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A sustainable affordable home that finances itself by selling the energy that it produces

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

Written by

Powerhyde is a radical concept in housing, though designed for ‘extreme affordable’ housing, it is expandable to any type of housing in the world. Our scenario was that if we created a startup home building organisation for the homeless, in the mode of Tesla and SolarCity, if we started a home design for homeless from scratch, what would we do? Very often new ideas and technologies are started with the upper crest of market segment and gradually over time, with scale and value engineering, watered down cheaper, lower quality versions reach the bottom of the pyramid. Powerhyde reverses this process and has been designed from ground up for the 1 billion strong but highly underserved homeless market.

The result is a thought-provoking view of the future of housing, where the homeless can afford their ‘own’ house in a dignified way and be far ahead in an environmental stewardship than the rest of us on the planet.

Powerhyde reimagines affordable homes that can be built fast, are of high quality, aspirational for the users, minimise externalities to the environment and above all, can self-finance itself by the energy it produces and sells. 

Each Powerhyde home will generate 4x the amount of energy that the home would need to consume through a solar power plant on its roof. The additional 3x energy will be sold to finance the house to fully pay the mortgage in 11 years. For the remaining 11 years of the life of the solar cells, it will provide additional income to investors and the families. Powerhyde community of 170 homes will generate energy equivalent to 1 MW solar power plant.

A powerhyde home is 30% prefabricated and will be shipped from regional factories located within 500kms of the construction site. This will ensure structural integrity for topographical and regional needs, ensuring every house is safe against natural calamities. The remaining 70% of the house is locally built using materials and designs most conducive to climate, context and cultural appropriateness. 25sqm powerhyde home can be assembled and built in two months through this methodology.

A powerhyde collects its own rain water, cleans its grey water and produces its food, optimising need for additional infrastructure construction.

Powerhyde manages and optimises its performance through an IOT based mobile app which provides real-time information on energy production, energy sales and mortgage payments.

'Powerhyde' is a cohesive model of environmentally friendly housing demand and sustainable finance, which allows homes to become passive income generator and active contributor to a family's income through design, construction, and technology.

Explain your idea

Housing is a wicked problem. Globally, by 2030 more than 3 billion poorest people will need over 600 million affordable homes to be built. In fact, every year the demand for new affordable housing is far exceeding the provision of new stock. When we think of affordable housing, we always think of building cheap homes. We are driven by cost and financing issues rather than people’s needs. We never look at the homeless as our clients with a need to provide them with the most appropriate solution. Billionbricks team through three years of extensive ground research and in working very closely with rural communities in India developed the concept of Powerhyde. The real boost to the concept came when India embarked on a grand vision of providing 40 million homes to its rural population, ending homelessness in the country in next five years. This provides an immense opportunity for looking at solutions at scale, which had never been possible before. Powerhyde uniquely combines a safe high-quality home, self-sustainable in energy needs and uses additional solar energy to finance itself. We developed a house as a product that produces more energy than its own usage, generates its own income and easy to assemble and adaptable to different cultural, regional and climatic conditions. The Powerhyde is modular and the system of the house allows vertically or horizontally expansion to meet the demand of growing families. The passive and active sustainability measures have been combined to meet the needs of fossil free energy production and zero impact water re-use and circular waste treatment. The design and function of this house have been developed with the use of prefabricated and local construction material. The use of industrial structural elements helps to achieve speed, reduced cost, and quality of construction. The grid of the Powerhyde allows building the module depending on the availability of finances, time and further development according to each individual situation. The active and passive sustainability measures reduce the dependency on government facilities as well as the impact on the environmental footprint. The rainwater harvesting, reedbed sewage treatment, and recycling treatment help to create the condition towards fully self-sufficient rural home.

Who Benefits?

More than 40 million rural families in India are facing home congestion and homelessness issues. Powerhyde will provide high quality, sustainable homes which will generate additional passive income. Government of India- Government of India - envisions building 40 million homes over the next five years. Powerhyde’s combination of pre-fabrication and local construction will help speed up construction of homes by up to 6x. A powerhyde home can be built in just 2 months as opposed to 12 months of traditional practice. Energy and utility companies- With 40 million new homes, the demand for energy is expected to increase by over 25,000 MW which with USD 25 billion investment in infrastructure. Powerhydes will localise and decentralise production and distribution of energy saving over 30% of infrastructure costs. Venture funds- Powerhydes financially viable model could open source of new funding creating value for venture funds across the world in new sectors.

How is your idea unique?

