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What are Habitat houses like around the world?

From the tropical islands of the Philippines to the mountains of Chile, Habitat builds houses designed for the local setting. Habitat builds with locally available materials by country, reducing costs and making it easier for homeowners to maintain the houses. For example, houses in many African countries are constructed with fired clay bricks and tile roofs made of cement or fired clay. Houses in Latin America often are built with concrete block or adobe walls and metal roofs. Houses in the Pacific are often built with wood frames and are constructed on stilts.

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People of different countries use their houses in different ways. Habitat’s house designs reflect these cultural considerations. Meals are cooked outdoors in many African countries; there, Habitat plans call for a kitchen area outside of the house. In the Philippines, laundry and other chores traditionally are done on a small outdoor utility porch, so Filipino Habitat house designs reflect this custom.

No matter where they are built, Habitat house sizes always are designed to meet the homeowner families’ needs while keeping costs as low and affordable as possible for low-income families.

Sri Lanka

Some areas build with 6 inch hollow concrete blocks with steel rods to help the structure resist earthquakes, plus micro concrete roof tiles. In other places, houses are built with dry stacked interlocking compressed earth blocks on a stone rubble foundation with corrugated roofing sheets. A lime wash on the blocks offers weather resistance. The house design includes a cooking area, gable roof and pour flush toilet.

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Meals and socializing occur on the porch. Houses are built of fired bricks for walls and steel-reinforced concrete roof slabs. Some houses are made with hollow-core concrete blocks and tile roofs.


The traditional block construction in Romania takes at least a year to build, but wood frame construction is quicker and more energy efficient. Stucco protects the house walls from weathering and locally made clay tiles finish the roof.


Houses made of hollow concrete blocks and steel rods are designed to resist earthquakes. The window coverings and doors can be made of wood; however, metal is used in some areas where wood is more expensive.


The average Habitat Zambia house is constructed with burnt brick walls and corrugated iron roofing, replacing the less sturdy mud, wattle and grass thatch construction seen throughout much of the country. The end result is a two- or three-bedroom home with separate sleeping, cooking and living areas. Houses are designed so that homeowners have the option to expand the house as needed.

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