Radwa Rostom

Ashoka Fellow
Cairo, Egypt, Middle East North Africa
Fellow Since 2016
Hand Over

Radwa is revolutionizing access to low- cost housing. Her approach combines innovation in design, construction, financing and community involvement to reduce residential construction costs by 50% or more. She is also changing mindsets towards building environmentally friendly houses by using local materials.

Related TopicsDevelopment & Prosperity, Environment & Sustainability

Citation

This profile was prepared when Radwa Rostom was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
In Egypt, there is a growing interest in using earth based materials in the Nile Delta for residential construction due to the abundance of resources such as soil, sand, gravel, etc. for the middle class population. However, until Radwa’s intervention, the cost of this type of construction was beyond the reach of more than 45% of the Egyptian population whose families live on income of $6 per day.

Radwa has implemented a low cost construction development process that produces buildings with the same structural integrity as buildings that are commercially available and meet all required codes for residential construction. Such implementation plays out four fold. She reaches out to undergraduates, recruits them, and trains them on building low-cost, socially and environmentally friendly housing units using participatory design approach and local construction materials. These students then listen to the needs of the community and start designing prototypes (following the municipality’s building codes) that are presented to the community for approval. At this point, private construction companies come in in order to provide technical and financial support. Radwa’s credit system does not only rely on these corporations, but also on multi-laterals (such as The World Bank) and micro-lending institutions.

She is not only using local materials, but also customizing these materials based on what is available in the community and what the needs of the people are through convening with them. She is employing sustainable construction techniques that promote the citizens’ participation in the building process through utilizing unconventional construction methods and local resources through enabling low-income families to design and construct their own houses.

Radwa’s construction model involves the creation of rooftop gardens, which offers basic agricultural products (fruits and vegetables), to not only encourage self-maintenance and self-sustenance, but also to economically empower the families.

As a result of this and a number of related improvements that Radwa has introduced, families earning as little as $6 per day can now qualify to have their houses rebuilt and repay their housing loans.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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