Housing

Health meets home

Our Director, Jo was invited to join the podcast Health Meets Home, hosted by doctor, author and property enthusiast Dr Lafina Diamandis. Health Meets Home dives into the fascinating relationship between health, housing and why the places we live influence our behaviour, physical and mental health. The podcast features some of the nation's leading experts on health and housing and discusses the latest innovations being developed to meet the changing needs of our population.

<< Listen to the episode

Alongside our friend Amos Goldreich, we discuss:

  • The effects of design and architecture on health

  • Why people hold the answers to the challenges they face

  • Social housing, lighting and perception of space

  • How co-working could be a viable solution for homelessness

  • What architects can do about the postcode lottery impact on health

Read about how we’re designing to improve health and wellbeing with women in Bangladesh.

Ponchomi's story - building for safety

Ponchomi previously lived in a mud house. It was a one-room dwelling with thick walls made of a simple mixture of earth and water. Monsoon rains and floods eroded her home, so she had to constantly repair it. She often checked for snakes which like to burrow in the warm earth – a neighbour had died from such a bite. Her outbuilding was barely standing; the bamboo having rotted from rising damp and termite attack.

She dreamed of a house where she could feel safe with her children, a building that would withstand the elements. As a day labourer, her husband didn’t earn enough money to buy the bricks they needed, so they were about to borrow money from a loan shark.

Ponchomi heard about our ‘build for safety’ workshops, which offered an alternative and joined the training in 2018. This year we returned to see what difference it has made. Her family now live in a secure bamboo-frame house. The posts are raised above the damp earth on kaatla (pad foundations), the material is treated to resist termites, cross bracing reinforces the structure and stops it from twisting during storms and seismic activity, the corrugated iron sheet roof is securely tied back into the structure and steel bolts strengthen the primary building joints.

My house is much stronger now. It will last longer. These are small improvements but they make a big difference.
— Ponchomi

She invited us in for tea and proudly showed us all the improvements they’ve made. They only borrowed a small sum, and they’ve already paid it back. She’s now dreaming of an extension; a second room for when her children grow up. She feels confident she’ll again be able to use the techniques she learned.

Ponchomi is happy to share her skills. She’s now an advocate in her village for what can be achieved with bamboo, which is often seen as a ‘poor man’s’ material.

Help us train more women to build for safety in Bangladesh. Donate to our training programme.

Visit our project page for more information.

Author: J. Ashbridge

Rumar dreams of a better way

Today Rumar is cooking cauliflower and potato mash with rice and greens. At 22 years old she is responsible for preparing and cooking meals for her family of five. Like many women in her village in Dinajpur, Bangladesh, she faces real challenges in the home.

Her kitchen is only 3.4 sqm and is built on a raised earthen plinth which she protects from the driving rain as best she can. Without walls and a leaky roof, things are difficult in the monsoon.

An open kitchen
Earthen stove
During rainy season the kitchen floods. The roof needs to be repaired so I cook under an umbrella… I have to make sure water doesn’t get into the stove or the fire goes out.

Rumar makes and repairs her stove using a mix of earth and water. She worries about the open flames when her children are near and shows us burns she’s suffered from cooking this way. Her kitchen has flooded numerous times and burnt to the ground a few years ago due to a fire that escalated. There is no electricity or piped water supply.

Interview
We share a tubewell with our neighbours, so I carry the pots and pans outside to clean them after we eat. I store them in the house, otherwise the rats and dogs would come.

Her family can afford to buy a small amount of jute sticks and wood to fuel the stove every month, but when this runs out Rumar gathers leaves and twigs to keep it going. This wet material produces a lot of smoke. She cooks on a small stool, at least for now she is not in too much discomfort.

 
Plan of the homestead

Plan of the homestead

 

Rumar’s village is in one of the poorest regions of the country. Saving for home improvements is a struggle but she dreams of a better way - a kitchen that is safe and comfortable, a space that doesn’t fill the air with black smoke, a space she would enjoy cooking in.

In rural Bangladesh women spend much of their day in the home and within the kitchen, yet they are often not involved in its design. Their perspective is crucial. Kitchens are dark, cramped, unhygienic and poorly ventilated, contributing to chronic and acute health effects including lung cancer and diarrhoeal disease. They are leftover spaces despite the fact they are used from morning till night.

We are working with women like Rumar to co-design solutions that will improve their health and wellbeing. We believe Rumar holds the answers to the challenges she faces.

Help us empower these women to be design leaders in their communities. Donate to Heart of the home.

Author: J Ashbridge