vol. 4, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd, Hackensack, NJ, USA, 2007

Avery presents an extensive overview of the many developments in human history in a compact and easy to read form. The book follows development in philosophical thought, as well as developments in economics, ethics and the environment, highlighting the predicament we currently face. The vast scope in which Avery covers provides the reader with a sound general knowledge of all of the many issues facing sustainability. This book is a fascinating read and one in which I intend to read in further detail in the coming weeks.


Chopra, S.K., Building Materials: Perceptions and Projections, Building and Environment, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 289-294, Pergamon Press, Great Britain, 1991

Building Materials: Perceptions and Projections delves into possible solutions to the high-costs and shortages of traditional building materials (bricks, concrete, steel) in India. Chopra highlights a need for alternative materials recommending the need to use naturally occurring materials in rural environments and waste products and polymers in urban environments. His work highlights economical and environmental factors which should direct the choice of material selection and production which should be different depending on locality.


Davis, Sam, The Architecture of Affordable Housing, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California, 1995


Enrlich, A. H., Towards a sustainable global population, in DC Pirages (ed.), Building sustainable societies, ME Sharpe, New York, pp. 151-65

This report builds on the extensive work done by Urlich in the field of sustainability with his focus on populations and environmental carrying capacities. The research provides a comprehensive overview of all of the aspects that constitute a sustainable/unsustainable population such as; population projections; growth trends; consumption; the changed environment; the dangers of a developing world; a need for population control; the relationship between female education and birth rates and warns a need for change. The change has to come from both the developed world where consumption must be drastically reduced and population control methods and sustainable development in the developing world.


Fathy, Hassan, Architecture for the Poor: An experiment in Rural Egypt, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1973

A life dedicated to rural architecture for the poor, in Egypt, Fathy provides insight into the many issues and solutions that his life work helped him conclude. Fathy held the position that the only building material which is affordable, readily available and accessible to all is earth and therefore is the obvious material of choice. Fathy also gave great emphasis on taking lessons from tradition, in which he believed the answers to housing problems for the poor lay. Fathy was extremely critical of conventional housing projects which he scrutinised for having no relation to either place or people and which came at exorbitant costs often the result of the contract system where many middlemen boost a projects cost. Fathy held the belief that under the architect’s learned guidance, using proven traditional techniques in combination with the available assets of earth, that the people’s labour through a cooperative system was the solution to Egypt and many other developing nations housing needs. Fathy’s publication is highly insightful not only to the challenges facing poverty but also the many challenges one would not imagine. The ultimate failing of his work as he believed was the result of authoritative opposition whose invested interests lead to the undermining and slander of what he had achieved and the solutions he had proposed. Fathy highlights that the construction industry is in all countries a powerful sector and non-commercial solutions are likely to receive heavy opposition.


Fontana, Mario, Creative Structural Engineering with Natural Materials, Structural Engineering International, Volume 18, Number 2, May 2008 , pp. 113-113(1), International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE), Chicago 2008

Fontanta highlights the growing need for designing towards sustainability, whereby, material and resource use will be key. He encourages engineers to take up the challenge of using natural materials despite the increased challenges in modelling due to their variability. Despite these variability’s Fontana highlights their many noble attributes and their capabilities in wide-ranging functions.


Graziani, Mauro and Fornasiero, Paolo, Renewable Resources and Renewable Energy: A Global Challenge, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, 2007

Unfortunately I was unable to get complete access to the publications. The editor’s preface to the publication was very succinct and relevant to the issues I am researching. Most notably they highlight a need for the ‘maximisation of source diversification,’ which will be specific to the geographical locality. A large portion of articles are concerned with renewable energy and plastics from renewable resources, which are not of great relevance to my Thesis. Despite this there are two chapters which would have been particularly relevant to my work looking into the renewable resources, trends and opportunities in developing countries.


