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IKEA for Slums - Educate with Lego-style DIY Housing

Work with companies like IKEA & Lego to design DIY houses for slums that needs to rebuild. Educate and change one slum at a time.

Photo of Kristabel 静豫 Jingyu
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The problem I would like to solve is the vicious cycle of slums staying as slums no matter how many times it is destructed. My idea is to work with existing companies such as IKEA to design DIY houses ( that people from the slums can get with some assistance when slums are destroyed by fire or natural disasters. This will allow them to rebuild quality houses with special features such as solar panels easily. Future add-on can be easily designed and upgraded in affordable ways, such as exchanging recyclable materials for parts or pay cash when they manage to save the amount for "upgrade". - Imagine upgrade to better solar panel, add new beds, etc. This will create a community where neighbours can share resources, such as four houses can share a solar panel. Imagine if each house have a slot for removable battery pack that they can store, and maybe sell or rent to their neighbours who cannot afford a solar panel. If they are friendly, they can even charge their neighbour's battery pack for food. Imagine they can build a garden on their roof to plant food too! Like lego, its flexible!


Slums community will benefit by having accessible resources to build safer and higher quality homes when they homes are destroyed. Companies can do CSR and design innovative and sustainable DIY housing. Slums in Philippines can be one of them.


People and organisations are helping the victims of these people who's lives are affected by the disasters. My idea allow them to help in a way that can have pro-long benefits, and provide the victims from the slums a possible way to build upon what they have. Because the DIY parts are like lego parts, based on the climate in different countries, customised housing can be put together. For example, openings at designated spot can help regulate air-flow. Broken roof can be easily replaced when the material is recycle and they can trade-in for new roof. If there are new technologies, and the people saved enough money, they can replace their old roof with solar roof. If they decided to start a business, they can extend their house to include a shop in front the same way we do when we build our lego houses.


  • Not yet


  • I do not have experience working in a sector related to my idea


  • This idea is meant to inspire - I hope someone else takes it on!


I'm a Singaporean student studying my Masters in Global Innovation Management in Finland. You can find out more about me on! I love traveling and meeting people from all over the world to learn their stories and see how I can value add to their lives. The more the merrier!! :D


Join the conversation:

Photo of André Fernandes

Hi Kristabel, your idea made me remember a case of a retail store in Brazil, Casas Bahia, focused to attend the bottom of pyramid, including slums.
Although there's isn't anything especially regarded to natural disasters, the interesting point of Casas Bahia is to sell, indeed, affordable interest rates, so low-income citizens can buy what they need for their houses.
How to approach financially the consumers affected by natural disasters and how to make services/products more affordable is a critical point, I think.

Photo of Kristabel 静豫 Jingyu

Hi André, how is the retail store you mentioned going? Is it successful? Did it cause other problems? What are the barriers?

I was thinking that since resources will be pumped in during disasters anyway, those resources should be directed in a way to change the situation and not put them back into the vicious cycle.

On the other hand, I think working with existing companies to build products that can have multiple lives will be interesting. Working with the concept of circular economy..

Photo of Shane Zhao

Awesome discussion Kritabel and Andre! Take a look at Building Community Workshop's approach to disaster relief construction in Texas - where displaced families work with builders and architects to design their new homes. Tempory shelters eventually expand to become permanent homes when families become more involved in the DIY process:

Photo of Kristabel 静豫 Jingyu

That is great! One problem that is faced in the slums but not Dallas is family planning. The family size continuously grow because most of them are not educated enough and their religion "do not allow" it. How can we design a house that grows with the size of the family? Of course the older ones may move out to make space for the younger ones, but most still stay together because they depend on each other.

Most urban slums are built on rubbish ground, farming on those ground is not quite possible. What if they could have a small garden farm on their roof top? They can plant simple stuffs like chilli, herbs and tomatoes? I once planted sweet potatoes in school, the leaves grow so fast and can be harvested for eating while waiting for the sweet potatoes to grow. Will water supply then become the problem??

Photo of André Fernandes

Hi Kristabel,
Yeah, Casas Bahia has been successful on selling cheap furnitures designed to the houses in slums (like smaller furnitures and lighter to carry out). But actually, their business is like a bank that offers credit to their clients buy the stuffs to their place, with facilities they'd never have from conventional banks, since they mostly don't have income proof and their adress is not legal in many cases.

The big insight of Casas Bahia was to comprehend the demand for facilities to their clients pay for what they buy.

Photo of André Fernandes

For planting, it's possible to think about use recycled materials on walls and optimizing spaces. It remembers this idea I posted on another challenge:

And this one, too: