| Self - Help construction of 1-story buildings |
|Basic planning and design|
|Size, shape, and floor plan|
In normal times, housing projects are more difficult to organize than community projects such as schools and health clinics. But after a disaster, such as an earthquake or flood, many people are in urgent need of new homes---at a time when they may be least able to afford construction or to think carefully about their new home's design without help. As a result, many agencies providing disaster relief have tried to design and build new homes for people ---only to find that the new homes stand empty because people don't like them. This problem can be avoided if field workers use the ideas suggested in this section to help families plan their own homes.
As with schools and clinics, the smaller a house, the less it will usually cost to build.
Here are some guidelines to help a family decide what their minimum needs are:
• The plans for a house should clearly show where each of the family's basic activities will take place. Even the smallest home must have adequate space, either inside or outside, for the family to sleep, cook, eat, and move around in comfort.
• In addition, the family should consider including space in its plans for a latrine and a shower. Latrines are especially important for every family's health. They can be designed as part of the main house itself. But there are several advantages to building latrines as separate structures on the same plot of land. For example, an outdoor latrine can be moved easily when it fills up.
• Other activities a family may wish to plan space for include laundry, prayer, and private space.
• When cost is a critical problem, a family can save money by using rooms to serve more than one purpose: for example, a single room can provide living and eating quarters by day, and sleeping space by night.
The following questionnaire can be used to help a family determine what kind of space they need and how many rooms they need to build.
Check over your answers to these questions. The information you've listed should help you decide exactly how many and what kind of rooms/spaces you need to plan.
To be useful and comfortable, a room must be large enough and properly shaped for its function. For example, a bedroom must be long enough for a person to lie down in and wide enough so he or she can get out of bed and in and out of the room easily. A latrine, on the other hand, only needs to be large enough for a person to sit or squat (unless people also plan to dress or wash in the same area).
The best way to make sure that a room will be large enough is to decide how large it would have to be for the largest adult likely to use or visit the home. Then the room will be comfortable for everyone.
[Note: Often the proper size and shape of a room is determined more by traditional requirements and social patterns than by physical comfort. Field workers must be sensitive to the community's needs and priorities and should explore them thoroughly with the family.]
Here are some guides for a "human" measuring unit:
- Most adults will be less than 2 meters tall;
- An adult usually needs 2/3 meter from side to nice and from front to back in order to move around; and about 1 meter, or nearly half his/her height to sit down.
A family's interest and confidence in a building project will be much greater if they are able to envision and plan their home's rooms themselves. A first and very important way the field worker can help them do this is to visit other homes in their community with them and question them carefully about their reactions. Some questions a family might want to ask include:
• Do we want our rooms to be larger or smaller than these?
• Would we like them to be the same or a different shape?
• How do we feel about rooms with more than one purpose (for example, sleeping, dining, and living)?
• Are the rooms we have seen easy to move around in, or difficult?
• Is working in the kitchen or laundry space easy, or does it take a lot of walking back and forth?
• Do family members get in each other's way when moving from room to room? Where and why?
Once the family is familiar with a number of different possible designs, they will need to put the actual size and arrangement of rooms in their new home on paper.
An easy way to help them get started is to give the family pieces of paper representing the "human" measuring unit. Using 12 cm. for 1 adult length is the most convenient scale since 1/2 adult is an even 6 cm. and 1/3 adult is 4 cm. The family will need pieces for:
* the length and width of an adult standing or lying down;
* the length and width of an adult sitting;
* the space an adult needs from side to side in order to walk or work comfortably.
* any furniture they have or special space needs (for example, in countries with cold climates, space may be needed for chamberpots in the bedrooms so people don't have to go out at night).
Remember that the pieces must be proportional to one another so that they can be used to get an accurate picture of the space needed.
NOTE: Extra copies of the planning pieces for use with a community group are provided in Appendix 8.
A family can design its own rooms by gathering pieces it needs for any room and then arranging them into a square rectangle, or circle.
For example, a family planning a bedroom for a couple and one child would need:
• 2 pieces of an adult length and width for the couple's sleeping area;
• 1 piece ½-length x ½-length for the child's sleeping area;
• 1 piece ½-length x ½-length for an adult to sit;
• 1 strip the width of an adult for clothing or storage;
• 2 strips the width of an adult for each parent to walk around their bed(s), and to walk to the baby's bed;
• extra pieces for large furniture or other needs.
Once the pieces are gathered, the family should try to put them together so they form a room-shape. There are many combinations possible for any room, so people should be encouraged to experiment with as many arrangements as possible.
When all the pieces have been placed together, a line should be drawn around them. This line represents the complete room
If the shape of the room is irregular, the field worker should help the family make adjustments until it is a simple shape.
Space can be added to complete a square, rectangle, or circle. Some of the space in walking areas can be carefully reduced by up to 1/3.
To find out what the dimensions of the final room should be, first calculate the number of adult lengths along the sides of the room.
Then the family, or the field worker, if necessary, should multiply the number of adult lengths by 2 meters.
The answer will equal the actual dimension of the wall in meters.
