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Living below the line: sustainability and the houses of the ultra poor

The ultra poor communities in Bangladesh seemingly live in the most basic form of shelter. A closer look however, reveals that the building practices of these people address sustainability, affordability and a host of socio cultural and environmental issues with deeper concern and wisdom than is apparent. This paper focuses on the homestead layouts, space-use pattern, building materials, building priorities and the environmental qualities of a selected number of households in the northern part of Bangladesh.

The document also attempts to understand how the people perceive their own houses and housing needs as a part of their existence and development. From observations and interviews with the people it could be understood that their house represents their connection to the earth and therefore existence. The fact that they have a home gives them identity and credibility within their community. The layout of the house and the occupation of rooms are also indicative of family strength and oneness.

The document concludes that the challenge lies in understanding local wisdom and seeking ways to transfer the simple technological options to these people so that their lives improve within the sustainable environment that they have created for themselves.