2010 Archives

Equitable housing for the poor and for victims of disaster and war

SMU's inaugural lecture in Engineering and Humanity features Ronald Omyonga

Housing in an Hour


Omyonga and Andrew Quicksall, SMU's J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor of Engineering, were on KERA Public Radio's Think on November 11. audio icon  Hear or download their interview.

November 8, 2010

Ronald Omyonga, a Kenyan architect on a mission to house Nairobi slum-dwellers, is bringing to SMU his vision for solving the global housing crisis in low-income communities.

Omyonga will speak on “Equitable Design: A Holistic Solution to Housing” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Vester Hughes Auditorium of Caruth Hall on the SMU campus. A panel discussion will follow the lecture, examining questions such as the role of the international community and how the equitable housing movement is developing in Kenya.

The lecture and panel discussion are free and open to the public, presented by The Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, and Dallas’ bcWORKSHOP.

 “Ronald’s dedication to solving the housing plight of the disenfranchised is inspiring,” said Stephanie Hunt. “Through perseverance and the Internet, Ronald has connected with a construction firm from Bozeman, Montana, to build a village for refugees in Kenya using innovative construction materials in new ways.”

 Ronald Omyonga
Ronald Omyonga
Omyonga is one of the partners behind the Habihut, a low-cost housing unit designed for slum residents, displaced refugee populations and victims of natural disasters.  The kit weighs weighs about 400 pounds, packs into a single crate for easy transportation and can be assembled in half a day. The holistic approach to housing that Omyonga has embraced combines micro financing with affordable, locally appropriate technology: The HabiHut sells for about $2,500, including the cost of shipping.

Participants in the panel discussion with Omyonga include Brent Brown, founding director of bcWORKSHOP; Dr. Andrew Quicksall, SMU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Kevin LaVelle, a Hunt Power analyst and Lyle School alumnus.  Brown’s bcWORKSHOP won the 2010 AIA/HUD Secretary’s Housing and Community Design Award for community informed housing for its redevelopment of Congo Street in Dallas's Jubilee Park with low-cost, sustainable housing while preserving the tight-knit neighborhood community.

The Hunt Institute

The Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering is dedicated to using the power of engineering, collaboration and the free market to develop and implement solutions to the problems of those in need, both here and abroad.

The institute is committed to identifying and creating technologies beneficial and affordable to those in the most desperate of circumstances, while also educating engineering and non-engineering students in the design and distribution of those technologies to accelerate global development.


The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Dallas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making.  The ultimate goal is to enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of Dallas where resources are most scarce. 

Founding Director Brent Brown says, “We have to look into the place, not bring the solution in from outside. This is about people. It's about community. We need to be building a city that's sustainable from a social, economic and environmental view.”

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Contact jblackman@lyle.smu.edu for more information about the panel discussion.

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