Vietnam Firm Trials Low-cost ‘S-House’

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
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Vo Van Duong’s bamboo and coconut leaf house looks much like others deep in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. But unlike them, his seemingly simple abode is designed to withstand typhoons, flooding and earthquakes – and at a cost of less than $US4000 ($A5051) could herald a new wave of cheap, sustainable housing.

The natural materials on its surface belie the hi-tech internal structure of the farmer’s new home, which uses steel struts and wall panels as a defence against the elements in the natural disaster-prone region.

“The new house is safer, I’m not afraid that it will collapse,” the 48-year-old papaya farmer said inside the house he moved into nine months ago.

Duong is testing a prototype by an award-winning Vietnamese architecture firm looking for low-cost housing solutions for communities vulnerable to climate change.

His S-House 2 was free, but if rolled-out on a wider scale could be sold for less than $US4000.

“There was water coming down from the roof in my old house. Sometimes, when there was a strong wind, I was so afraid the house wouldn’t survive,” Duong said, adding his new home was the envy of his neighbours.

The eco-home is the brainchild of Vo Trong Nghia, who joins other architects around the world in trying to fill a demand for cheap and easy to assemble housing – from flat-pack refugee shelters to shipping-container homes for tsunami victims.

He says all architects have a duty to help the poor.

“What about those with low income, billions of them, how can they live?” Nghia said.

“They have the right to live in comfortable, functional places.”

The design is still being refined by his team, who are eventually aiming to create a flat-pack home.  The newest version, S-House 3, can be built by five people in three hours.

“Our goal for S-house is for the owner to construct it by themselves,” said Kosuke Nishijima, a partner at the firm.

The latest design also allows for multiple houses to be tacked together, a function that could allow, for example, the construction of a storm-proof school easily transportable to remote areas or a larger family home.

Nghia has already been approached by NGOs in disaster-prone Bangladesh and the Philippines, but is not yet ready to supply the house commercially.

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