The five-minute foldaway house

24 November 2006

When a fire in an informal settlement at KwaMbonambi in KwaZulu-Natal left scores of shack dwellers homeless, entrepreneur Rajan Harinarain came up with a solution, in the form of a foldaway house – complete with door, two windows and electrical fittings – that can be erected in five minutes.

This week, Harinarain launched the patented dwelling developed from his concept together with the Zululand Chamber of Business Foundation, which will market the structures and provide the facilities for its mass manufacture at the chamber’s Community Park in Alton, Richards Bay.

And the government has come to the party. Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who attended the launch in Alton, has called on South Africa’s municipalities to make use of the temporary dwelling to provide quality accommodation for people affected by floods and fires.

“Between the time that people are struck by disaster, and we are able to provide permanent shelter, is an uncomfortable time for any victim,” Sisulu said, describing Harinarain’s invention as “a celebration of innovation in problem-solving.”

The waterproof, 14 square metre dwelling comes with two windows and a wooden door and weighs little more than 800kg, providing the basic requirements for emergency shelter.

Made from galvanised metal, it is easily transportable, being just 24 centimetres high when folded, and can be erected by a handful of people in under five minutes.

The container-like, modular structures can also be joined to provide accommodation for large families, as well as modified to include insulation and heat extractors.

Zululand Chamber of Business CEO Bongani Mqaise told The Mercury that it would be help Harinarain to market the invention both in South Africa and beyond the country’s borders

The foldaway house would also serve while permanent structures were put up to replace shacks in informal settlements and urban inner-city renewal projects, he said.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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