Improving live­abil­ity of Small Houses

An OPEN IDEAS National COMPETITION 2018, or­gan­ised by Habitat Forum (INHAF) and sup­ported by GRUH Finance
— Image - Expression of a slum” by Wim Jonker |


A de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for the Professional Designers and Students of Design Faculties want­ing to con­tribute ideas and sug­gest ap­proaches for pub­lic hous­ing agen­cies and pri­vate builders, who con­struct thou­sands of af­ford­able houses/​apart­ments in Indian cities, for de­signs that en­sure:

  • More liv­able and us­able space for the cramped, small houses within the given area for the res­i­dent fam­i­lies.

  • Better so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­nity life among them.

  • Sustainable de­liv­ery of ser­vices such as wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and solid waste dis­posal etc.

  • Greater aes­thetic sen­si­tiv­ity in build­ings that shape the new ur­ban land­scape.

These apart­ments or houses and build­ings must get bet­ter and the ar­chi­tects and other de­sign­ers have a role in that hap­pen­ing. Your de­sign in­ter­ven­tions could change the way these fam­i­lies live, their chil­dren grow, min­i­mize their waste and their cities ap­pear and de­velop Small, yet Better Designed, Better Functioning, Better Looking and Socially and psy­cho­log­i­cally bet­ter evolved houses and build­ings


  • Architects and Engineers

  • Interior and Furniture de­sign­ers

  • Planners

  • Senior Students of above Faculties

  • Non-governmental or­ga­ni­za­tions in the set­tle­ment de­vel­op­ment field

  • Non-governmental or­ga­ni­za­tions in the set­tle­ment de­vel­op­ment field.

To par­tic­i­pate in a pan-In­dia Improving Livability for Small Houses” Competition:

CREATE Awareness among de­sign­ers–es­pe­cially ar­chi­tects, in­te­rior and fur­ni­ture de­sign­ers-about the chal­lenges in de­sign­ing small houses, low-cost hous­ing pro­jects and the po­ten­tial of this mar­ket seg­ment.

INTRODUCE Design stu­dents to the chal­lenges, es­pe­cially the needs and com­pul­sions of the low-in­come clients and low-cost pro­jects.

PRODUCE Design so­lu­tions that im­prove livability” of small houses for the low in­come- and of­ten large- fam­i­lies that oc­cupy them.

MAKE The de­sign­ers see and ap­ply them­selves to the psy­cho­log­i­cal, so­ci­o­log­i­cal and cul­tural fac­tors in house de­sign , clus­ter de­sign and site plan­ning that em­pha­sizes the people” as­pect of the de­sign en­gage­ment.

HIGHLIGHT Role of the af­ford­able hous­ing in shap­ing the built form and phys­i­cal land­scape of the city—see­ing it in the wider ur­ban form con­text.

DEMONSTRATE Cost con­scious­ness and sus­tain­abil­ity prin­ci­ples in the af­ford­able hous­ing pro­jects.

SENSITIZE Designers and plan­ners about peo­ple/​com­mu­nity cen­tered­ness and de­sign ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of slum re­de­vel­op­ment/​re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion

In the back­drop of gen­eral af­ford­able hous­ing sce­nario in cities, this com­pe­ti­tion seeks to es­tab­lish:

⋅⋅* Low-income hous­ing should not au­to­mat­i­cally mean low qual­ity hous­ing. Vertical slums’ are not in­evitable.

⋅⋅* The prin­ci­ple of in­cre­men­tal growth can also be adopted in multi floor build­ings.

⋅⋅* Smaller spaces con­di­tioned by af­ford­abil­ity con­straints could be made rea­son­ably big­ger through cre­ative de­sign.

⋅⋅* Design for sus­tain­abil­ity—wa­ter, en­ergy, waste man­age­ment—must not es­cape af­ford­able hous­ing pro­jects. These as­pects—op­ti­mum use, min­i­mum waste, max­i­mum re­cy­cling, easy and low-cost main­te­nance - must weigh more, not less in such pro­jects.

