The world’s poorest citizens often have to make do with shelter… and that often involves scrap or natural materials found near shantytowns. In one sense, this is green building at its simplest; on the other, such structures provide minimal protection, while often creating risks for fire, suffocation from cooking smoke, and other hazards.
Last Summer, Dartmouth business professor Vijay Govindarajan and marketing consultant Christian Sarkar tossed out an idea on the Harvard Business Review blog: the $300 house. The concept: create a safe, sustainably-built structure that provided shelter and even some utilities (solar power and water filtering) at a price that the world’s poorest people might be able to afford. To keep costs and environmental impact down, the house would use prefabricated materials. People would buy the houses on a microfinance model.