Space-starved Mumbai in mind, IIT centre designs 3D low-cost houses

Space-starved Mumbai in mind, IIT centre designs 3D low-cost houses

Usage of space in Mumbai slums and inside of aircraft were studied for the project.

Part of a bathroom that folds in, thus increasing the kitchen space, and a twelve-and-a-half-feet-high room that can be converted into a virtual two-floor with foldable, knock-down furniture – these are components of a 3D or three-dimensional affordable housing created by IIT Bombay’s Industrial Design Centre (IDC), which has used Mumbai as a laboratory.

The project, aimed at accommodating a family of six in a 10 feet-by-10 feet and twelve-and-a-half-feet high space, has received funding from IIT Bombay’s Tata Centre and the life-size prototype installations are now ready. These will be exhibited at the campus from January 16-19. Usage of space in Mumbai slums and inside of aircraft were studied for the project.

“Due to lack of space and resources, low-income people need to optimise their living by utilising every inch of the spatial volume. This includes the floor-space and the height of the shelter. We are aware that most of the current housing solutions work only on two dimensions, area and cost. They either compromise the area and reduce the cost or reduce the input cost.

Our project went beyond this 2D approach. We treated the vertical spaces as the third dimension of the solution. The internal space is now populated by a set of specially designed furniture components to create different layouts and levels. The flexibility ensures multiple uses of the spaces. The furniture system is a mix of steel structural components and reused materials,” said IDC professor Uday Athavankar, in-charge of the project. He said the institute was now trying to tie up with organisations whereby the designs can be tested in a live situation.


According to Gautham Varma, final-year masters student at IDC who was involved in the 3D project, the team studied usage of various spaces like bathroom, kitchen in a household and designed knock-down furniture accordingly. The students created three different layouts possible with pre-defined structural units, which one can assemble easily.

“Using the vertical space, we created another platform at six feet four inches from the ground, which has beds, study tables, storage and a water tank,” said Varma. While building the prototype has cost Rs 2.5 lakh, Varma said that mass manufacturing would bring it down to about Rs 1 lakh. “Also, you can incrementally add the components as the family grows, spreading the financial burden over 10-12 years,” he said.

While researching for four years on this topic, Prasad Anaokar and Ameya Athavankar, associate architects on the project, created the fourth dimension, a concept of “shared and smart serviced-living”, creating new housing typologies. One of the typologies targeted Mumbai’s transient population of migrants, call centre workers and students, who are “trying out the city’ and may not want to spend too much on living costs. “The first typology is a mix of ownership and rental.

The rental transients share spaces like kitchen, toilet and children play area to optimise resource distribution. The rent paid by the transients subsidises the owner’s EMI. In the second typology, after 15 years, by virtue of increased income and incremental needs, owners begin to take ownership of additional spaces, up to 400 square feet, as the building gets transformed from shared to self-contained formal apartment units. Financial support for these explorations initially was from ACC and later from HUDCO,” said Athavankar.