Modular House Construction for Suva Squatter Settlements

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Shelter is an essential aspect of life, therefore providing adequate shelter for all persons should be seen as, not only as a social responsibility, but also as an important aspect to the development of humankind (Design, Team Charrette, 2009). Houses or buildings should not be built anyhow. Laws 229-233 of the Hammurabi’s Code of Laws (ca. 1780 B.C.) recorded by (Francis D. K. Ching, 2003) states that “If a builder build a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he build fall in and kill its owner, then the builder must be put to death”. The importance of a solid structure has been a vital aspect since the early days.

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Now, focusing on Fiji, studies have shown that Fiji is faced with a comparatively high rate of urbanization. There exists a number of factors and that includes rural land leases expiring. (Kiddel, 2007). Due to this growing urbanization population, affordable housing has increased in demand. The cost of borrowing money and its interest rates are always growing and is not compatible with low income earners and as a result of this, the squatters have also increased (Hassan, 2007). A survey conducted in 2003 showed that there are 182 squatter settlements in Fiji with a projected population of 82,350 or 13,725 households, considering an average family of six members (Hassan, 2007). A report written by (Susu, 2015), stated that “There is a high risk of fire spreading in low-cost housing because the homes were too close to each other”. The incident that occurred at Barnett Lane, Howell Road in Suva left more than thirty people homeless and five families left to worry about the days ahead (Susu, 2015). The government of Fiji is on its mission to build a modern nation-state and the provision of decent housing was an essential part of this strategy. The Government is also working on programs in partnership with the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) to regularize the illegal settlements by working with the respective landowners to ensure security of tenures and landowners receive ground lease (Simmons, 2016). As engineers, we agree with the work of (Hibbeler, 2012) stating the when an engineer designs a structure, one must take into account its “safety, esthetics and serviceability, while taking into consideration the economic and environmental limitations”.

This project will focus on the construction of a modular house that will be able to cater for a family, a structure that is sturdy and most importantly a structure built whilst following the Fiji Building Code.

Problem Statement: (Characterize the problem, identify the core issue, determine the best approach, identify the causes of the problem, and determine what is required to generate a solution).

On October 18, 2017 seven houses at Fiji Muslim League informal settlement in Nabua were destroyed by a fire. (Chanel, 2017). This is just one example of the many squatter settlements in Fiji. These squatter settlements do not follow the Fiji Building Code and some of these codes that are not followed include inadequate house spacing, incorrect construction materials, improper waste water sanitation, inadequate electrical wiring, unsuitable fire isolated passageway, no fire main, and improper connection of water pipes (overhead instead of underground (Government, n.d.). These buildings also pose health risks to humans owing to overcrowding and causes the problem of poor ventilation. Pollution of land also occurs due to improper disposal system inclusive of poor drainage system, in which these become the contributing factors to health risks. Furthermore, the land for these areas of settlements are also limited.

Objectives: (Clearly formulated objectives, Will the knowledge generated solve the issue/practical solution?)

  • Design a modular home that is affordable to the residents of Suva squatter settlements.
  • Ensure that the design meets the Fiji Building Code.
  • Reduce labor cost and construction time.
  • Install proper drainage and sewer sanitation system.
  • Use locally available materials.
  • Uplift the standard of living in Fiji.
  • Incorporate modern house design.
  • Provide a healthy environment and housing structure to suit unfavorable weather conditions.

Methodology: (The methods and techniques, explaining how the research/design information/data will be obtained, analyzed and processed.)

As stated by (Asa, 2018), when an engineer designs a structure, the following considerations must be taken into account, along with the standards that must be followed;

  1. Strength
  2. Safety
  3. Aesthetic
  4. Serviceability

The following will be taken into account when analyzing the data gathered:

  1. Strength
  2. a. Design using Ultimate Limit State.

    Design Standards that must be used are either the NZS (NZ Standard) 2006 or AS (Australia Standard) 2009

    Wind Load ;

    • One Story (AS 4055-2012)
    • Two Story or more (AS 1170,2-2011)

    Earthquake Load/Actions (NZS 1170.5 2004)


    • National Building Code of Fiji

    Size of rooms

    • Town Council Act (CAP 139)
  3. Safety & Serviceability Check
  4. Cyclone Safety

    • Different types of cyclones according to Wind Speed Type 1 to Type 5
    • Consider the types of materials that are to be used, either concrete or timber
    • A deflection requirement check must be performed.

    Earthquake Safety

    • If more than one story, a Geotechnical Report about the strength of the soil must be conducted.
  5. Analyze the cost of concrete housing and timber housing.
    • Concrete housing can be used even for two story buildings while timber house is usually used for one story structures.
  6. Enumerate Design Procedure and steps using AS 4055-2012, NZ 1170,5 – 2004, NZS 2006 or the AS 2009, i.e. Structural Calculations of the following;
  7. a) Design of foundation.

    b) Design of floor (Floor decks for timber or floor slab for timber).

    c) Design of beam for timber or design of concrete beam.

    d) Design of wood column or design of concrete column.

    e) Electrical design or wiring.

    f) Ideal floor area for the proposed model house.

    g) Bill of quantities including cost estimate of the proposed model house (Timber or Concrete Material).

    h) Architectural plans (Complete), structural plans, electrical plans and wiring.

  8. Use CADs to demonstrate the proposed model
  9. Build the proposed model, evaluate the prototype and test the prototype.
  10. Present the prototype to the course coordinator.


According to a study conducted by the UN and reported by (Design, Team Charrette, 2009) “the planet’s population will grow to the level of around eight billion people over the next 25 years. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be a need for 40 per cent more housing and basic infrastructure services than existed in 2005. To meet this need, more than 4000 housing units will need to be constructed every hour, for the next 25 years.” A project launched by the World House Project at the Institute Without Boundaries had the aim of generating systems for sheltering people that accomplished “a balance between urban sprawl and urban slums, and enables communities to design dwellings that are based on principles of sustainability, universality, technological responsiveness and balance” (Design, Team Charrette, 2009). A research performed by (WRAP, 2007), tabulated the “key waste streams caused by traditional construction methods”. There were at least nine different types of materials ranging from wood pallets to ceramic materials. Lately, the introduction of off-site manufacturing has reformed “the way developers; architects and contractors think about building housing. Modular construction is primed to disrupt the way we produce housing on a large scale in a cost effective and time sensitive manner” (Stein, 2016). This off-site construction is also known as “Modular Construction”. When designing a building that is modularized, the design elements are divided and assigned to sections or modules conferring to the desired plan. According to (Carliss Y. Baldwin, 2002), there are two types of modules, and these are: hidden and visible. Hidden modules are those in which the design decisions are independent, that is, it does not rely on other modules design choices. The second type is the visible type, one in which the modules are dependent on other modules design decisions. Therefore, the procedure of designing a Modular Housing System that would cater for all income earners, using minimal amount of building materials, achieving economies balance by using parallel designs for a number of units, manufacturing mass quantities of the building blocks, decreasing dependence on infrastructure, increase property worth and having minimal environmental impact was a strategy that was studied by (Design, Team Charrette, 2009) and was successfully investigated.

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