The People” cen­tered­ness of the de­sign:

  • Not only fam­i­lies, also neigh­bors.

  • Not only in­di­vid­ual apart­ment, also com­mu­nity space.

  • Not only an in­di­vid­ual, also the col­lec­tive.

  • Not only a place for liv­ing, also for oc­ca­sional liveli­hood ac­tiv­ity.

  • Public space for fam­ily as­sets: for cy­cle, scooter, car, hand cart, etc.


  1. With 96 per­cent of hous­ing deficit among the eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions and the low in­come groups, a large num­ber of houses that get con­structed now and in the years to come will be small, gen­er­ally low-cost and util­i­tar­ian. The sky­line of Indian cities will be dom­i­nated by this hous­ing ty­pol­ogy.

  2. With a tar­get of 2 crore houses by 2022 un­der Pradhan Mantri Aaws Yojana (PMAY), an am­bi­tious, proac­tive pro­gram to re­duce af­ford­abil­ity gap through in­ter­est sub­ven­tion and up­front sub­si­diza­tion, easy ac­cess to in­sti­tu­tional fi­nance, in­cen­tives for the pri­vate sec­tor through tax con­ces­sions, and sup­ports in gen­eral for af­ford­able hous­ing, a stage is set for a surge in af­ford­able hous­ing con­struc­tion in the Indian cities, big and small.

  3. Over the years, small, low cost houses have been con­structed mostly by the pub­lic sec­tor agen­cies and save some ex­cep­tions they have been found de­fi­cient in de­sign, work­man­ship, con­struc­tion qual­ity, de­liv­ery sched­ule and main­te­nance. The pub­lic sec­tor agen­cies still re­main the prin­ci­pal sup­pli­ers and though, there is greater aware­ness on the quality” as­pects, the change is slow paced.

  4. Despite the or­ga­nized pri­vate sec­tor’s en­try in the af­ford­able hous­ing seg­ment, the quality” as­pect has not been ad­dressed suf­fi­ciently due to low cost na­ture of the pro­jects.

  5. Established ar­chi­tects, in gen­eral, have kept away from the af­ford­able hous­ing scene. Save some pres­ti­gious pro­jects. Their in­volve­ment in such pro­jects is lim­ited. Also, the ar­chi­tects do not see much scope for cre­ative ex­pres­sion in small houses and low-cost build­ings. Consequently the vigour re­quired to get the max­i­mum out of the min­i­mum in de­sign is rarely seen.

  6. Generally in all forms of hous­ing, es­pe­cially low cost af­ford­able hous­ing, the people an­gle’ is miss­ing, both in de­sign and plan­ning. With the pri­vate builders and pro­mot­ers it is mainly the sq. ft. busi­ness’ with high pre­mium on FSI - ar­chi­tects of these pro­jects of­ten seek shel­ter be­hind the faceless client’ - and, sen­si­tive han­dling of the client or the end user needs is also not a strong as­pect of such pub­lic hous­ing pro­jects. Neglect of peo­ple means ne­glect of their liv­ing habits ,social in­ter­ac­tions, cul­tural be­liefs and as­pi­ra­tions.

  7. The non-de­mand­ing end users of low in­come hous­ing pro­jects, suf­fer mainly be­cause of this con­spir­acy of cir­cum­stances and at­ti­tudes. Seen largely as sub­sidy tar­gets their houses and build­ings are poorly de­signed and de­tailed, badly con­structed, suf­fer poor main­te­nance and usu­ally look un­pleas­ant.

  8. Paradoxically, the sus­tain­abil­ity con­sid­er­a­tions are ab­sent from the af­ford­able hous­ing pro­jects need­ing them the most. Design for sus­tain­abil­ity is seen al­most ex­clu­sive pre­serve of the up­per class and high end hous­ing.