Hall, P, Cities of tomorrow: an intellectual history of urban planning and design in the twentieth century, Basil Blackwell, London, 1988


Hanvey, Robert G., An Attainable Global Perspective, Theory into Practice, Vol. 21, No. 3, Global Education pp. 162-167, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (Taylor & Francis Group), 1982

Hanvey highlights the attributes that contribute to attaining a Global Perspective. Whilst the report is not specifically relevant to my research, largely being targeted towards the educational industry it highlights certain aspects which we all could benefit in considering. The report highlights the role in which world media plays in shaping societies global perspective. Hanvey states that world poverty is generally overlooked by the media in favour of the ‘extraordinary,’ which could potentially be detrimental to developments in this area.


Hilborn, R.I., Walteri, C.J and Ludwig, D., Sustainable Exploitation of Renewable Resources, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1995.26:45-67, Annual Reviews Inc.,

Hilborn et. Al provide an extensive overview of the issues surrounding the sustainable exploitation of renewable resources. The authors highlight that all renewable resources will at some time be overexploited and that to be important in providing lessons of the resources capabilities of reproductive surplus. The authors highlight the many theories developed on the subject, in which Gordon’s economic theory is perhaps most important. Gordon’s theory ‘assumes that when individuals are unregulated they attempt to maximize individual profitability,’ to the ‘point where it is not profitable for anyone to further expand their effort.’ It is the controlling of exploiters which the authors consider most critical and the need for ‘creating incentives for them to behave more wisely.’


Koch, Gerhard and Kunze, Christine and Seidl, Josef, Loam Construction – From a Niche Product to an Industrial Building System, Wienerberger AG, Austria

This brief report has been organised by Wienerberger AG, the ‘world market leader in bricks’ and highlights their move into commercialising loam bricks. Whilst the report is a commercial promotion for their product in development, the report highlights both historical and present trends with the use of the material. The report also highlights the materials environmental credentials as well as its potential in multi-storey applications.


Livermann, DM 1990, ‘Vulnerability to global environmental change.’ In SL Cutter (ed.), Environmental risks and hazards, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, pp.326-42

In Livermann’s study he highlights those who will be most vulnerable to climate change. Whilst he believes all will be affected by global environmental change, interestingly some countries could benefit. Whilst this is the case it appears that those most vulnerable are those already suffering from the greatest inequalities. It seems that the poor who often live in already marginal environments will be further burdened and their lack of means and resources will make adaption to a changing climate most difficult.


McDonough, William and Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press, New York, 2002

McDonough and Braungarts publication is quite radical as they abolish the commonly held notion that humanity and environment are at opposing ends and that being less bad is our greatest realisation. They highlight that if this is the case then human extinction is inevitable and by becoming more efficient only delays our expiry date. Their view that man can live in harmony with nature but not only this actually aid its health also dispels the notion that population is a critical factor in sustainability. The book provides a vision in which the economy and industry drives change sparking the second coming of the industrial revolution whereby everything is meticulously designed and there is no longer waste, by-products, pollution etc. Whilst their vision is immensely convincing it is likely to take time to be realised so in the immediate future less bad might be necessary to provide the necessary time. The revolution suggested which is to be driven by commerce also suggests that their vision will be realised in the already developed nations. It is therefore likely to take many more decades before the technology will be shared or becomes affordable for developing countries.


Murthy, N.S, Panda, M. And Parikh, J, Economic growth, energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions in India: 1990–2020*, Environment and Development Economics 2 (1997): 173–193, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997

Murthy and company analysis the linkages between economic growth, energy consumption and CO2. They investigate the relationship according to three groups of the economic tree; bottom, middle and top in both rural and urban environments. The authors highlight that at present there is a 25% greater expenditure of emission among the urban population in comparison to that of the rural. The report projects that if growth, both economic and population, continues to grow at current rates that 1990 emissions will rise by a factor of 5.4 by 2020 to 812mt if there is no change in the production technology. The authors warn that if this is to become the case, with no-technology-change occurring, this ‘could lead to global unsustainability.’ The report provides extensive break-downs of energy usage on the varying scales from the individual, to the sector, to the national consumption figures. This provides useful data in which people at all levels can act to reduce emissions. A most relevant finding to my work is that in India, household energy usage accounts for only 12% of commercial energy consumed compared to nearly 30% in most developed countries.


