A carbon-negative community of affordable homes is underway in the Philippines. Conceived by BillionBricks, it will welcome 125 homeless families and function simultaneously as a 2.5 MW solar power plant.
One of the earliest prototypes of the BillionBricks home was built in the Math Jalgaon village (Maharashtra, India) as a proof of concept. Since 2019, it has housed a single, previously homeless, family and produced surplus solar power.
The problem of homelessness is acute. Over a billion people around the world today are without homes, a number that will reach over three billion by 2050. Clearly, the response must be the construction of low-cost housing, rapidly and at scale.
The challenge here is twofold. Such developments have difficulty accessing funds. But even if a great many could be green-lighted right away, they would likely rely on methods of construction and operation that add to emissions compounding the climate crisis.
The BillionBricks’ business model sets out to address these issues by seeking private capital to underwrite vast numbers of carbon-negative communities. If the climate-tech venture’s units were to be implemented in large numbers, the power they produced could generate revenue and significantly reduce demand for fossil fuel-based energy.
Each BillionBricks home is simply designed. A box-shaped residential unit, made of blockwork, is capped with a large roof of photovoltaic panels.
A dwelling’s 25 sqm-plan has allocated space for sleeping, a kitchen, a living area and toilets. Residents can customise its layout and finishes prior to completion and even modify it over time to befit their changing needs.
Homes are devised to be self-sufficient, requiring no connection to services. Apart from generating power, they are capable of harvesting 100% of rainwater, treating sewage and cultivating food.
To reduce impact during construction, a BillionBricks unit is 30% prefabricated. The remaining 70% relies on inexpensive local materials, saving time and cost.
The dry assembly building practice consumes less energy and water. It also makes it easy to put together a home in remote locations.
To answer the social necessities of a community like the one currently being developed in Minalin (Pampanga, Philippines), clusters of units will include on their grounds a school, health centre, shops, parks and other essential infrastructures. The neighbourhood will be mapped out to promote walkability.
The land will also be set up to seek harmony with natural systems. The management of water, for instance, includes bio-swales, porous paving and natural filters on site.
It is estimated that within a period of 25 years, a BillionBricks community will have eliminated 24 million tons of carbon emissions and saved 136 million litres of water. Residents will become homeowners, once the initial costs and some profits have been extracted by investors.
The humanitarian goal of BillionBricks is to bring families out of poverty in a single generation and help them attain lower-middle income standards of living. What makes this first bottom line achievable lies in a second: a shrewd financial framework that promises profits to investors. Remarkably, these are rounded off by a third: a long-run reduction of greenhouse emissions.
The design has received the Global Holcim Commendation Award and the Holcim Asia-Pacific Acknowledgement Award. Check out the Ecogradia podcast episode — season 2, episode 7 — in which Prasoon Kumar talks of the company he co-founded and the journey it’s been on.
Novel project is innovative in one or more ways, say material use, passive design, community engagement, etc. Performance, here, might be discussed in quantitative or qualitative ways.
Tropical climates have warm, moist conditions year-round, with high precipitation and narrow diurnal temperature swings. These climates occur typically between 15° N to 15° S latitude. Here, traditional architecture prioritises natural ventilation and shade for comfort.
Total electrical power consumed
Total onsite production
39 kWh/home/day (13% consumed by household, 87% sold)
Capacity of solar installation
Number of solar installation
Estimated water saving
Total onsite rainwater used
100% Rooftop Rainwater
Use of locally sourced materials/products
70% (remaining 30% are prefabricated imports)