This com­pe­ti­tion seeks to en­gage ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als and young de­sign­ers to ad­dress these chal­lenges as a way to of­fer­ing:

Better de­signed Small Houses
Better re­lat­ing Neighbors
Better func­tion­ing Buildings with Sustainable Services
Better man­aged Community Spaces and Community Living
Better look­ing Cities.

Competition Components

This com­pe­ti­tion re­quires par­tic­i­pants to work on all of the fol­low­ing three com­po­nents

a. New Design of the adopted pro­ject
b. Changes in Building Byelaws re­quired to im­ple­ment sug­gested new de­sign
c. Two case stud­ies of in­no­va­tions - People Solutions” - in space en­hance­ment in ex­ist­ing houses and build­ings.

Project Selection for Redesign

Participants in the com­pe­ti­tion may work on any of the fol­low­ing tasks:

  1. Re-designing an af­ford­able hous­ing pro­ject un­der­taken by a pub­lic agency or a pri­vate builder

  2. Re-designing a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­ject where fam­i­lies af­fected by de­vel­op­ment in­duced dis­place­ment or oth­er­wise have been re­set­tled on a new site in new for­mal houses by a pub­lic au­thor­ity

  3. Re-designing an (a) In-situ slum im­prove­ment pro­ject, or (b) Slum re­de­vel­op­ment pro­ject where slum dwellers have been re­set­tled on the same site in new houses by PPP mode or by a pub­lic agency

Conditions for the se­lec­tion of the pro­ject in­clude: (a) an ur­ban lo­ca­tion, (b) with more than 300 units, (c) in an af­ford­able hous­ing cat­e­gory, (d) a scheme that is ap­proved by the com­pe­tent au­thor­ity or sub­mit­ted for ap­proval, and (d) and is un­der con­struc­tion or ready to start con­struc­tion or com­pleted and oc­cu­pied in the last one year.

All the givens of the se­lected live pro­ject are to be taken as givens: (a) the site (location, size, di­men­sions, con­di­tions, neigh­bor­hood, etc.), (b) lo­cal build­ing byelaws of the city/​state, (c) unit area and per­cent­age size mix, if any, and (d) clients (or proxy clients, if not real or iden­ti­fied).

Priority Considerations for Judging

  1. Focus on prac­ti­cal ideas and work­able so­lu­tions,

  2. EMPHASIS ON: Practicality, Do-ability, Use-ability, Implement-ability, Adaptability, Upscale-ability and Cost con­scious­ness of the so­lu­tions,

⋅⋅* Expansion of func­tional, us­able space with­out ad­di­tional built up area such as low height mez­za­nine, open to sky ter­race or land, stor­age ar­eas, work­ing and play­ing space for chil­dren, etc.

⋅⋅* Additional stor­age space through cre­ative de­tail­ing. Also, adapt­able low-cost fur­ni­ture

⋅⋅* Parking space for cy­cles, two and four wheel­ers, hand carts, other work­ing tools

⋅⋅* Efficient com­mon cir­cu­la­tion spaces

⋅⋅* Space for liveli­hood ac­tiv­i­ties

⋅⋅* Top ter­race as us­able com­mu­nity space

  1. Incremental growth pos­si­bil­ity for all or some of the units. (with or with­out change in build­ing bye-laws and reg­u­la­tions)

  2. Specific pro­pos­als and ideas for cost re­duc­tion in con­struc­tion and build­ing main­te­nance

  3. Tools and method­ol­ogy for par­tic­i­pa­tory de­sign and plan­ning and con­sul­ta­tive de­ci­sion mak­ing

  4. Creation of com­mu­nity in­ter­ac­tion spaces

  5. Handling of high den­si­ties

  6. Low-cost and main­te­nance op­tions of houses, build­ing and the site

  7. Adequate ac­cess for se­nior cit­i­zen and spe­cially abled peo­ple and safety for chil­dren

  8. Ideas and pro­pos­als to save wa­ter and elec­tric­ity and re­duce and man­age waste

  9. Suggestions on the cost, avail­abil­ity of land for hous­ing


Download the Competition Brochure

Download the Competition Poster in PDF Format (9 Mb), Image (4 Mb)

Launch Date: 1st August, 2018
Registration: 1st August to 20th December, 2018
Final Submission: 20th February, 2019

Submission Requirements

Competition Component A: New de­sign of the se­lected Project: Presentation of New de­sign

  1. All de­tails of the newly for­mu­lated pro­ject, in­clud­ing draw­ings, sketches, per­spec­tives, pho­tos of mod­els, etc. that ad­e­quately com­mu­ni­cates the new de­sign.

