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This House Can Be Built In A Day, At An Affordable Price

A recipe for very quick, modular construction could help solve housing needs in the developing world.

Need to build a house quickly? Or build a lot of houses quickly to shelter a growing population? This plastic mold framework is filled with cement and sand, with plumbing, electricity, window, and door frames placed “between the formwork.” The shell of the house is ready overnight.

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Moladi, from South Africa, is aimed at the huge need for affordable housing in that country. It’s featured in the Cube, a recently opened design museum in the Netherlands, that promises “design for human needs” in its first show this month.

The main idea: very quick construction. “The question is whether conventional building methods are able to cope with the ever-increasing demand for quality homes,” says Moladi founder Hennie Botes, in an email.

“Due to the simplicity of the method, construction techniques and skills can be transferred in a short time. In this way, the communities benefit from affordable shelter and entrepreneurs are skilled at the same time, creating employment,” he says.

The framework, which is reusable, goes up in four hours and is filled with the mix in about two. The walls are set on reinforced bar foundations and left to cure for three to seven days. Adding roof, windows, and doing some painting takes another three days.

So, in all, building the first house in a given area takes about two weeks, Botes says, with each subsequent house going up each day after that.

There are lots of reasons for the lack of affordable housing in the developing world, as a recent McKinsey report showed. Usable land remains locked up by bureaucracy and planning restrictions. Not enough financing is available for low-income people. But building also takes too long and is too expensive. Systems like Moladi, along with more modular and preformed building techniques, could allow construction to proceed at a faster pace.

The exhibition, titled “Designing the World,” is co-curated by Design Indaba (from Cape Town, South Africa), Cooper Hewitt New York, Powerhouse Australia, Mind Museum Manila, Design Museum Taiwan and Design Museum London. For more on the Cube’s exhibits, see a selection here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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