Expandable House – Urban Rural Systems Design a Modular Home for Indonesia’s Cities

This project from Batam in Indonesia has been developed as a flexible living solution, capable of expanding to the owners specific needs.


It’s been produced by Stephen Cairns from the design firm Urban Rural Systems, alongside a host of other collaborators. Titled Expandable House, the project was completed in early 2018.



Expandable House is presented as a sustainable response to the challenge of housing in densely populated cities. The city of Batam was once a collection of sleepy fishing villages. Over the last 40 years it’s been developed as a city that’s home to over a million people and was declared the worlds fastest growing city in 2015.



A range of challenges are introduced with growth on that kind of scale. From infrastructure, facilities and services, every aspect of the city needs to be revised constantly to determine how best to meet the needs of its occupants. Frequently the challenge is taken on by people outside of the governing body, as is the case with this project.


Expandable House needed to start small and be affordable in order to serve as a housing solution. The unit seen here measures just 387-square-feet (36-square-meters) and cost in the region of $25,000 USD. The architects decided they needed one more trait in order to make the project a success: flexibility.


From the architects: “The expandable house project focuses on the challenge of housing. It does so by allowing the building to be flexibly configured around the fluctuating patterns of resource consumption and expenditure, or metabolism, of its residents.”


The designers adhered to 5 principles when creating the home: sandwich section, domestic density, decentralized systems, productive landscapes and seed package.


For more modular homes check out Treehouse Riga, a modular design that expands to meet your needs. Or, The Hub, a modular living space designed for disused buildings. See all modular homes.

Photos © Dio Guna Putra

Niall Burke

Structural engineer by day, tiny house designer by night. Niall has a keen interest in small spaces, green design, and sustainability. He started developing Humble Homes while studying for his masters degree in engineering. He is the founder and managing editor of Humble Homes.

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