06/29/2010 07:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Open Source Housing Goes to Ghana

A few years ago the idea of socially responsible design, also known as humanitarian architecture, was viewed as the ugly stepchild of the architectural world. However, thanks to a new army of altruistic designers, where purpose trumps profit, it has gradually become part of the mainstream of the profession. A case in point is the OS House Design Competition. During the spring over 3,100 designers from 45 countries were hard at work developing ideas for low cost housing in West Africa. The result, a sustainable off the grid housing unit that could become a benchmark for the worlds' emerging middle class.

The winner of the competition was an international collaboration of designers based in Brazil, Mexico and Portugal. Blaanc + Joao Caeiro developed "Emerging Ghana" as an adaptable, locally built housing unit that incorporates natural building technologies. The design itself was a good interplay between creating a livable space and an energy efficient structure. The design seems tangible and will fit in well in the intended setting. Additionally the Ghanaian Ambassador, who was on hand at the awards ceremony, noted that this design cost around 2/3rds the current cost of middle income housing in the country. At scale, this could drop even further. Admit it, which one of you wouldn't want this home for $6000?


The OS House project was developed by Enviu and architect Vincent van der Meulen with Eight Design Prinicples for participants to follow. The team is working with local partners to build a prototype structure, to be built by end of year. As well as continuing to promote the implementation of more of the finalists they hope to realize more than 100, 000 OS-Houses in Ghana by 2020.

Is this the solution to the worlds' housing problem? No. But it is a solution, a site specific scheme that incorporates the desires of the community and the reality of building in an environment with stressed resources and limited funding.


About the OS House Competition