CAN THE GLOBAL HOUSING PROBLEM BE SOLVED?
I’m getting sick of thinking about profits. One thought here is that if we think about how we can benefit others, it might benefit us in someway too. So I want to revert to the question: what do we have to offer? We’ve mentioned technical skills and business innovation. Marketing is also an important need in implementing the kinds of solutions Groundwork advocates. It is important from the perspective of business, politics, social and cultural issues and education.
The simple fact that you have a good product or a good solution to a problem doesn’t guarantee its success, doesn’t guarantee that you can sell it and people will adopt it. Addressing the global housing problem (or the global housing market) requires marketing and education.
First, the users themselves, the people who will be getting housing and who will be building it, must be motivated. They need to understand the solution, see how it will benefit them and believe that it will work. This entails a program of education and wide spread dispersion of the ideas. A sales or promotional campaign.
Political. To get anything like this done requires the participation and/or approval of many people: the government, the neighbors, other businesses, maybe even other countries.
It is likely that any housing program will have a significant government component. Low cost housing is often financed or promoted by governments. Government regulations will impact most programs. Therefore educating and “selling” the government is critical.
Similarly we need to gain the understanding, support and/or participation of businesses, neighbors and others who are impacted by or have an influence on our programs.
I remember a small community we were working with in Grenada. People’s houses, small one room shacks, had no sewage handling. People were in the habit of defecating on the beach. There was a community toilet and shower in the middle of the village that had been built by the British. I asked them why they didn’t use that toilet. They said because it was very dirty, which was true. I asked why it was dirty. They said because there was a person paid to clean it, but he wasn’t paid enough so he didn’t clean it often or well. The overall situation posed a significant aesthetic and health problem. It’s an interesting question why it was not solved. The community could have organized itself to share this task and obtain a clean toilet and shower facility.
Non-sequitur. The following example is interesting to me. It was brought up by Joe Deringer who is designing energy codes for Egypt. Cairo is a city of 15 million. 90% of the housing is “informal” built by people ad hoc with little control and little help. They buy brick and steel and do the building themselves. They make houses with thin walls one brick thick. Joe is an energy expert and noted that these houses are uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter. If they could only get a layer of insulation on the outside, they could be a source of comfort: holding cool stored from the night and avoiding heating up from the sun. Is there a way that these people could make such insulation with local resources? Is there a way for us to contribute to that? There is one very obvious and quick way to help. Information. Information is relatively cheap. Just making people aware of the way insulation could help, helps them. People understanding the problem and the opportunity will incorporate their creativity in looking for solutions and ultimately in producing improved housing. Could Corning scientists figure a way to use local materials and local labor to create insulation for these houses?
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