Neuwirth, Robert, Shadow Cities: A billion squatters. A new urban world, Routledge, New York, 2005

Neuwirth gained his understanding of slums through living in four of which were all in different continents for a total of two years. Neuwirth tells of an intimate side of slums where the citizens are as he describes ‘the most law abiding around’ and where the sense of community is strong, united in their struggles. He makes reference to the urbanisation experienced during the industrial revolution when living conditions were likely to be worse than modern day slums. He sees the progressive side of slums which from his experiences are continuously improving and calls for greater co-operation from governments and communities to work with these hard working people.


Parry, M & Livermore, M 2002, ‘Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger,’ in RE Hester & RM Harrison (eds), Global environmental change, Royal Society of Chemistry, UK, pp. 109-37.

Parry and Livermore’s study analyses the expected changes climate change will have on global food supply. What is perhaps most concerning from their research is that it was believed that climate change will have its most negative effects on regions already suffering from food shortages. They found that the northern hemisphere can generally expect better growing conditions while much of Africa and Southeast Asia will be most negatively affected. They believe that this in contribution with the developed economies greater ability to adapt is likely as to aggravate inequalities in development potential. The highlighted that the rapid population growth in the region’s most negatively affected is also likely to magnify the problems of food shortages.


Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects


The 2006 Revision: Highlights, United Nations, New York, 2007

This report was useful in gaining an understanding of the anticipated population in the coming decades and where the growth is likely to come. The UN anticipate that the population is most likely to grow to 9.2 billion people by 2050 from the 2006 total of 6.7 billion. The population of the developed world is expected to remain steady with the growth coming from the developing world.


Rojas, Eduardo, The IDB In Low-Cost Housing The First Three Decades, Operation Policy Division, Strategic Planning and Operational Policy Department, February 1995

Subrahmanyam , Dr. B. V., Rajamane, N. P. and Balasubramanian, N., ‘A new low energy – intensive building material based on Laterite soils for low cost housing in Developing Nations,’ International Council for Building Research Studies and Documentation, Appropriate Building Materials for Low Cost Housing, Vol 1., E. & F. N. Spon, New York, 1985


Skinner, R.J., and Rodell, M.J., People, Poverty and Shelter – Problems of self-help housing in the third world, Methuen & Co., New York, 1983

Skinner and Rodell provide an extensive introduction to self-help housing, from its traditional origins, to how it has evolved both in its nature and in public perception and policy frameworks. The introduction is both a literature review of how perception and solutions to the housing problems have evolved, critiquing the success of varying policy implementations. The authors highlight the complexity of the housing problem and the pressing issues and many hurdles which continuously impede progress which can vary from place to place. The publications chapters are a collaboration of essays which include general overviews and technical treatises on various aspects of project planning; where self-help programmes fit into the social context of Third World countries and general reviews over the success of implemented policies. The publication was very useful in its summary of historical developments and highlighting the varying trains of thought and developments.


Smith, Ian and Frangi, Andrea, Overview of Design Issues for Tall Timber Buildings, Structural Engineering International, Volume 18, Number 2, May 2008 , pp. 141-147, International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE), Chicago 2008

Smith and Frangi highlight the major issues when designing tall timber buildings. They highlight that nature intends for timber to function as tall structures, optimised by a tree of 150m which holds the Guinness World Record. They discuss the public’s perception of timber vulnerability under fire which they highlight are no longer applicable due to the technical knowledge in design and fire safety. They state ‘there is no continuing reason to prescriptively limit permissible heights of timber buildings.’ They highlight that while timbers structural properties appear quite inferior to concrete and steel, once the mass per unit volume is considered the comparisons become much less skewed. They highlight that modern engineered timber products also have twice the structural performance of sawn timber. The authors highlight timbers versatility to be either ‘bulk filler and compression functions like concrete, or general structural functions like steel.’ For slender building geometries over 8 storeys the authors highlight that composite structures, using timber in conjunction with steel or reinforced concrete, will generally provide for the best results. They found that timber buildings, even those designed without engineers in the past have shown ‘exemplary’ capabilities of withstanding events such as earthquakes and cyclones.


