He is fulfilling his dream of building houses for poor

He has designed several world-class and award-winning buildings including airports and hotels in the US. Several milestones and achievements later, the dream of doing something meaningful for his home country has brought Indian-American architect Harshad Patel to his roots, determined to provide lowcost houses to the country’s poor. Patel, born in Kampala, moved to India with his family when he was 12. An avid sketcher, he took to architecture on the advice of his elder brother. Once he completed his studies in India, he moved to the US in 1973.

“After designing for many firms and winning many competitions, I set up my own design firm in 1987 and dared to take on established players in the US. I like to compete because I know I will win,” said Patel, founder and director of Design Consortium.

Now, he comes to India with the expertise and discussions with international firms to come up with solutions for low-cost housing specifically designed for India.

Patel says the price of land triples within a span of a few years. So, if the government allots land for a low-cost housing society, by the time it is approved and everything is in place, the price of the land would have skyrocketed, making the project unviable.

However, the architect, whose office is in Gurgaon, has a solution: a mix of prefabricated projects guaranteed to reduce costs and construction time. “India needs an estimated 19 million low-cost houses for its poor and a mix of prefab and precast buildings is the only solution,” he said. “Prefab buildings can be built in a factory at a much quicker pace and also with less wastage,” said Patel, adding that some major developers in India are in consultation with him to design and build low-cost housing projects. “We are in talks with Mexican and Chinese companies who can set up factories here and provide us with prefab buildings,” he said. He, however, felt the government would have to incentivise builders to work on low-cost houses because the profit margins would be slimmer. To start with, the government might have to subsidise land.