Romanian Casa Buna: Affordable steel housing for new generations -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Romanian Casa Buna: Affordable steel housing for new generations

By Mona Prisacariu

 

   
 


Completed steel-frame houses in Moinesti, Romania.

   


Access to adequate shelter is vital to every human being. Yet more than 2.1 billion people in the world live in poverty housing. While the need is clear, affordable and sustainable solutions are not so clear. According to the U.N. Centre for Human Settlements, 21 million new housing units are required annually to accommodate the growth in the number of households.

In Europe and Central Asia, Habitat for Humanity has been trying innovative ways to find sustainable and low-cost housing solutions. Two years ago, Habitat started collaborating with the ArcelorMittal Foundation, a charitable arm of the world’s leading steelmaker. It resulted in a partnership that includes direct financial contributions to Habitat, volunteer opportunities for ArcelorMittal employees and development of a light steel housing solution matching Habitat requirements of a simple, decent home.

The first steel house was developed in Romania, with the goal of applying the model to Habitat projects worldwide over time.

In 2008, the Casa Buna model (translated as “Good House”) was created after three months of development. It was made of a light, steel-frame structure, with a prepainted, steel roof tile system, steel rainwater extraction system and steel cladding made of prepainted, roll-formed parts. It was constructed at the ArcelorMittal facility in Bucharest.

In the summer of 2009, construction of the first steel houses started in Bacău county in northeastern Romania. Twelve families joined Romanian and international volunteers to build the three units, each with four apartments. The families moved into their homes in May 2010.

The steel frames last longer than other similarly priced materials and can also be easily deconstructed when needed. Once disassembled, almost all of the materials can be recycled. Additionally, the lighter structures have smaller foundations, which reduces the amount of concrete required.

The model has been designed for energy efficiency and carefully assessed to ensure family comfort and adequate living space. It is also earthquake- and hurricane-resistant and complies with European fire resistance standards. Finally, all house elements are easily transportable as a “flat pack” construction kit to allow other Habitat for Humanity projects to benefit from this innovative technology.

Affordability is another important issue. Most of the materials used in the construction were less expensive than traditional materials. And the steel provides better climate control, which helps families manage the rising costs of energy during the cold winters and hot summers.

ArcelorMittal and Habitat for Humanity Romania hope to export an adapted model of Casa Buna or similar low-cost steel housing solutions to other Habitat for Humanity programs. The goal is to build more durable homes using steel structures and roofing in countries that are prone to earthquakes and hurricanes, and to train communities in safer construction practices.hop

Mona Prisacariu is the resource development and communications director for Habitat for Humanity Romania.s