Smith, Ian and Frangi, Andrea, Tall Timber Buildings: Introduction, Structural Engineering International, Volume 18, Number 2, May 2008 , pp. 114-114(1), International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE), Chicago 2008

The authors introduce the Structural Engineering International journal dedicated to Tall Timber Building. They highlight historical circumstances which have restricted the allowed height of timber buildings, but indicate, that due to great developments in fire control this is likely to become increasingly liberated. They believe that 10 storey timber buildings could become part of the urban landscape with 20 storeys being the limit to what is technically possible.


Tiwari, Piyush, Housing and development objectives in India, Habitat International 25 (2001), pp. 229-253, Elsevier Science Ltd., Japan, 2000

This report follows the aims of many of his previous works, finding a solution to India’s housing needs in consideration to cost, CO2 emissions, but this time also puts a greater emphasis on employment generation. He highlights that in India, like most developing nations, construction is predominantly a self-help activity. This have significant implications to energy consumption, where, in developed countries, on-site energy consumption accounts for around 30% of the total construction energy, whereas in India, this can be as low as 0-10%. Tiwari highlights that whilst low-cost materials, by their nature, produce less economic activity; they do have higher ‘per rupee employment generation compared to pucca construction. Whilst Tiwari fails to elaborate on this, the author assumes he is referring to a greater amount of work for unskilled labour, hence maintaining a high number of jobs but at less cost. Whilst reducing labour in developed countries is seen as preferable, Tiwari highlights that, labour, being less expensive in the developing world is often seen as beneficial to the economy to increase. Much of Tiwari’s findings presented in this piece are the same as in his previous work.


Tiwari, Piyush and Parikh, Jyoti, Housing paradoxes in India: is there a solution?, Elsevier Science Ltd., Mumbai, 1999

Tiwari and Parikh have developed an optimisation model to calculate both the cost and CO2 emissions involved in three different construction techniques, over three decades, at three different growth rates, if India’s housing needs are ever to be met. The authors find a direct link between cost and CO2 emissions whereby low-cost housing techniques such as mud blocks, hollow concrete blocks, filler slabs and Manglore tiles where the optimal solution for both. The authors conclude that ‘the present trend of construction practices is unsustainable from the resource availability and the environment point of view’ and that a new solution, such as the use of locally available materials is required if ‘shelter for all’ is to ever become a reality.


Tiwari, Piyush, Sustainable Practices to Meet Shelter Needs in India, J. Urban Planning & Development, ASCE, Tsukuba, Japan, JUNE 2003 Vol. 129, No. 2, pp.65

Tiwari’s research was immensely helpful as it directly related to my area of research. Tiwari delves into solutions to India’s housing shortages with regard to building materials and construction techniques considering a multitude of criteria such as; affordability; CO2 emissions; labour intensity and employment. Tiwari found that if India’s goal to create 2million houses annually is to ever be met in an affordable and environmentally sensible way that low-cost techniques such as stabilised mud blocks should be implemented. He found that low-cost techniques were 57% of the cost and only 35% of the CO2 emissions compared to conventional building materials and techniques such as; concrete, cement, brick, steel, aggregate etc). He highlights that in the context, whereby the construction industry accounts for 17% of India’s CO2, being the country’s largest single contributor, this could provide substantial emission reductions. He states that a simple switch from energy-intensive conventional materials to low-cost technology would reduce the CO2 emissions for the 2million houses from 39 million tonnes to just 14million tonnes. He also highlights that conventional materials have more than doubled in the last decade and are now beyond the reach of the lower and many in the middle classes. Tiwari fails to elaborate, but highlight that there is a misconception that cost-effective environment friendly (CEEF) technology cannot be applied to multi-storey buildings. This is likely to be a critical criterion now and in the near future as India continues its urbanisation resulting in an increased need for housing in higher density environments.


