What We Do | Student Society

Transitional Housing

Transitional housing is a powerful way of meeting the immediate and urgent housing needs of urban communities. It provides a temporary solution to demands for additional space or privacy, and can quickly improve physical living conditions.

Our partner organisation, TECHO, rightly emphasises that providing transitional housing is only the first step towards developing a community. But with over 80,000 transitional houses already built in 19 countries across Latin America and many more on their way, that’s construction on a large scale.

And because temporary solutions are often in use for extended periods, we think that TECHO’s design deserves dedicated research and development to improve its quality, enhance its environmental performance and cut its cost.

Since our foundation in 2011, we have worked with TECHO to design an improved transitional house. Read on to discover the story so far.

The First Innovations: EHI0001

Teams of ecohouse field researchers first travelled to Ecuador and Brazil in summer 2011 to gather design data for the year ahead.

The tight constraints of the barrios and favelas forced us to rethink many of the ideas originally conceived in Cambridge. We returned to the UK with a wealth of information, both technical and social, to fuel the ecohouse student society’s first year of design work. The gaps in our knowledge that came to light over the next few months of intensive design work were filled by a follow-up visit in December to conduct further research.

Following months of design and development, the first transitional prototype – EHI0001 – was constructed in the UK in spring 2012, and by summer the team had returned to Ecuador and Brazil to trial the innovations in-situ.

Prototypes constructed in Quito and São Paulo formed the basis of intense testing and discussion with TECHO over which design elements to adopt. The physical presence of these prototypes allowed TECHO to give constructive feedback and continuous data over the academic year.

The Next Level: EHI0002

In 2013, the challenge is to provide the same living space as TECHO’s current design on a footprint just two-thirds the size. A solution to the problems of site constraints and smaller plots of land had been on TECHO’s agenda for some time, and the transitional housing team have responded by developing a taller house with a mezzanine floor.

EHI0002 was successfully prototyped in the UK in March this year, and full-scale field testing will follow in Ecuador and Brazil this summer.