Your Design Concepts to Help Low-Income Communities

What do you think an XPRIZE competition concept in the area/on the topic of low-income communities could look like? In other words, how can XPRIZE use the incentive prize competition model to improve conditions or outcomes for low-income communities in the United States?

A well-designed XPRIZE has the following criteria:

  • It is audacious but achievable
  • It has a well-defined, measurable goal
  • It focuses on developing and implementing innovations rather than influencing behavior or policy

Try not to get too hung up on things like prize purses at this stage. Think about the prize’s impact!

If you have an idea for a design, let us know in the comments! Or share any thoughts you might have about how these communities can be helped by an innovation prize competition.

Hi all - and thank you for your introductions on the Introductions thread, @SRashkin @sglaude1 @LisaHomesFund @alexadlp @FanyuLin @annedodge @sunshinem @Greenduck and @prernakuhad!

This is our latest discussion topic - do you have any concepts or ideas for what a prize design around low-income communities could look like? You can share any of your thoughts, ideas, or even full concepts below.

(And if you haven’t already, you can check out our first discussion topic, on what defines a successful community!)

The key to establishing any community is in maximising meaningful engagement within the community. Usually this is done in low-income or affordable housing projects by creating common spaces to encourage such community interactions- playgrounds, parks, club houses etc. But at least in India I’m yet to come across any of these serving their intended purpose. Physical infrastructure tends to break down due to lack of maintenance and human interaction never takes root at least around these spaces. An alternative could be to create soft infrastructure/platforms that work to increase engagement amongst the residents in the community. Once a critical level of intra-community co-dependence is reached, the network effects could take a life of their own.
Facilitating creation of micro-entrepreneurs serving the needs of the colony itself could be another way.

I concur with Prernakuhad: I don’t think the world’s poor need yet another round of well-meaning people from affluent societies designing houses for them. People have been doing that since Robert Owen and Aleksey Arakcheyev.

A way to help people create their own homes would, I expect, dramatically increase their commitment to the scheme and create a more permanent community.

I would look into the following projects for inspiration:

  3. How fungi can help create a green construction industry.

Another question is then affordability, I think James Ehrlich touches on it via regen, and ICON with 3D printed communities also levels on this.

But beyond that, a (Housing) community that generates its own electricity and harvests its own water and sells to the grid, can potentially grow its own food and pay for its own lifecycle (from conception to decommissioning). This home could even claim carbon credits through CO2 reduction by planting mycelium.

The house must also be able to purify wastewater and return it for use in washing, gardening and plumbing.

I think blockchain and smart contracts will also enable better mobility as community members come and leave the neighbourhood.

But this housing must then seek to understand its inhabitants, through understanding them, can it build a better household, which will, in turn, build a better community.

To make this housing affordable the contribution will have to be both financial and data. Yes, that is right, you will pay the house buy selling it your data too.

@NickAzer please note this contribution by BLC I think it’s awesome.


@bngejane Indeed, these are awesome! Thanks for so much for sharing these fantastic resources that will help us inform our own competition design.

I’m very curious as to why this is limited to the US. I thought the XPRIZE concepts are meant to be audacious (;

Fully agree with the discussion so far, very happy to see Regen Villages already mentioned on here (@bngejane).

Thinking of low-income communities across the world, especially in the Global South, I would say we first need to understand what a happy community looks like for them. Each community is likely to want different things, especially in making visible their cultural heritage within urban design and architecture. Each community needs to look different too, in order to really embed that sense of belonging. Construction based on 3D printing presents a limitation (at the moment) on how buildings then have to look, and may not sit in line with what individual communities may traditionally define as their identity. There is some give-and-take here, but we must be careful to not apply broad-brush solutions that will create an epidemic of monotony.
I particularly enjoy Regen Villages’ concept because it seeks to support the growth of the community with Village-OS, a software to enable machine-learning in regenerating the environment with our human activities within the village. What I struggle with moving beyond this concept is the imposition of e.g. how food must be grown or what food must be grown, echoing @Cambias’ point about importing foreign values or ideas about “development”.

@samanthasuppiah Very valid point regarding the geographic scope of our current project. For the very reasons you outlined about broad-brush solutions we want to be careful that we are centering this competition and potential future competitions on the needs of specific communities. We are almost considering this a “proof of concept” of a prize model that can afterward be adapted (carefully) to different geographical concepts.

Our Housing Impact Roadmap available at the link below has a much more global perspective and outlines several breakthroughs that can be incorporated into future community prizes to ensure a global impact.

@"DavidPoli " Sweet. In the case of low-income communities in the US, which still represents a very large number of people in different geographic areas, the discussion could possibly come back around building regulations and the embedding of co-creation within the current design process.
So I would say the great potential in this particular track is to focus on developing a process to respond to the US system.
While I’m a sustainable urban and architecture design professional, I don’t have any experience with the US system of planning or any good understanding of the different regulations in different parts of the country. I would be very interested to hear and learn from US urban designers, architects and engineers!

“The goal is to provide homes for people who, unfortunately, don’t yet have appropriate living conditions. The prototype for the 3D printed house cost around $10,000, but the company claims that it can bring that down to only $4000, which is great news.”
I asume the company to be ICON from Austin. There are other companies as well.

Hi, I’m new to this thread, but I think I have some insight that may be a benefit. It is only my opinion, but the opinion of a former low-income community tenant.

A while back, I was considered low income and did live in one of these communities in the United States. Specifically in Pennsylvania. From there, I moved into the Section 8 program. The communities that the US has for low income are horrendous from a tenant’s perspective. Just being in these communities brings most people down to the point that they don’t want to be in their community at the playgrounds or community spaces. Add to that the fact that adults have home inspections from the community administrators to ensure that they are keeping their home in a way that is specified by the community. You are not allowed to have the freedom that a homeowner has in these communities. Once you move into Section 8, you could be in a nicer neighborhood and a more beautiful home, but you are also still subject to the inspections, etc. Again the system brings you down to an uncomfortable level. Again, the community fails.

To build a community, you need to design the master plan in a way that tenants ingress and egress force them through the common areas. If the common areas are designed to motivate the building of a community feel, then they will help build a community. If they are a collection of open spaces and parks strewn haphazardly throughout a community, then they will not get the traffic needed to build a community.

I liken this to the designs that we use for collaborative workspaces and such in modern businesses.

Since XPRIZE is about sharing ideas.
I would like to point out some aspects for all communities especially for low income communities.
The residents will have very low service fees if the community has a circular water system combined with passive houses and solar with backup.
If they have a biogas facility they can obviously have gas for cocking and heating but they can also use the gas as a backup for power peaks. The simplest solution is by gas driven generators but there is also fuel cells under development. The fuel cells can convert the biogas to electricity or to hydrogen.
This means that the solar system gets more reliable. It lessens the need for big battery backups.
Another step is in suitable locations for city scale is to use the remains from feces and toilet paper for thermal power plants.
If you separate gray water feces and urine like suggested in infinity water the amount of water in the black water lessens. And this means that it is easier to dry the feces before use.
This is in my opinion a better biomass instead for burning wood from forests.
There is also the possibility to make biochar from the feces and toilet paper.
The bio char can also be preloaded with excess water from the biogas facility if the remains of medicine and hormones have been removed.
This is great to mix in soil.
So the city/communities/nature has a great value in making some changes in the way we think and act.
And all the pieces of the puzzle lay there, it is just to have the knowledge and will to put them together.