EXAMPLE: Calculation of Dimensions of Rectangular Room Above
½ adult length
½ adult length
½ adult length
1½ adult lengths x 2 meters = 3m
1 adult length
2/3 adult length
1/3 adult length
2 adult lengths x 2 meters = 4m
Room Dimensions: 3 meters x 4 meters
Here are some additional measures that may be useful in deciding what pieces the family must use in planning kitchens (or outdoor cooking areas), and dining areas:
• Work space in kitchens, especially counter space should be about 1/2 adult wide. Anything wider will be hard to reach across;
• Space for fuel in kitchens should be about 1/2 adult long by 1/2 adult wide;
• Dining space for each person (that is, space for the person to sit and space in front of him or her to eat) should be about 1/2 adult wide and 3/4 adult long.
Let's look at how the "human measuring unit" can be used to plan several rooms. These suggested plans may be useful if a family has problems picturing what they can do with the "pieces" for a room. ( Note: the field worker may want to adapt these illustrations if the furniture shown here is not relevant to the local area)
Kitchens may be inside or outside, but in either case, they must be big enough to store all utensils and food away from animals, and to provide working space; at the same time, they should be small enough so that everything can be reached easily without many trips between supplies.
Shelves and cupboards save floor space. In places where the kitchen is primarily for storage and most of the cooking is done outside, the kitchen can be smaller.
Latrines can be small: 1 m. X 1 m. However, if they are built longer, they will be easier to clean and to move around in. (See the separate section on latrines, page 188 for more details).
Bathrooms require room to shower or bathe, to dry oneself, and to get dressed.
A verandah, or porch, is really a room with 2 or 3 sides open to the air. It should be big enough to be comfortable for social gatherings, family, prayers, or other meetings; this means at least one adult wide and one adult long (longer for large groups), so that there will be room to sit or lie down, and to walk around anyone using the room.
When the number and size of rooms needed have been determined, the next step is to decide how they should be put together to form the house.
The easiest way to do this is to draw a picture of how the rooms would look from above if the roof were removed. Since it shows how the floor-space in the home will be divided among the rooms, such a picture is called the floor plan.
One thing to keep in mind when designing a floor plan is to keep the shape of the building as compact and simple as possible. Odd shapes and sharp angles are more difficult and more expensive to build than either rectangles and squares! Curves are also expensive except when bamboo, or similar materials are used.
As in planning room size, the family's interest and confidence in a building project will be greater if family members participate in the drawing of their own floor plan.
The field worker can help them draw the plan by giving them scale model pieces of paper or cardboard representing the rooms they have planned and helping them arrange the pieces in several different "floor plans".
Each possible floor plan should be discussed at length in order to determine how well it will fit the needs of the family.
When a final decision has been reached, the arrangement of the room-pieces can be copied on a single sheet of paper. This paper then becomes the floor plan.
Here are some step-by-step examples of how the floor plan for a small family's house might be developed.
Sample Plan #1: House for a couple with no more than 1 child
A good way to start a floor plan is to place the piece for the main bedroom (the room where the heads of the family will sleep) in the center of a sheet of paper.
For a couple with no children, this might be the bedroom suggested on page 37. This size has the advantage that a first child could be easily accommodated without cramping.
To this bedroom might be added a kitchen and a living/dining area (both kitchen and dining area are shown indoors here; if either or both will be outdoors, the space required may be very different).
At this point doors have not been shown in the illustration.
The home could be built on this plan. But any of several changes or additions to complete the square are possible. If grandparents or aunts and uncles are part of the family, they may require the main bedroom; in which case, a second bedroom would be needed.
In a nuclear family, a shower can be added, along with some storage or laundry space to complete the square:
Or, the same space can be used as a porch:
Finally, a latrine should be planned near the house, preferably where it will be sheltered from public view,
Sample Plan #2: House for a couple with no more than 1 child.
A less expensive alternative for the same couple would be to build a single bed/living-dining room using a screen to separate the two areas instead of a wall:
Sample Plan #3: House for a Small Extended Family or A Couple With 2-3 Children.
To design the floor plan for a slightly larger family, all the planner needs to do is add a new bedroom to the smaller homes shown in Plans#1 and #2.
For example, the verandah in Plan #1 could easily be remodeled as a bedroom for two children or an aunt and uncle:
Plan #1 could also accommodate a new room either next to the dining room, the first bedroom, or the shower:
In Plan #2, the original bedroom can be converted into a room for two children or grandparents, and a second, smaller room for the parents could be added on the other side of the kitchen area.
Sample Plan #4: House for a family of 4 or 5.
Here's another plan for a family of 4 or 5 that could be added to if the family continued to grow:
Some Points to Remember About Floor Plans.
• The kitchen and dining areas should always be next to each other so that food can be carried easily from one to the other. If dining will be outside, the kitchen should have an outside door.
• In countries where privacy is important, each bedroom should be planned with separate access to baths and/or indoor latrines, so people won't have to pass through someone else's bedroom.
• In many countries, standard floor plans for various size homes are available from the government or local architects and engineers. But check to be sure that these plans are appropriate for lower income family needs!
• A good way to find out what makes a good floor plan is to explore homes in the local area and copy or adapt successful ideas. Such a survey can be especially helpful in planning so that family members will not get in each other's way when moving about the house.