With the exponentially growing human population in China, the availability and cost of living is quickly becoming unattainable for lower class citizens. In fact, many low income families are faced with the decision to either migrate to an affordable location or to live under poor conditions in the places that they can barely afford. As more people are displaced from their homes, the homeless search for alternative places to live.
An emerging place that the homeless in China are taking refuge is rooftops of buildings. They carry simple building materials that they find throughout the city such as corrugated metal panels and concrete masonry units to build small shelters. They also find furnishings for their shelter in garbage piles out in the street such as beds, dressers, and home accessories. After constructing these rooftop shacks that consist of one large multi-purpose room, residents living on the same roof typically spend time with one another in a communal area created by their shacks.
This way of living in rooftop shacks in China shows how far people are willing to go in order to remain a resident in their own city. Although the living situations in these shacks are unhealthy, it’s a better option than sleeping in temporary locations on the streets.
How can we design architecture that is low cost and able to accommodate a growing population of low income residents?
The Micro Housing China project is envisioned to be constructed in major cities throughout China. These buildings will provide shelter to people who are displaced from their homes due to the exponentially increasing rent.
After learning about the rooftop shacks in China’s major cities, the Micro Housing China project is inspired by several key design features that emerged from this new typology. First, the multi-use space that accommodates activities such as living and sleeping was one of the primary design features of the living units. Second, the communal spaces that were created after several shacks were constructed on the same rooftop. Third and last were the simple building materials – steel and concrete – that were used to construct each rooftop shack.
Using these design features, the Micro Housing China project provides a living unit with a multi-use space no larger than 165 square feet. In this space, built-in millwork is provided for storage and a closet bed frees up additional floor space for activities other than sleeping. A refrigerator is provided in the living units for tenants to store their food. Lastly, a full bathroom is provided in every unit for private use.
Although a refrigerator is provided in every apartment, there is only a communal kitchen that’s shared among the tenants on two separate floors. This means that a total of four living units share the communal kitchen that’s connected by a staircase between two floors. Additional communal areas are located every 10 and 11 stories in the building. These communal areas are developed by the tenants and could be used for eating, entertainment, gardening, and any other group activities.
Initially, the Micro Housing China project would be an 11 story building that provides all of the accommodations listed above. The primary structure of the building will be concrete with cast-in-place load bearing concrete walls with rebar reinforcing and cast in place floors/ceilings. At the end of construction for the 11 story building, additional rebar will extend beyond the roof, left exposed, and weatherproofed to prevent rust. Once the building reaches 75% occupancy, the next 11 stories will begin construction where the exposed rebar will become a connector for the addition. This cycle will continue until the primary structure nears its limit or is prevented by regulations in its respective city.