Powerhyde is unique because it combines the provision of an affordable home, with a mechanism to finance the cost of construction through the sale of energy it produces. Over 70% of Indian rural population can-not access government subsidies and loans as they are not part of the financial institutional system and/ or have no collaterals to access housing loans. Most organisations focus on either construction of affordable homes or provision of loans. They serve a small market relative to the need. In fact, the rural housing market in India has a need for 40 million homes, and the country is building less than a few hundred thousand homes a year. The idea of Powerhyde will help to create the double use of land for housing and energy generation where excess energy will self-finance the homes.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

billionBricks is a non-profit innovation studio that uses design as its primary tool to solve one of the most pressing global problems: homelessness. Co-founded by Prasoon, an architect who in his 10 years of career had designed over 10,000 homes each for those who already had one, and none for those who needed one the most. In 2013, having observed rising housing issues in major urban areas where he had worked, Prasoon quit his corporate career to build one of a kind organisation that will focus its entire energy on solving homelessness issue. He was joined by Anurag Srivastava, his co-founder and CEO of Space Matrix, one of largest interior design firms in Asia Pacific and Managing Partner at Jungle Ventures. Prasoon established a joint design studio with Robert Verrijt, Principal at ArchitectureBRIO, one of India's foremost design practices. billionBricks' vision is to innovate systemic solutions that can reimagine the housing solutions for the homeless and vulnerable. It's solutions are high quality, women-centric, sustainable, highly scalable and create opportunities for the communities to emerge out of poverty. It's approach empowers communities to replicate the solutions on their own, reduces dependencies on support, creating ownership and pride, and unlocking untapped potential for change. billionBricks is a headquartered in Singapore and operates studios in Singapore and Mumbai. It's primary focus of work is India but has carried out projects in Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal and United States. billionBricks works very closely with the community and collaborates extensively with other non-profits, corporates and governments to scale its impact. We are currently in conversation with Government of Karnataka, to provide 12 acres of land to build the pilot community of 170 PowerHYDEs in Taluka (district) of Chittapur. We are also building collaborations with an American non profit to execute construction, American architecture firm to detail the design and explore construction technologies including 3D printing, and a Swedish engineering firm for sustainable design, engineering and business modeling.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


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Photo of abdullah ibrahim

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Photo of eldy wullur

This is a very appropriate project for housing procurement solutions for the homeless. Thank you, I am very happy to join your team and hope this project can be implemented in Indonesia. There are many similarities between India and Indonesia with large populations and abundant countries with sunshine.

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

We agree Eldy, PowerHYDE would be appropriate for Indonesia too. PowerHYDE has been designed by billionBricks, headquartered in Singapore. So we are just across the straits.

Photo of eldy wullur

Wow .. it's awesome. Just keep in touch.

Photo of Prerna Kapoor

The only major problem that I believe is, well taking in relevance to the rural India, people for who the idea is conceptualized around don't dream of a house but monetary security and eventually they rent out their abode to get the same.
Problem is lack of education or realization among the same set of crowd to see how important it is to have a place to live in.

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

Dear Prerna,
We understand that the problem of renting out homes occurs in urban areas. This is also prevalent amongst slum dwellers and not street homeless. In rural areas the rental market is too small and not lucrative enough to give up home and be on the street.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Prasoon!

Thank you for telling us about Power Hyde.

How far along is the project now? Have you tested a working prototype? What sort of feedback have you received?

How long is your planned project?

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

Dear Kate,
We are finished with concept design and business strategy. We have also had community meetings at one of the potential location in India (Konchur, Karnataka) and have gathered feedback from a community in Cambodia, where first house prototypes were tested (without solar cells). Feedback has been positive and the learnings have been incorporated. We are currently in talks with engineering and construction firms to finalise on costs and execution strategy. We are also in talks with government in India to finalise the location.
We plan to finish Phase 1 of 60 homes by August 2018.


Hello Eldi and Prasoon!

Understanding "homeless" in your country, a person who has informal economic activities, I share the following:

powerHIDE, is a project with innovation, prevention and heart. Contributing to the reduction of energy use, through the use of sustainability mechanisms, is to take care of the planet, its country and its communities. Areas without electricity make development slower, but there is also danger in progress, due to lack of education and inexperience in communities. It would be valuable for you to incorporate an NGO, as an ally, who works in entrepreneurship, so that in parallel they work on family education, order in a resilient community, especially now having a new resource that they have to take care of, and Moves them to grow, to improve.

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

Dear Lourdes,

We couldn't agree with you more, building a community has a lot more to do with just providing for infrastructure. We will need to bring in a lot more partners to enable the program to succeed beyond housing. Here's one of our projects where we had partners from Cambodia and Singapore who looked after education and skill development. We at billionBricks ensured that the building infrastructure could not only support, but enhance and complement all the other programs.

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Praoon,
Almost all developing countries, as well as poor housing issues become central issues. Every year the population density increases, and the level of occupancy demand increases. For those who have a good income, no problem, just need to downsize. But for the homeless? waiting for an answer from us all.

Photo of Prasoon Kumar

Dear Eldy,
You are absolutely right, that homeless do not have any choice or opportunities to access housing. In regions we work, homeless have reasonable jobs, but the incomes are so low that it is impossible to access housing in their incomes. In fact many in urban areas can't afford slums and end up being on the streets and continue to be there for generations.