Improving services for safe,adequate urban housing

Short description

Develop customer-responsive design services and promote light construction materials


Housing is more than a just basic need, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed housing’s centrality to achieving health outcomes. Affordable, adequate, and safe housing is the most important factor in reducing the spread of COVID-19 with stay at home orders being put into place by governments around the globe.
More than 1.1 million people lost their jobs in Mexico as a result of COVID-19. Workers often reside in poor and densely populated urban areas in Mexico. With job loss, these workers and their families join densely habited family homes as they can no longer afford to pay rent. The consequence here is that while the government is requesting people to shelter in place, the urban poor are living in overcrowded, unsanitary, and uninhabitable conditions.
For some, a solution is to invest in the vertical expansion of their homes, building additional floors to accommodate family members. Due to improper construction techniques and poor-quality materials, these vertical home extensions have often proven to be poorly constructed, unsafe and expensive.
This project aims to address this gap to develop and scale design services that ties together demand-driven advice with lightweight, quality materials that a family can afford and properly install. To ensure proper installation and use of these materials, the Terwilliger Center will rapid prototype test different design services such as straight-forward easy to follow “how to” guides-similar to IKEA instructions- that any mason could follow and/or installation services from design experts. Although simple, these design solutions often do not exist at the low end of the market. However, this will address not only the overcrowding issue but the safety of the construction.
When it comes to design services, our research tells us that there is a disconnect between what is offered on the supply side and what is preferred on the demand side amongst low income households. If households do not perceive design services as adding value, they will not use them. And the providers of this service, typically architects and engineers, often do not see the market value of working with low-income households. The Terwilliger Center wants to address this issue by reimagining design services that are oriented for low income housing consumers.
Parallel to the design service research and prototype testing, we have identified a need to identify material solutions that are strong, resilient, and affordable. For example, the TCIS is collaborating with producers of commercial building materials in creating lightweight modular building system kits, that includes steel framing, for the structure, and fiber cement panels for siding, roofing, trim and flooring. This modular system is a good fit for vertical construction. Compared to more traditional materials such as brick and concrete, it is significantly lighter weight, making second and third floor construction projects safer, quicker to install and easier to install.
The end goal is to make construction material kits that include installation services that are accessible, affordable, and attractive to low income urban households who are looking to expand their shelter. This will ensure that when families decide to invest in vertical construction, they have access to the best techniques and materials.

Target country


Project type

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Human rights
  • Impact Support
  • Information
  • Logistics
  • Research
  • Wellbeing

Support needed

  • Business Strategy
  • Communications
  • Design
  • Exposure
  • Marketing
  • Technical expertise

What we need help with

The Terwilliger Center seeks $150,000.00 in funding to build out our technical services & materials prototype furthermore development of a marketing, branding and distribution strategy. This funding will support: - additional on-field research - prototype design and rapid testing - developing strategies to work with the technical services providers such as architects, engineers, students, academia, government, households, and masons.

Best way to get in touch


Project status

  • In Progress