Ahmedabad based Compartment S4, wins big at the prestigious Resilient Homes Challenge

A moment of pride for Ahmedabad, as a city based architecture firm Compartment S4 wins the prestigious Resilient Homes Challenge organised by World Bank Group and UN Habitat. These eight CEPT graduates who founded Compartment S4  are treading the lesser taken path, by investing in sustainable and traditional solutions to rural construction needs. They reach their first milestone as their submission on earthquake and landslide resilient design wins the coveted award. 

Each year millions of lives are lost or drastically affected around the world because of various natural calamities and disasters like storms, floods, earthquakes, heatwaves etc. If we go by the statistics nearly 4.1 billion people are rendered injured or homeless around the globe in last 23 years. Most of the damage is due to homes or built structures that could not withstand the emanated shock. Resilient Homes Challenge is a collaborative effort of Build Academy, World Bank Group, Airbnb, GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery) and UN-Habitat to reduce this loss of life and economy by engaging architects and engineers in a design challenge that pushes the participants to ideate and submit designs that solve the problems pertaining to resilient quality of homes in disaster prone areas.

Team Compartment S4 and an overview of their earthquake and landslide resilient house

The whole competition is segregated in 3 scenarios, divided by the type of geography viz. 1 – Islands, 2 – Mountains & Inland areas and 3 – Coastal areas. Necessary guidelines are laid out and submissions are invited from teams across the globe. The key rider is to submit designs that can be built within the budget of USD 10,000 including labour, material and transportation costs. Eminent personalities like Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis, World Bank personnel Sameh Wahba, Founder of Build Change Elizabeth Hausler, Post-Disaster Expert Eric Cesal, architect Sonal Sancheti, Dean of School of Art and Architecture at Universidad del Desarrollo Pablo Allard, and United Nations Population Fund’s Mariko Sato made up the illustrious jury. Their primary insistence was on the usage of local materials in the design.

Ahmedabad based Compartment S4 is the only Indian firm who made it to the winners’ list. They competed with more than 3000 entries received from across the globe. Their submission is in the segment 2 of Mountain and Inland area. One of the team member Aman Amin, explains to us, “The house design for Uttarkashi, which is a Zone 5 earthquake geography, comprises a heavy stone filled retaining wall at the bottom with a rainwater harvesting tank and a light wooden structure on the top. Our idea of using locally available material, which can be transported via pickup van, helped us reduce the construction cost to a mere $4500, which is almost half of the budget delegated to us.” Team Compartment S4 claims that “their earthquake resilient design does not need any non-local craftsmen and it can be built with traditional building practices with minor changes in the available skill set of the region.” They spend lot of time in remote areas understanding the traditional technology and the local milieu, before committing their designs. They are known for their ‘handmade workshops’ wherein they let other architects to join in the process of making a real building for a specific region to solve a specific need. Infact as we tried to get in touch with the team to get their response to this stupendous achievement, they are occupied in a remote place located between Maharashtra and Gujarat border carrying out yet another learning workshop based on sustainable means.


An interior and exterior overview of Compartment S4’s Uttarkashi earthquake and landslide resilient house

The winners were evaluated on the criteria of Resilience (10%), Design (20%), Cost Effectiveness (15%), Construction (15%), Sustainability (15%) and Presentation (10%). On December 14, 2018, the winners were announced, they are – KZ Architecture (Caribbean Islands), BAHA (Nepal), PoliTo (Philipines), Team CSWarchitecture (Haiti), Team TEN (Nepal), Team BAM-S (Bangladesh), Team Antu (Caribbean Islands), Compartment S4 (India), and Team Architects Avenue (Malaysia). The winners will be invited to Washingdon DC to exhibit their designs at the World Bank and other selected venues. They will also become a part of architecture literature with their proposed plans, and few selected winning designs will be adapted for reconstruction at World Bank-funded projects in the areas of Caribbean and Asia. An ‘honourable mention’ was given to Guo Kunqi (Haiti), Team Seeds (India), and Team Maru (Vietnam) for their excellent designs.

Compartment S4 is a wonderful example of how inspired youth, if is sensitive enough, can bring about a marked transformation in the way challenges are addressed in our nation. While on one hand the nation is facing exodus of sorts, in students travelling to foreign shores for brighter pursuits, this team of architects deserves pat on the back for believing in the potential of their profession. The recognition at Resilient Homes Challenge is a worthy milestone, and the team is planning to build a prototype of their earthquake and landslide resilient Uttarkashi House by the year 2020.

Image Courtesy: Compartment S4

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