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From Nike grind to dignified, sustainable housing for disadvantaged communities

Habi-Nex provides affordable, flexible modular housing solutions that promote financial prosperity and social inclusion.

Photo of Taru Niskanen
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ABOUT US

We are a socially driven design practice creating innovative human-centered housing solutions to pressing issues that impact populations around the globe. We provide sustainable, modular housing for the following market sectors:

  1. Base of the Pyramid (BoP) market (e.g. low-income communities at informal settlements)
  2. Mid-market (e.g. student and senior housing)
  3. High-end market (e.g. recreational housing)


about Our product 

Our product is an affordable, sustainable, rapidly deployable and dignified house which is shipped in pieces and assembled by the end users. All building components were carefully chosen for their performance and efficiency and can be easily customized with local interior and exterior finishes, depending on the location of the house. We propose upcycling Nike grind products in various stages of our design process, using them both as a filler in our structural and insulation panels and as a finishing layer.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Habi-Nex B.V.

Which Nike Grind materials will your idea utilize?

  • Rubber Outsoles
  • Rubber Flashings
  • Rubber Granulate
  • EVA Foam Injection Scraps
  • EVA Foam Flashings
  • EVA Foam Sheets & Blocks
  • EVA Foam Components

How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Piloting

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Our primary target market is the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) market in South Africa. Families and communities living in informal settlements & townships in South Africa will benefit from our product. Our secondary target markets are mid- & high-end markets in the Netherlands and beyond. Veterans, seniors, students and more will benefit from our product. The profits gained from the high-end market help support the work we do towards our target beneficiaries within our primary ('affordable') market.

How will you scale your idea? Please describe in detail your plan to scale your concept.

Netherlands: Together with our local partner SIP Construct we are about to start marketing & sales in the Netherlands (summer 2018). After that (fall 2018), we will expand our sales overseas. South Africa (SA): With the support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (part of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs), we start a pilot project in SA in July 2018 as a first step to introduce our product to the SA market: 1. Production & assembly. 2. The pilot project will be used for structural testing to obtain the required SA (material-) certificates and building permits. 3. The pilot project will also be utilized for both community and residential uses in the informal settlement Enkanini & Kayamandi township in Stellenbosch, SA to introduce alternative building techniques to our target group and receive community ‘buy in’ (which is our main challenge) & collect feedback from the end users to make the final refinements to our full-scale production model

How is your idea innovative?

Our design uses a high performance building system, called SIP (Structural Insulated Panel). The panels consist of an insulating foam core, sandwiched between two structural facings (typically OSB board). The panels can be used as floor, wall, and roof, radically simplifying the building process. We are currently working on a highly innovative panel connection detail which would allow people with no previous construction experience to build the within a day.

What inspired this idea?

A billion+ people worldwide live in substandard housing. Decent, stable home provides more than just a roof over someone’s head: it helps to take individuals, families and communities out from survival mode and towards prosperity.

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

In what city are you located?

Amsterdam

In what country are you located?

The Netherlands

What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

We are a registered company

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

The grant will help us to develop and fine-tune our product for larger scale production. It will contribute to our pilot project to test the product with real users. Beyond the funding, we see a great value in exploring partnerships we could build together.

37 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Brian Morris
Team

What you doing is simply amazing! Keep up the good work! Love your articles.

Spam
Photo of Heather Madgwick
Team

Hi Taru and Team,

This is a fantastic idea that shows clear consideration towards helping reducing waste and address affordable housing issues. I believe there is definitely a market for your modular houses in markets around the world, and outside of disadvantaged communities also.

My question for your submission relates to how easily the houses could be disassembled, and transported elsewhere if the owner wanted to relocate?
Would this see to be a problem for the average individual within your proposed target market (ability and affordability wise)?

Best of luck with the development of your idea!

Spam
Photo of cute QinQ
Team

AWESOME IDEA, WORTH TO BE IMPLEMENTATION. IT IS ALSO GOOD FOR STUDENT TO LIVE IN THE FUTURE

Spam
Photo of HENG ZHOU
Team

Very good idea but still need to verify

Spam
Photo of Bodhi Kawulia
Team

Hey Team,

Great idea! It seems rather obvious that, indeed, rapid assembly housing has a place in our modern society, and using up-cycled of materials is really a cherry on top.

Having said that, the place in society of which rapid assembly housing holds (to me at least) remains fairly grey. Thus, my question is really in regards to the expected economic implications of such a housing initiative.

It holds to reason that as a registered company your incentive is push as many units as possible. Yet, it is not hard to imagine a case in which a sudden surge in the supply of housing forces value to go down consequently domino-ing into the surrounding economy.

