Upholding the Right to Housing through Sustainable, Resilient Construction

SELCO Foundation
3 min readFeb 23, 2023

Manikandan KP, Gautam Khot, Bijal Brahmbhatt, and Anjali Mohan come together to address the immediate crisis and failures of construction and housing in the country.

In a world where inefficient and unsustainable buildings are predominant, the poor are met with the challenge of not being able to cater to their current needs of energy, well-being, productivity and income. Compounded with climate change, these inefficiencies make the poor more vulnerable. Additionally, the construction industry causes 37 per cent of global carbon emissions and where the public sector is the largest contributor. The panel titled Four Walls and a Roof: Failures in Housing featured speakers like Manikandan KP of the Indian Housing Federation, Gautam Khot CTO-in-Residence of Brigade Reap, Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director, Mahila Housing Trust, Deepak Visvanathan from Habitat for Humanity India Trust, and Anjali Mohan, Partner, integrated Design, on how the sector can make sustainable and resilient practices a norm.

In a discussion on the Ecosystem for Construction, Manikandan KP spoke about the quality of housing and that it cannot be absolute, but a process. Long-term assets like housing drive the value proposition for an individual and a family to invest in. The quality of housing, therefore, becomes a critical question for everyone to answer. “What exactly is sustainability? And are we a part of the problem or the solution?” Manikandan in his failure story reflected on the topic and definition of sustainability among organisations, especially in the development sector.

He was joined by Gautam Khot, who was dwelling on questions like

“What are the challenges that stop us from achieving efficiencies in the sector, in processes, and in defining accountability? If the top developers are unable to get their arms around this? How can this be done when we scale down to implementers in affordable housing and low-income housing sectors?”

Bijal Brahmbhatt highlighted the housing finance issues in the sector, especially in the context of scaling housing in low-resource settings. She explains the complexity that lies in the linearity of the solutions provided. To understand formality, tenureship, land titles, income and the legalities that lie in the system for end-users to be able to formalise an asset such as a home. In his failure story, Deepak Visvanathan shared his experience with respect to engagement and interest in the process that deals with one crucial material — sand. “In India, there are sand sufficient states, sand surplus states, and sand deficit states. There was a time when states in India were importing m-sand from Indonesia and Malaysia for construction. The gap also resulted in the mafia exerting its control over the availability of sand that caused war and even death. He said that it was important to develop strategies to preserve it — ecologically. Design systems for this while we look at new materials in the construction sector to account for future needs. The design solution should look at other viable products to replace natural materials like sand. Regeneration construction is a positive step forward in these cases and can be a strategy developed to account for other products.

The last speaker of the session was Anjali Mohan who drew from kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using gold, silver, and enamel, to talk about the art of ‘transformative repair’ in the development sector. She used the elegant artform as a metaphor for adapting to changes and accepting failures and the need for collaboration among organisations, sharing accountability in professional circles, and listening to fresh voices to echo the innovations of today. These could be the tools for building strong collaborations and to be able to take risks and accept weaknesses.

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SELCO Foundation

SELCO Foundation seeks to inspire and implement solutions that alleviate poverty by improving access to sustainable energy to underserved communities.