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I personally think it is stupid and two-faced to suggest that a rural family needs less and inferior accommodation than an urban family. As far as codes and regulations are concerned I believe these are created to help enforce structural stability and to remove the hazards which can be caused by fire, bad sanitation, cyclones, earthquakes, heavy rain and floods and soon. Either your building is a fire hazard or it is not whether you are rural or urban. Health hazards from pollution or bad sanitation, etc are hazards wherever they are.


Accomodation, that is living spaces, are also, I believe, the same. For example the kitchen must have light and air, the fire place should be energy efficient and not waste fuel or create smoke which can blow all through the house. A rural family, mother, father, one or two children, may be a grandparent and so on all need different spaces in which to sleep. These may not be three or four rooms, but partitions or divisions can create privacy even in one single room. Construction techniques and materials need to be good, energy saving, strong, water proof and so on. In all these varying matters of planning and design I see no difference between urban or rural needs. People sometimes say, "But you can't use mud walls in a city; there is no mud available anyway." They apparently think that bricks, stone and concrete are found or manufactured in cities.


However, there are considerable differences between the living styles and patterns and the occupations of families in towns and villages. Obviously, it is easier, indeed often necessary, to keep birds and animals when living in rural areas while it is not possible to keep them in towns.

In towns, most employed people got out to work in shops, offices, markets, factories, etc. So they rarely need space in their homes for occupations; whereas in villages and rural areas there are far more home industries: —basket and net making, food drying and preparation for both home consumption and for sale. There are dozens of space taking occupations, bee keeping for honey, mulberries and worms for silk rearing, spinning, dying and weaving for fabrics and so on and all these occupations are very often "cottage industries". So, to me, the very big and obvious difference between urban and rural housing is that, the rural house calls for  far more space and amenities than the urban house....


When I have to plan for rural people, I find I have to balance out what I can do while providing space for family living AND for cattle, birds and occupations but only having the same limited amount of money as I have for an urban family. Fortunately, a lot of this provision for work and animals usually only requires a good roof, while walls may not be necessary, and not so much costly finish required for floors. So I find that while planning the rural cottage of 250 square feet, I have to try and get my living quarters into 150 square feet but I can give at least as much space, or even more, for occupations and livestock, because flooring, windows and doors are not required.


I am showing three plans here. The first one has the usual family living needs: —a "sit out" or verandah, three sleeping spaces, a kitchen and a latrine— but it also has a rear covered area where animals or poultry or a loom, etc can be housed. The second plan also provides an absolute minimum of living space, because I believe that the rural compound is used more, and is more vital and necessary than the house itself; so I provide a compound wall all round a small plot. It gives privacy and security. Animals need not stray away.


Various space taking occupations can be safely spread out, and so on and as and when money and materials are available —lean-to sheds, or roofs, or whole rooms can be constructed against the perimeter wall leaving a courtyard space in the middle, open to the sky. It also, incidentally, leaves room for a biogas plant system to use all the wastes of the family and animals. Strangely enough, although rather more bricks (or stones etc) are used, roofing and flooring is less and so cost-wise there is little difference between these two plans. The third plan is what we have called a "Core House" That is the essentials are provided first—: an energy efficient cooking place, a latrine and bathing place, some built-in furniture like a diwan and a table, and two separate sleeping spaces (which of course are used as 'living room' by day). The core house is deliberately high so that the owners can add on whatever they like all round the house, with the core  protecting the adjoining additions. There can be more living rooms, or there can be more working or animal verandahs, according to the needs and occupations of the family.


Before closing this article I want to make an appeal to all concerned to try and be realistic about rural housing. Materials are not automatically cheaper and if there are things like cement, steel, glass, etc they are much more costly. The rural person is not just hanging around idly and able to devote his time to building a house for himself. The urban wage earner may have working hours from 8 till 5 etc; but the rural work hours can be far longer and intense and, when important seasons like sowing, planning, weeding, harvesting, etc are over, there are all sorts of maintenance jobs to be done in the little time between seasons. His basic needs are greater than the urban person who has a water connection nearby, can buy gas for cooking, has electricity available, markets and jobs close by. The rural person may have to go miles for water or in search of fuel. There are no 'mains' or 'drains' to take away his wastes. Very often he has no proper access, neither for bringing materials for building or for occupations, nor for transporting goods to markets and places where he can trade the fruits of his occupations. We are far too inclined to romanticise his whole existence and forget his life of constant struggle.

In the end, it means that we cannot sincerely and effectively plan rural housing from a city office desk. We have to go to the villages and plan for their real needs.