WHAT WE DO | RESEARCH

UNDERGRADUATE 2011-12

NATHAN FIELDSEND

Floor and foundations for a sustainable transitional shelter.

This project was based on the findings of a field survey assessing the structural and geotechnical performance of the current TECHO house. The output was a complete structural redesign of the floor and foundations. Major innovations included optimising the foundation system to maximise the efficiency of the piles and dramatically increasing the stiffness of the floor. Experimental tests were carried out at the Cambridge Centre for Geotechnical Research and the innovations where incorporated into the improved design for transitional house.

JONATHAN WILLIS

An investigation into
transitional shelters.

This project investigated the performance and durability of the processed wooden panels used by TECHO as well as including a sustainability analysis of the usage of timber in Latin America for low-income housing. The results demonstrated that the current panel material is only half as durable as alternative plywood panels. The resulting recommendations were presented to TECHO in 2012 and work is ongoing to implement them.

NATASHA DICKSON

The ecohouse initiative
design project.

The project involved creating alternative jointing systems for the TECHO house with various structural designs, to solve problems reported with low quality materials supplied to the organisation. Through developing new joint systems for standard timber sections, the seismic resistance of a house built by an unskilled workforce could be improved. A full scale prototype alternative roof structure was tested as part of the project and informed the design effort of the transitional and permanent teams.

FABIO MICOLI

Low-technology, high performing building envelopes.

This project focused on improving the thermal comfort of low-income housing developments, using technology appropriate to the socio-economic constraints. Sets of temperature, humidity and air quality data were recorded for TECHO houses in order to understand the performance of the current design, and computer simulations were used to test alternative innovations to improve thermal comfort. The results directly contributed to the improvements made to the TECHO transitional house. The project will be further developed this year by the information systems team, enabling remote collection of relevant data.

HANNAH BAKER

Increasing transitional housing’s longevity and adaptability.

This research aimed to understand and develop potential methods to increase the flexibility of transitional housing constructed by an unskilled workforce. The project developed modular designs consisting of structural elements and multiple cladding panels that could be arranged in diverse positions to enable customisation and future expansion of the house by its owners. This project initiated the work to redesign the TECHO house to make it more suitable for the small plot sizes found in favelas in Brazil, which is ongoing and will be prototyped in April 2013 in Cambridge and then in Brazil during August.

MAXINE JORDAN

Anaerobic digestion: exploring the limits of technology.

This project evaluated the constraints and feasibility of anaerobic digestion as a waste treatment system for a low-income community. Using an informal settlement in Quito as a case study, an economic feasibility model was developed to assess currently available technology for wastewater collection and treatment, includingthe production of methane as a useful waste-recovery product. The model will be further developed this year to assess the feasibility of a wastewater treatment plant for social housing projects in the urban developing world. The results have generated significant interest from local authorities in Ecuador as currently there is no provision for sewage treatment in most low-cost housing developments.