The UrbanUp affordable housing initiative has been instrumental in influencing India's first sustainably-engineered social housing project, which helps boost the resilience of people from vulnerable communities through secure, sustainable homes, and access to healthier environments. Founded by Mihir Menda the pilot project has provided homes to approximately 700 beneficiaries. The venture was innovatively designed, with a focus on sustainability. It was his creative vision that was at the forefront of adopting sustainable practices in UrbanUp, with design playing an instrumental role in disrupting and redefining the way sustainable social housing is viewed.
UrbanUp addresses 11 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. His vision is to give vulnerable communities another chance to rebuild their livelihoods through community empowerment which includes education for children, skill development for adolescents and the unemployed, and vocational training for adults. On the horizon today, is the goal to provide homes to 2,500 people over the next three years. His ultimate mission is to provide shelter to every vulnerable community member in developing nations.
The UrbanUp journey began by building the right team. It was imperative to build a sustainable model that could also be replicated, thus approaching Rahul Mehrotra, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And with his guidance devised the UrbanUp model.
The initiative was then launched in 2016 to create a social support system for the most vulnerable members of society. The First housing project is located in Kada Agraha village, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore. After undertaking a demand survey for housing, UrbanUp invited applications, and after several rounds of screening, the beneficiaries of the first phase were identified.
Sustainability: The Core
Keeping sustainability at the core of the UrbanUp initiative, Mihir set out to redefine the way sustainable social housing is designed and developed.
About twenty-five per cent of the construction materials used in the project are recycled. The development comes with solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems. Additionally, it uses construction waste and soil-cement bricks.
The project features community spaces, wellness spaces, learning spaces and community infrastructure. To enable the transformation of the social housing sector into a more dynamic, innovative and self-sustaining space, the project provides rainwater harvesting and water reuse, energy-efficient lighting, regular training sessions at the community center on green practices and sustainable living, high-performance building envelopes to reduce heat ingress, and growing organic, non-genetically modified produce.
He believes that affordable and eco-friendly housing is the foundation for individuals to build happy lives. It is the first step in helping children and families overcome adversity and achieve the stability they require to thrive.
As India’s first tobacco-free urban community project, UrbanUp aims to deliver 126 houses in three phases. In the first phase, over 30 houses were handed over to beneficiaries in Bengaluru. Over the next two years, UrbanUp plans to deliver 48 units each in the subsequent two phases of the project.
With UrbanUp, he wants to empower the community by educating children, providing skill development for adolescents as well as the unemployed and special vocational training for adults. He plans to provide homes for 2,500 people.
The project is a scalable and replicable model incorporating green building principles with exemplary water, energy and waste management. The project's goal is to combine affordable and sustainable housing to foster a sense of community cohesion, by designing a housing complex with a future outlook.