Prefabricated Core Housing

Dec 31, 1995



A prefabricated core house provided by Relief International to displaced residents in Chechnya

Sponsoring OrganizationRelief International
End ClientDisplaced populations of Chechnya
Cost per unit$3,500–5,500
Units120 prefabricated core-housing units

Because roofs and foundations tend to be the most difficult and expensive components of a house, many NGOs have adopted a strategy of building “core housing” as a staple of reconstruction and development work.

As its name implies, the strategy calls for a foundation and roof to be built around a structural core that often, but not always, includes plumbing and electricity and usually consists of one or two rooms, leaving families to build the rest of the house as time and funds permit.

Relief International, a US-based humanitarian aid agency, is one of many groups that have used core housing, not only to rebuild communities but also to promote self-reliance and strengthen the link between reconstruction and job creation.

In 1994 a ceasefire was brokered over a long-standing conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. As a result Azerbaijan lost 16 percent of its territory, prompting some 571, 000 people to retreat inside the country’s new borders. In response Relief International launched a shelter initiative to house Azerbaijan’s newly displaced. Over a six-year period the agency worked with partners in the field and local laborers to build 2,105 core homes. Each humble one-room house included a porch, which could be enclosed to create a second room.

A year later Relief International also provided core houses for a transitional-shelter project in Chechnya. Using a prefabricated design the aid agency built 40 one-bedroom and 80 two-bedroom units to house families displaced by conflict in the disputed territory’s Ingushetia, Daghestan, and North Ossetia provinces. The design of the home, which consisted of one room (often divided in two), a foundation, and a roof, allowed the occupants to extend the walls to create an additional room. Relief International has employed similar housing concepts in war-ravaged Kosovo and in a number of other disaster-affected areas.


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