  2. Ideas and pro­pos­als on sus­tain­able build­ing , cost re­duc­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tory de­sign, ser­vice ef­fi­ciency , and com­mu­nity liv­ing etc.

Submission Format: Six A2 (max) sheets that cover: Sheet 1: SWOT analy­sis of the ex­ist­ing pro­ject; Sheet 2: New Design Concept; and Sheets 3, 4, 5, 6: Drawings and Photos as in Above (1)

Competition Component B: Changes in build­ing byelaws re­quired to im­ple­ment sug­gested new de­sign

  1. Existing Building by-laws and reg­u­la­tions are per­ceived as con­straints to good de­sign, re­sult­ing in com­pro­mised liv­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

  2. Suggestion for strate­gic changes in the ex­ist­ing build­ing bye laws and reg­u­la­tions re­quired to im­ple­ment the pro­pos­als and ideas, which may in­clude height re­stric­tions size of pro­jec­tions in the mar­gins, ground cov­er­age, size and lo­ca­tion of com­mon open space etc.

Submission Format: One A3 Sheet

Competition Component C: Case Studies

  1. Two case stud­ies show­cas­ing ef­fec­tive ad­di­tion of use­able space for liv­ing func­tions, stor­ing, fu­ture ex­ten­sions etc in ex­ist­ing, homes (formal or in­for­mal houses).

Submission Format: Two A3 Sheets with draw­ings, sketches, pho­tos, de­scrip­tions show­cas­ing use and in­no­va­tion.

Checklist of Submissions:

  • SIX A2 (max) sheets con­sist­ing of the new de­sign of the se­lected pro­ject

  • ONE A3 sheet with sug­ges­tions to the ex­ist­ing bye-laws and reg­u­la­tions

  • TWO A3 sheets show­cas­ing the case stud­ies

  • ONE A3 sheet com­pris­ing of a 750 word pro­ject sum­mary for all three com­pe­ti­tion com­po­nents

ADDITIONALLY: (a) All sheets must con­tain Unique ID num­ber on the bot­tom right cor­ner of the sheet and no per­sonal in­for­ma­tion; (b) A tem­plate for sheets shall be shared with the con­tes­tants; (C) All en­tries are to be sub­mit­ted in PDF for­mat with size lim­ited to 10MB on the com­pe­ti­tion web­site.; (d) Entries are to be sub­mit­ted on or be­fore 30 November 2018; and (e) Entries will be judged anony­mously by the jury mem­bers


Practicing pro­fes­sion­als - Architects, Interior Designers Planners, Engineers

Students - Senior Students of above fac­ul­ties

Others - NGOs with rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence

THE COMPETITION IS: (a) Open to peo­ple re­sid­ing in India and Outside; (b) There is no team size re­stric­tion, and teams may be formed be­tween mem­bers of any of the above groups; and (c) Participants must have no di­rect re­la­tion­ship with the or­ga­niz­ers or jury. In case of per­ceived con­flict of in­ter­est, con­tact the or­ga­niz­ers.


Registration is now closed.


