New prototype of Essential Homes for real-world use

Holcim and the Norman Foster Foundation present a scalable Essential Homes Applications prototype for real-world use at this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, furthering their vision to make sustainable building possible for all. With Holcim’s sustainable building solutions inside, the Essential Homes project is designed by the Norman Foster Foundation to provide safety, comfort and wellbeing for low-income or displaced communities. The new prototype has been developed for rollout in Latin America in 2025, following an in-depth study of local housing conditions and the environment.

We are excited to be continuing our collaboration with the Norman Foster Foundation on this important project to make sustainable building possible for all. The Essential Homes prototype we are jointly unveiling at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is designed to be rolled out at scale in Latin America during 2025.

Nollaig Forrest| Chief Sustainability Officer, Holcim
Drawings of the new Essential Homes prototype by Sir Norman Foster

Photo credit: @Norman Foster Foundation

This project grew out of a workshop organised by the Norman Foster Foundation for young graduates devoted to the issues of refugee housing. Realising that a family can spend up to nearly two decades living in a tent, the scholars posed a challenge – could a more durable, permanent and dignified home be built in a few days, that would be economically viable and sustainable? The Foundations project team, with the support of Holcim, met this challenge with a prototype home unveiled at the 2023 Venice Biennale. This has now evolved into a row house version, offering higher standards for ultra low-cost housing - shown for the first time at this Royal Academy Summer Show.

Sir Norman Foster| President, Norman Foster Foundation

Photo credit: @Norman Foster Foundation

The Essential Homes in Latin America will be built with low-carbon, local materials, including ECOPact low-carbon concrete and ECOPlanet low carbon cement. A custom high-performance concrete will be used in the prefabricated roofs. In line with Holcim’s commitment to circular construction, Essential Homes Applications are fully recyclable. 

At the exhibition, Holcim and the Norman Foster Foundation will showcase sketches of the Essential Homes concept by Norman Foster, as well as physical models of the initial model and the updated prototype.

The Essential Homes Research Project by Holcim and the Norman Foster Foundation was inaugurated in Venice at the occasion of 2023 Biennale of Architecture launch.

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