Clearly, as what appear to be a fairly socially concerned group, I would imagine this is not an ideal outcome for you. So (1) what impact (if any) do you see low cost housing having on the surrounding economies of your stated targets, at a macro-scale; does it still yield a net positive financial benefit in the long run? (2) How do you square the circle of a companies rapid profit incentives and the required patience of property economies?

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Photo of Jose Rodriguez Giraldo
Team

Hi Taru, this is such an impressive submission. From my point of view, affordable and sustainable housing is a differentiator that would definitely constitute a competitive advantage not just in developing countries, or disadvantaged communities but in the whole world. Prices are dramatically increasing worldwide, especially in big cities where the gap between people rich and poor people is higher.

I am from Colombia where the inequality is even higher and these type if initiatives are definitely the key to overcome so many housing issues, to integrate and contribute to the development of better societies. Well done! Jose Rodriguez

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Photo of Anna Everson
Team

I believe that making a house and these materials is an incredibly effective idea. It will turn out strong and at the same time, stylish looking.

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Thank you Anna for your comment and support! All the best, Taru

Spam
Photo of ziyan zeng
Team

That is an awesome idea! People live in land shortage countries will happy to see the invention. The advantage is the cost and the feasibility. If the product can be easy to transport to the area where people needed that would be perfect.

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hello Ziyan, thanks a lot! Indeed, the key is that the housing modules are efficiently flat-packed and easily transported to a suitable site. Best regards, Taru

Spam
Photo of Claudi Molins
Team

Hi Taru,
In my case, I know a little bit the situation in South Africa, my sister is living there and married with a South African. I traveled several times, and I was working in a township near of Cape Town.
His husband is a electical engineer that his commitment in his live is to help to develop all Africa. He's doing a lot of projects around Africa, and one of the problems is, as many times in Africa, about money. He told me that thats a big problem because if you have x budget, the most of time is not going to be that amount because a lot of people want to be paied. I think your idea is wonderful because I have been in townships and its very hard to see.
I hope your project will develop because its very interesting.

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Claudia, thank you for sharing your insights and your support! you're absolutely right, I agree. thanks again, Taru

Spam
Photo of om G
Team

This is how I'd like these structures to look, but the fact will likely be a dreary little sweatbox, packed next to many others. People don't often make great decisions, and get used to deplorable situations.

Spam
Photo of Michael Jones
Team

Expert’s consultation is also available for students. If they have any query they can contact with our experts anytime. We always make sure that we maintain that standard because our customer satisfaction is our main priority. We have a strict quality control unit. They scrutinize the solutions and assure us about the quality. We do not compromise with the quality. If we are not satisfied, we ask the writers to revise the assignment solutions.
https://www.allassignmenthelp.com

Spam
Photo of Ghaith Alsayyed
Team

Dear Taru,
This is an excellent idea.
I really like the idea of developing stable homes. I believe that housing is one of the inherent problems people from many developing countries are experiencing and I think that your project can be an incredible solution.
i also have a question on your marketing strategies that you intend to apply in South Africa.

Spam
Photo of Lu LIU
Team

Hi Taru,
This idea is amazing for people who need a stable home, and your effort inspires me a lot, I have two questions for your product: 1- What do you think whats the best strategy to attract customers towards your product?
2- Do you think people ideas are helpful for your project?

Spam
Photo of Svante Kienzle
Team

Dear Taru,

I truly believe you and your team have created an excellent idea that might be able to improve the lives of millions of people in the developing countries.

From your proposal, it becomes apparent that you have already begun with local marketing and sales activities. I would really appreciate hearing a little bit more about how this first stage of your plan went and if you were able to reach your set objectives.

Thank you!

All the best and much success with your idea.

Spam
Photo of Serena Liu
Team

Great idea! The most concern for this idea is whether the house is safe. Whether it can prevent fire disaster. I think it still needs a lot of experiments.

Spam
Photo of Luke McManus
Team

Great idea!

Hey @ Nike how about a shoe recycling program in stores so you can dump your old shoes?

Spam
Photo of Elisabeth Steiner
Team

The greatest thing about this proposal is that it could also contribute to social equality - really great idea. What I am missing is a more detailed description of how the Nike Grind materials that you are planning on using are the best option for these parts or are there more useful materials for these parts of your product? More specifically, is the Nike Grind challenge the best option for your product?

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Elisabeth, thank you for your comment!

There are a number of criteria that go into selecting our preferred materials including:
A. Impact
B. Function
C. Cost

For us as a social enterprise, impact is a key factor. This means both impact for our end-users, but also impact of us as manufacturers. Reusing and recycling materials contribute to a circular economy thus minimizing waste.

In our proposal, there are two different methods to use the Nike Grind materials:
1) Use the Nike Grind material in its raw, untreated form
2) Chemically recycle the (polyurethane-) Nike Grind back to polyol, one of the chemical ingredients used to make new polyurethane foam

Both of these options meet our impact criterion, so we rank them better than using newly produced materials. When it comes to function, option 2 is equal to using new material, so we would rank this as the best. However, option 1 is a more efficient process. The difference in functional performance requires further testing. As for the third criterion, we would need to do a more in-depth cost analysis. However, this would not necessarily be the most important.