First Place — INR 75,000
Second Place — INR 50,000
Third Place -INR 25,000

THE WINNING ENTRIES WILL BE: (a) Published in the print me­dia part­ner mag­a­zines — Civil Society, Inside-Outside, ifj and the on­line por­tal Architexturez South Asia; (b) Presented to the rel­e­vant de­part­ments of the Central Government, State Governments and as­so­ci­a­tion of Private Sector de­vel­op­ers; and (c) Circulated widely through other so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

The Jury

MARINA JOSEPH, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), Mumbai; CHITRANJAN KAUSHIK, EcoFirst Servies; ASHOK B LALL, Ashok B Lall Architects; RAHUL MEHROTRA, RMA Architects; LAXMI NARAYAN, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), Pune; AJAY NAYAK, Educated Environments (EdEn) and The Indigenous part­ner­ship (TIP); JAXAY SHAH, President, The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI); and KIRTEE SHAH, Habitat Forum (INHAF)

Visit the About” Page for more in­for­ma­tion on the jury and sup­port­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions.


  • During the com­pe­ti­tion par­tic­i­pants are en­cour­aged to ask ques­tions, seek clar­i­fi­ca­tions and in­ter­act gen­er­ally through email: in­­pe­ti­[email protected]

  • Responses will be posted on the com­pe­ti­tion web­site: in­ and ar­chi­tex­

Terms and Conditions

  1. The de­ci­sion of the jury will be fi­nal and bind­ing.

  2. The spon­sors ( INHAF) re­serves the right to pro­mote and pub­lish any or all of the en­tries on any plat­form from any lo­ca­tion for non-com­mer­cial, re­search and ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses. Any ma­te­r­ial that is pub­lished will be duly cred­ited to au­thors.

  3. The spon­sors main­tains the right to mod­ify the en­tries (in con­sul­ta­tion with the au­thors) in or­der to bet­ter adapt them for pub­lish­ing in any plat­form.

  4. The spon­sors re­serves the right to make any changes to the com­pe­ti­tion brochure , brief and dead­lines at any time. Participants are re­quested to check the com­pe­ti­tion web­site reg­u­larly for such changes.

  5. This com­pe­ti­tion is an ideas com­pe­ti­tion and en­tries will not re­sult in an ac­tual re­al­i­sa­tion of the pro­posal. However, these ideas will be shared with po­ten­tial users. The au­thors will be duly cred­ited for the same.

  6. Participants of the com­pe­ti­tion agree that the work they are sub­mit­ting has not been sub­mit­ted to any other com­pe­ti­tion be­fore the re­sults of this com­pe­ti­tions are re­leased.

  7. The spon­sors not re­spon­si­ble for any costs in­curred by the par­tic­i­pants for the re­search pur­poses of this com­pe­ti­tion.

  8. The spon­sors can dis­qual­ify any in­di­vid­ual/​team if found not com­ply­ing with the terms and con­di­tions of this com­pe­ti­tion.

  9. This be­ing an ed­u­ca­tional, mo­ti­va­tional and ori­en­ta­tional ex­er­cise, in­ter­ac­tion in all forms is in­vited and en­cour­aged.


  1. Improving Livability” is de­fined as (a) Physical Livability - Addition of use­able space—cov­ered, semi-open, open-to-sky—in the given built up area at lit­tle ex­tra cost, through cre­ative de­sign and de­tail­ing. Also through space en­hanc­ing, low-cost fur­ni­ture de­sign; (b) Social Livability - More con­ge­nial neigh­bour­hood through com­mu­nity need sen­si­tive com­mon space de­sign and par­tic­i­pa­tion in neigh­bour se­lec­tion; (c) Ecological Livability - Bringing el­e­ments of na­ture in the de­sign and adding non-tan­gi­ble di­men­sions that en­rich psy­cho­log­i­cal, so­ci­o­log­i­cal and cul­tural as­pects of liv­ing; and (d) Aesthetic Livability - Elegant built form, at­trac­tive neigh­bour­hood, invit­ing space qual­ity, etc.
  2. The par­tic­i­pant should ob­tain the re­quired per­mis­sion and de­tails of such a pro­ject from the owner, man­ager or agency. The spon­sors of the com­pe­ti­tion will is­sue a let­ter of in­tro­duc­tion and rec­om­men­da­tion if needed.