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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Monday, March 21, 2005

Time to introduce high comfort, low-cost housing

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Features: "by Lincoln Wijeyesinghe

The massive demand for housing in the aftermath of the tsunami is an excellent opportunity to introduce high comfort, low-cost housing with space saving and low-cost furnishing and maintenance features and a low-cost but high standard, healthy and affordable lifestyle adaptable to multi storey apartments as in Japan.

Repeated documentaries of Japanese traditional lifestyle on TV would boost appreciation and adoption of this economical and healthy lifestyle.

My purpose would be achieved if the following brief remarks set our people thinking in this direction.

Low-cost housing

We are accustomed to separate rooms for separate functions and so we need a verandah, hall of sitting room, dining room, and bed-rooms with kitchen and lavatory, and many other compartments to complete a house. If we could avoid defining the function of each room, then one room could be used for any of these functions (of course with the exception of kitchen and lavatory). Therefore, one single room could serve all these functions as and when required if the furniture were not there to define and dictate the function.

Just imagine, a 2-bedroomed house (which would normally consist of at least 5 separate rooms, kitchen and lavatory) would boil down to one large room with kitchen and lavatory. This typical unit could be modified to suit the size of the family.

In Japan where this style of living is prevalent, a house of 14 "Tatami" (approximately 250 square feet) is considered a spacious house, and justifiably so, for there is a sitting room of about 200 square feet, a dining room of about 200 square feet, and 2 good bed-rooms when a light sliding partition moving in grooves is pulled into place and secured to divide this space at bed time. When you need a verandah, you push aside a couple of external wall panels and you have a spacious verandah to sit and enjoy the sunset or the beauty of your garden and the flowers growing on your boundary wall.

Due to reduction in area, very high standards of quality, beauty and comfort become affordable. If prejudice could be overcome, timber walls could reduce costs still further.

Furniture is the barest minimum, cushions for seats and quilts for beds, all of which go into wall cupboard when not in use and a low table for writing or eating. It is surprising how comfortable you could be, better health without the stiff joints of old age is a bonus from this life style.

The large sums of money usually spent on building to big houses with furniture, furnishing and servants to maintain all this could be invested to produce an income, by labour saving devices and support a better standard of living while the leisure due to reduced house work could be utilised for recreation and productive work. The home could be run beautifully at a fraction of the usual cost of trouble.

Meals without tears

Many a time, I have watched with wonder the nimble hands of my Japanese friends' wives produce a tasty and satisfying meal in minutes, uncomplicated boiling, frying, broiling or baking together with raw vegetables, fish etc., with sauce and other ready to hand seasonings.

Why must our women folk waste half their lives in the kitchen? It is high time our style of day-to-day cooking was changed to suit this servantless age."

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