In short, option 2, using the broken down components of the Nike Grind, is equal in quality and performance to that of using virgin resources. We have no hesitations in using this material.

Hope this answers your question and we can't wait to start on the next phase!
Team Habi-Nex

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Photo of Jonathan Prosser
Team

An excellent concept. My questions are (1) how using the Nike Grind materials will enable a reduction in consumption of the currently used materials in the production process; (2) what the impact of this reduction will be on the value chain; and (3) whether the vision for the potential for the solution goes far enough.

Elaborating on the third question: the current approach of making a measurable difference in South Africa is admirable, and mention is made of other areas that would be positively impacted. In partnership with Nike, the potential to scale this impact is significant. Delivering the housing solutions into areas of conflict, and helping to re-build post-conflict, is compelling. This paired with the work Nike has previously done to use the materials in the development of sports facilities points to the development of communities and spaces where identity can be (re)built. This aligns the vision of both organisations, addressing substandard housing, and empowering people as athletes.

A very impressive submission.

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Jonathan Prosser,
Thank you for your feedback! Below brief answers to your questions:

(1) how using the Nike Grind materials will enable a reduction in consumption of the currently used materials in the production process?
A: It does not reduce consumption. It converts existing material waste into a functional product that can be reused recycled. Reduction in the consumption would need to be done through a manufacturing and supply chain analysis. We are merely proposing to utilize the existing manufacturing waste in order to reduce global pollution.

(2) what the impact of this reduction will be on the value chain?
A: Less waste equals a cleaner world and a healthier ecosystem.

(3) whether the vision for the potential for the solution goes far enough?
A: Given that there are nearly 70 million displaced people in the world, we feel that the vision goes far enough. Our biggest challenge is to find like minded organizations to help us to realize that vision. We hope that NIKE will be one of the first. :)

Thanks again,
Habi-Nex team

Spam
Photo of Sophia Pan
Team

Hi Taru and Team,

Firstly, I agree with the previous commenters that this is an impressive submission, and there is definitely a need for a variety of affordable housing options. I have a few comments and questions.

I lived and conducted research in South Africa for ~ seven years in sanitation for informal settlements in Cape Town, and as I am sure you are well aware that community dynamics can be very volatile in addition to the complicated relationship between various community based organizations, government, etc.

COMMENTS
1) In terms of getting buy-in, I would recommend getting in touch with the Sustainability Institute who have worked in Enkanini for a number of years with the iShack project (http://www.ishackproject.co.za/) who could probably offer some insights and also might be a helpful local partner. Just as as a note, from my experience, there is an understandable wariness related to pilot projects in which they may unintentionally be left to feel like guinea pigs rather than active participants or co-designers.
2) Additionally, within a single settlement there can be multiple political/other social divisions so it is important to note that if only a small number of households can be served by the pilot, it is important to work very closely with the community (again there may be MULTIPLE communities within one settlement to consider) to select participants.
3) Getting in touch with the local municipality's housing department would also be highly recommended if you haven't already done so (sorry I know there is probably a lot on the back-end you couldn't post but just wanted to offer some advice I picked up during my research).

QUESTIONS
1) How do you plan to select participants for the pilot project
2) Who are your local partners?
3) Do you see local government as being the buyer for this product or individual community members?
4) Do you have an estimate on how much you think each unit would cost? (I know this is still early stages, but if it's going to be purchased by residents themselves or with assistance from government subsidies it would likely need to fall somewhere between the cost of the 'shacks' or government housing subsidy currently provided: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/all-you-need-know-about-housing-subsidies).

I hope this doesn't come across as overly negative, but I am familiar with the complex and fraught social/political dynamics in South Africa, especially in informal settlements so I just wanted to share some of my insights to hopefully help you avoid or work through potential pitfalls!

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Sophia,

Thank you for raising critical questions and sharing your experience within the informal settlements in SA. Below a brief answer to your comments and questions

1) The Sustainability Institute is indeed one of our key local partners. The Stellenbosch University has presented a concrete mutually beneficial opportunity during our pilot project: Through them, we will gain assistance with on-site involvement and research aid whilst students are able to gain valuable “hands on” experience in various fields. To minimize the possible negative effect of ‘feeling like guinea pigs’ during our project within the community, we have set a specific goal to actively co-design the ‘houses of the future’ together with the local experts and local community to best meet their specific housing needs.