United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT), An Urbanizing World: global report on human settlements, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996

The report discusses the ‘largest migration in human history’ whereby this unprecedented urbanisation holds either the bright future or the ‘grave threat of unparalleled disaster.’ By 2025 it is expected that 5 billion people will live in urban environments, far surpassing fifty per cent of the world’s population and a doubling in total from the 1995 levels of 2.4 billion. The report highlights the urgency required to improve current living standards and ways to avoid disaster giving direction via two routes. The first route is the concept of sustainable human settlements development and the second is the notion of an ‘enabling’ role for government. The report highlights that 600 million people in cities and towns throughout the world are homeless or live in life- and health-threatening situations. This number is expected to triple by 2025 if drastic intervention is not achieved. The report highlights the particular vulnerability of women and dependent children, ‘a feminisation of poverty that is rapidly becoming one of the most urgent issues on the international agenda.’ They stress the fact that these global issues affect us all and we must therefore all play our role.


United Nations Human Settlement Programme, The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on human settlements 2003, Earthscan Publications, London and Sterling, 2003

This publication is very likely to be the most extensive ever undertaken regarding slums settlements. The urgent need for action is apparent in the studies findings that 1 billion people live in slums and this number is likely to double by 2030 if drastic measures are not taken. The phenomenon is now recognised as the ‘urbanisation of poverty’. The report is extensive in its investigation of the issues involved and provides many recommendations and case studies. The report lays particular emphasis on poverty reduction measures. While seemingly obvious, many past policies have aimed at tackling inadequate housing through improving the physical environments whilst not addressing the underlying issues. The interventions were therefore economically unsustainable as the people could not afford to occupy the buildings as the increased running costs and rents were beyond their means. This is an important consideration for designers who have to ensure that their buildings are viable throughout the life of occupation. The report believes that up-scaling and replication should be the driving principles of slum upgrading.


Ward, Peter M., The Squatter Settlement as Slum or Housing Solution: Evidence from Mexico City, Land Economics, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 330-346, University of Wisconsin Press Stable, Wisconsin, Aug., 1976

In Ward’s research he seeks to delve deeper than the stereotypes associated with slum settlements criticising this as being inappropriately judged by middle-class values and standards. He highlights that they are very complex and varying, often providing a high proportion of a cities population with opportunity. The research discusses the differences between progressive settlements to those that remain static and the processes and obstacles which divide the two. Through greater understanding Ward hopes that government policy can be better directed towards the low-income people’s true needs. Ward champions squatter settlements highlighting their natural progression and views self-help housing as a legitimate solution, which empowers the people and gives them control to invest towards their priorities.


Woodruffs, Lars, design e²: the economies of being environmentally conscious, Force entertainment, 2008

This series of documentaries looks into the most recent developments in sustainable design. The episodes look at the sustainability of cities, the role politics and more stringent building standards have to plays on sustainable development, adaptive reuse of both old buildings and waste materials and insight into the leading designers in the field. The episode of particular relevance delves into the idea of sustainability for all and looks at the work being done by Sergio Palleroni in Sonora, Mexico with his Texas university students. Also of relevance is an episode that looks into the developments in China which is the primary example of the developing world and the strain placed on the world’s resources and the role China must play if the world is to avoid catastrophic environmental failures.


Yeh, Stephen H.K., and Laquian, A.A., Housing Asia’s Millions: Problems. Policies, and Prospects for Low-Cost Housing in Southeast Asia, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Publications, Ottawa, 1979

Yeh and Laquian’s publication is a very good resource for understanding the many different approaches and policies taken by the various Southeast Asian countries studied. While providing the reader with a good understanding of the policies and developments as well as the success and failures, the research, now approaching thirty years is more useful from a historical perspective. At the time of publication many of the countries had weak housing strategies or were in the process of implementing them. Many of the countries analysed have undergone significant economic growth since the publication and therefore a more recent evaluation of their progress would be interesting. Interestingly the two countries most successful in the study; Singapore and Hong Kong used high technology, use of imported materials, and complex managerial and financial organisations to fulfil the housing needs. Whilst these were solutions to improving the housing standards and catered for the high densities, the understanding of sustainability has since grown and therefore would need to be considered in future developments.

This Thesis was also featured in The Enlightened Capitalist.