BillionBricks home

Self-financing houses combat homelessness and carbon emissions

BillionBricks home

Self-financing houses combat homelessness and carbon emissions

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 BillionBricks prototype in India is owned by Dokhale family who had been without a home for many years.
© BillionBricks
Tackling a global crisis of homelessness

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.

Multiple homes will come together in Minalin (Philippines) to form a community of housing units with connected roofs that act as solar farms.
© BillionBricks
Modular architecture that is net positive

Each BillionBricks home is simply designed. A box-shaped residential unit, made of blockwork, is capped with a large roof of photovoltaic panels.

The distinguishing feature of a BillionBricks home is its large roof, made entirely of photovoltaic panels.
© BillionBricks

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.

The BillionBricks home is designed to meet families’ basic spatial requirements on a daily basis. It also provides privacy and protects them from the elements.
© BillionBricks

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 key to building at scale is finding the right construction method and material palettes. The BillionBricks structure owes its cost-efficiency to a careful dry assembly of a kit of parts.
© BillionBricks

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 BillionBricks’ site model acknowledges that the space between residences is important to community members and a strategic part of its planning.
© BillionBricks

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.

Wins across three bottom lines

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.

Envisioned as individual residences and collective housing units, the BillionBricks homes are conceived to be a connection of parts, such as the solar canopies, that come together to form larger systems.
© BillionBricks

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.

Post is sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

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.

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Fact Sheet

Disclaimer: Location provided as reference only. Exact site may differ.

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
720 kWh/home/year

Total onsite production
39 kWh/home/day (13% consumed by household, 87% sold)

Capacity of solar installation
325 W/home

Number of solar installation
36/home

Estimated water saving
148 m3/home/year

Total onsite rainwater used
100% Rooftop Rainwater

Use of locally sourced materials/products
70% (remaining 30% are prefabricated imports)

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Traditional architecture is a melting pot of history, culture and knowledge-systems spanning centuries. Its continued decline globally begs the question: what can the past offer to the present and the future?
Explore the reality of greenery in architecture — pragmatic sustainability or mere aesthetics? Leonard Ng navigates the fine line, urging honesty in distinguishing between environmental impact and visual appeal.
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Traditional architecture is a melting pot of history, culture and knowledge-systems spanning centuries. Its continued decline globally begs the question: what can the past offer to the present and the future?
Explore the reality of greenery in architecture — pragmatic sustainability or mere aesthetics? Leonard Ng navigates the fine line, urging honesty in distinguishing between environmental impact and visual appeal.
Tackling the carbon dilemma requires a fresh perspective. Stuart Smith reveals how considering a building’s entire life cycle impact can simplify carbon reduction decisions, guiding us towards more sustainable choices.

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