True Economy - Getting Value For Virtually No Money

We've all either done it or seen it: the less money someone has, the more likely they are to buy inferior products or smaller packages of products - each of which ultimately end up costing them more. This kind of false economy ensures that the climb out of the gutter remains as tough as possible.

It is also evident in much more than someone's decision over which jar of peanut butter to buy.

Take housing, for example. There are nearly a billion people living in slums around the world, and this number is rising rapidly. If there's one word that defines slum housing almost everywhere, it would be makeshift. This creates a lot of potential problems: susceptibility to disease, the uncertainty of impermanence, and exposure to the elements - all of which impose unnecessary mental and physical burdens on already-stressed slum dwellers.

And then there are the costs to society: slums can breed crime and violence, and can be disease incubators, among other things.

Slum dwellers are also often preyed upon by unscrupulous operators that charge a premium to provide basic services to the poorest of the poor.

So, dealing with inadequate housing is something that could potentially benefit every element of society. Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar certainly believe so. Govindarajan - who is Professor of International Business at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth - and online-marketing consultant, Sarkar, proposed the idea of The $300 House late last year, and it is catching on fast.

So, what is the idea? It's really very simple: "Funded by relief organizations, we will utilize new technologies and sustainable materials to design a $300 house for developing countries." And in designing it, they want to take the following things into account: materials, adaptability, energy sources, community environment, meal preparation, lighting, clean water access, waste disposal, food sources, local commerce, play, and sleep.

Which could keep you very busy, because right now they want your ideas. 'The $300 House' Challenge is offering a total prize value of $25,000 for the best "concepts and designs for a house that can be built for under $300." Get to it - the challenge ends later this month!

The rewards extend far further than the prizes. Like Govindarajan says, "It's not opening a door to a house, it's opening a door of opportunities." Here he is explaining the rationale behind this project:

Dec 18, 2011
by Anonymous

Less than $300 for an Emergency Shelter ?

I too have been working on this idea but for a different intention. The target market would be for emergencies both natural and man-made (earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, refugee and the homeless). It's main purpose is that it provides a safe refuge for sleeping and protection from the elements and handle all types of weather and temperature's all about keeping a particular code body temperature both day and night. It's main energy source for warmth comes from the body heat of the inhabitant and for cooling some type of heat synch design with solar powered fans. It should be able to filter water for drinking and bathing purposes.

It should also keep people safe from diseases and animals such as; mosquitos, spiders, snakes and larger wild carnivores such as wild stray dogs or whatever inhabits the local area. Keeping the inhabitant safe from other human beings is the most likely threat.

It has to be portable while maintaining some of its benefits while being moved. It should also be easily maintained and not too difficult to setup or take down and lastly affordable. It also can't be too attractive that others might want to steal it or gain money from recyling its materials or selling it on the black market. In periods of crisis it would be critical to get as many of these to the victums as possible, therefore a super lightweight, compact and capable of being parchuted into the crises zone. The instructions must be stamped into the parts and no words should be used...just images of how it is suppose to be constructed. No tools should be required. It ought to snap and unsnap easily and be built primarily out of the same material or as few as possible.

If anyone would like to email back and forth about this project. Please feel free to contact me at I'm curious to learn what NGOs are currently using for such crises. I'm certain it is not a one size fits all solution.

Dec 18, 2011
by Anonymous

The Challenge

I would love anyone to borrow, leverage (steal) any of my ideas..please take anything I am proposing and take them much further. I am not interested in winning a $25k challenge..that's not really the point of this project. If I did win such a challenge then I would put every cent and then some into making this concept into reality and donate the proceeds to making it even cheaper or helping the organizations that would be distributing these types of homes. A few weeks ago I got to be a part of Habitat for Humanity...I get what this should be about.

There are billions of people globally (every country) in need and it is a real crime that things are currently this way for them. This concept has been in my head for several years and I just keep thinking about it all of the time. Providing people such a shelter is only step 1, there has to be commitments for their long term success and sustainability....don't forget the best solutions are usually the simplest solutions...Occam's Razor....I'm thinking of a sort of push-cart design, maybe it even floats (flotation device from floods and mudslides), stores their things and even could be used to help rebuild their environment or could be used to help them make some money using it to delivery things or sell some extra drinking water.

Let's make a difference !!! We can do this and improve upon what's already being done.

Milo Dodds, Milpitas CA (

Dec 18, 2011
by Anonymous


Just another thought after listening to "Tech Nation" on NPR. A rain forests supports diversity of organisms that support each others existance. If every shelter has a component that makes it unique but when added with the other shelters helps supports the entire community.

For example if each shelter were designed to support a particular occupation or service:

Filtering drinking water
Repairing or making clothing and shoes
Lifting heavy objects
Transporting concrete, gravel, etc...rebuilding after disasters
Medical purposes (shots, examinations, distributing medical supplies)
Grain Mill
Selling things

Many of these people might not of just lost a home, they probably lost their way to make a living, lost family members, all of the other assets, etc. I am just suggesting that their home might be the first step in trying to bring their livlihood back.

- Milo (