2) By also setting the housing units first as communal spaces to benefit as many people within the communities as possible, we aim avoid raising feelings of inequality within the households. Our discussions with our local partner and Enkanini’s informal settlement community leader Mr. Yondela Tyawa (as well as other stakeholders at this informal settlement) have been insightful BUT I would absolutely love to discuss/hear more about your experiences regarding the multiple political/other social divisions of different communities within the Enkanini settlement! Could we maybe set a Skype call to learn your advice you picked up during your research?



3) We have indeed been in touch with the local municipality and its housing department. At a municipal level, Mayor Giese Van Deventer of Stellenbosch has endorsed our product and supports the implementation in her community upon approval of the Federal building authority. In our experience, the Stellenbosch Municipality has been extremely positive in our engagements thus far, they are interested in supporting new and innovative products and approaches geared towards the upliftment of their citizens. Support from the Mayor’s office provides a solid starting point for application processing and eventual approval for our housing system to be constructed and tested within their Municipal boundary.



1) How do you plan to select participants for the pilot project? A: The community leader of the Enkanini informal settlement leads the selection of participants who assist in the design modification and building the community center. Once we go larger-scale and are implementing actual housing (rather than communal space), more specific selection processes are at place.

2) Who are your local partners? A: In addition to the above-mentioned municipal and research/university partners, our other current local partners include construction companies. Since early 2017, we have done 3 visits to South Africa, invited by our (Dutch) partner InSite. Having operated in the local communities of South Africa for over 10 years, InSite was able to connect us at both the governmental and grassroots level. They facilitated most of our meetings and discussions with the stakeholders during our first visits and have enabled us to initiate this project.

3) Do you see local government as being the buyer for this product or individual community members? A: Both.

4) Do you have an estimate on how much you think each unit would cost? A: The cost of one 20 square meter housing unit is estimated to be at around 10 000 euros, which is slightly less than the government subsidy of 160 573 South African Rand (10 500 euros).


Thanks again for your feedback based on your insight on the social/political dynamics in South Africa!

Spam
Photo of Sophia Pan
Team

Hi Taru, thanks for your responses. I figured that there probably was a lot more detail about the planning process that couldn't be described in the project description so I'm glad to hear that you've connected with some key stakeholders. I primarily did my research in eThekwini, Cape Town and Johannesburg municipality so I am not as familiar with Stellenbosch, but I would be happy to discuss some of the insights (and pitfalls) that I observed during my research. My Skype username is bluesoccerberry if you want to contact me there. (Note: I'm based in the US so there might be a bit of a time difference issue.)

Spam
Photo of Christine
Team

HI Taru,
I love your design. I live in the Oakland, CA where we are suffering from a major housing crisis and severe homeless problem. I pass by these communities everyday—it's heartbreaking. What about partnering with US cities to market your product?

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Christine, thanks for your comment and tips! Yes indeed, definitely worth looking into.
Thanks,
Taru

Spam
Photo of om G
Team

I like this idea because of the market and the overall good that can be achieved with the Regrind materials. Much needed and great looking product!

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Thanks a lot! :)

Spam
Photo of Will
Team

Hello Taru,
Great Idea, you should make another design that revolves around disabilities in disadvantaged communities as well , like ramps, railings, braille, easy access facilities etc.

Good Luck

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hello Will, thank you! Yes indeed this is very important and we will definitely consider this in our design. Actually we already have one modification with a ramp, wider door etc.
Thanks again,
Taru

Spam
Photo of Our Workshop
Team

Hey there! Your primary aim is to bring this concept to South Africa!?? Amazing! We could connect... we are based in Langa a township near the city of Cape Town so we could potentially advise or test - at the least offer feedback from our members.

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Heath / Our Workshop team, thanks for reaching out to us! You are doing some very interesting work -- we should definitely talk further. What's the best way for you? Skype or email perhaps? you can reach me at t.niskanen@habi-nex.com

Looking forward

Spam
Photo of Our Workshop
Team

email is good for now sure... I personally have a slight aversion to skype but MUST get over it obviously!
ourworkshopct@gmail.com
Um ja this could be a great way to start some work together. We have a team member Lotte De Haan from the eindhoven academy who is contributing to our bridge builder challenge, and who has integrally helped to build what we are now - she interned with us for 6 months last year...
We are actually trying to find some way to get her back here to continue working with us. Ideas are welcome!
Thanks for the message.

Spam
Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Taru Niskanen ,

Great to see you in the Challenge! Could you please provide more content for the submission question, "How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?" How might you begin to turn the raw Nike Grind materials into your final product? What might that process look like step-by-step? How might you begin to prototype your concept?

With the deadline fast-approaching at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, please ensure all of your final updates are completed by then.

Excited to learn more!

Spam
Photo of Taru Niskanen
Team

Hi Lauren, thank you for your feedback! I just wanted to mention that due to the time difference and the deadline (and our last minute submission of course), we were unfortunately not able to add these details anymore at this ideas phase. Thanks again, Taru