"Homes-for-the-Homeless ‐ built by the homeless"
A design for small, low-cost demountable homes with full facilities (cooking, washing, shower and toilet).


•   Original Concept
•   Basic Layout
•   Prelim. + Planning

Main Panels
•   Floor Panel
•   Side frames
•   Bed-side fit-out
•   Table-side fit-out
•   Roof details
•   Front Panel
    • L Bed-support
•   Back Panel

•   Water Closet/toilet
•   Divider Cupboard
•   Hot-Water tank
•   Electrical/safety

•   Erection sequence

•   Major variations
•   Materials



© Plateau Group


This H4H design is available to any volunteer groups for non-commercial use, but please make a formal request.

H4H Fabrication Details

Electrical & Step-box

The electrical supply into the unit would be a standard hardware-shop purchased builder's cable-reel fitted with a safety trip-switch. These come in different sizes and configuration; and some have four three-pin output sockets (only two are really necessary). They cost about $80 to $100 retail but they can make the difference between local authorities accepting or rejecting the use of H4H homes.

Look for the type with a relatively low profile when in use with a couple of electrical plugs projecting and the box-lid closed. It may be necessary to cut off the handles, etc. to get one of the right dimensions.

This safety switch and distribution point will be installed in the box which will become the step up to the raised floor area. While this is the simplest component in the whole construction, it is also potentially the most dangerous since it is close to the shower, and holds electrical devices.

The box-step should be 150mm in height and made from heavy ply (or timber off-cuts). Remember that the raised floor overhangs the inflection by 70-100mm, and the Step-box will fit under this, so it needs to have about 300mm of step-width. The length of the box is not critical, but we suggest 550mms. This leaves about 300mm between it and the wall, which is probably the space needed for a Coolite fruit box, used as a food cooler.

The box will also be used to store and transport the electrical fittings and miscellaneous components, which, in addition to the feed-unit, will probably consist of:

  • at least two light-bulbs, and maybe an extension cable + a multiple unit for cellphone charging, computer, etc.
  • a small plastic containers with some tools: a screw-drive and spare screws, screw-eyes and hooks of various useful kinds (Also, so the assemblers don't ever go on site without the full complement of screws needed.)
  • a small roll of 50mm wide builder's tape, a roll of paper/cell tape, masking tape, etc.
  • Also include a roll of toilet paper and some cleaning materials and utensils.
  • A small lidded plastic box with basic medical and sewing needs (band-aids, needles and cotton, pins, disposable razor blade, etc)
  • A small roll of string, elastic bands, etc. and a couple of stick-on Velcro tape tabs.
  • From the local op-shops, buy a can opener, and some basic knives, forks, spoons etc.
  • Important: Provide a spare front-door key, but screw it to the inside of the box so that it must be deliberately removed (only for duplication)
  • Also: include a small booklet with the identification number of the unit. This ID number should be written in marker pen on each panel when fabricated. Include in the book information about where this H4H was made, who worked on it, and who donated the money.

The step-box only needs to have a 3mm ply floor, but it does need solid 150x15 sides; the step-width should be about 300mm and it needs a length of between 500 - 700mm. [Note that while the step-top itself could be made from two pieces of narrower timber with the hinge between, it would be wise to seal the joint also with builder's tape against water drips.]

The box-step should be used with the hinge side facing towards the front of the unit ... the opposite to the way you'd expect. The opening side is then under the overhang of the raised floor, and against the inflection, and the hinged side is the leading edge of the step.

Important: Small (20x20mm) notches should be cut into both upper non-hinged corners of the box-step on each side. These are directly under the step (lid), and alongside the opening. These notches should be wide and deep enough to allow two-electrical cables on either side to enter the box interior with the safety switch distribution connections. These entry points would be under the overhang of the raised floor.

The notch on the box-side nearest to the Divider Cupboard will be used for the entry of the incoming power-feed cable and for an output cable delivering electricity to the bed-side wall panel. The notch on the other (table) side of the box will be for a table-side wall feed cable, with enough extra cable space for an extension or device cable for a TV set or small fridge.

The danger here is that a cable will slip out of its notch and be cut by pressure from the step. Add two small (extended) screw on the inside of the box just below these notches so the cables can be tied down with a short piece of string or copper wire. The cables can't be fixed into place, but we can guard against potential accidents.

Finishing touches: The box can get wet from shower drips, so you'll want to paint or lacquer it. Lacquer is best, unless you'd got some non-slip material for the top of the box. If you lacquer, dust some sand lightly over the step area before the lacquer hardens.

Electrical fittings in the side walls

There are no light fittings in the roof-ceiling panel. All electrics are in the two side walls, and are added after the frames have been lined with plywood and before any outside cladding has been attached.

Each wall's electrics consist of a single batten holder and plastic reflector embedded in the walls (therefore well protected during transport), and a double power-point with a spare switch which is used to control the light. The switch and power-point could be two separate devices, but HPM (and probably the other manufacturers) make a single electrical fitting with three switches and two power sockets.

The batten-holders (use a bayonet-type, rather than a screw). To make a light-fitting attach the batten-holder to the base of a cheap white plastic soup plate with a couple of metal threads. (Note: Try to find soup plates which boast that they are 'microwave-safe'.) Melomine is highly heat resistant, but some other plastics are not as robust. Bring the feed cable into the rear-side of the plate fitting rather than the back; this helps to keep cables away from the metal cladding. You might glue some plastic to the back if there is any risk.

Soup plates tend to have curves and sloping sides, so if you are to embed the light-fittings firmly in the walls you will need a template, and also a scalpel-type sharp blade to carve out some of the attachment stud.

  • Put one of the plates face-down on a piece of cardboard, then trace around and cut out the shape keeping a couple of millimetres inside the line.
  • You will want the light-fitting to be embedded into the ply-liner against Stud 5 on both sides, at a height of between 1.6 and 1.7m (just below the fold-down upper shelf).
    These shelves serve to protect the fittings during transport, but you probably don't want them throwing shadows on the table, or on the bed.
  • Drill through the ply in the approximate centre of where the light is to fit, then with a small "keyhole saw", cut towards the Stud until you make contact and know exactly where the stud begins. Cut into the stud's corner a few millimetres
  • Now transfer the transfer shape to the ply on the walls, and cut the ply out. You can roughly match the sloping-side shape of the bowl and your chamfer of the Stud with a knife/scalpel. This hole should hold the plate tightly, with just enough of the rim projecting so that it can be glued in place (if you wish). If you've carved out the chamfer even close to the plate shape the plate will probably fit firmly and be well-settled against the Stud with only a single screw. However it often takes a bit of pressure to change light bulbs, so ...
  • For added strength we recommend gluing a small block of scrap timber to the back of the ply on the opposite side of the hole. Superglue only takes a few moments to set, so this is quick and easy to do, and the plate can then be fixed using two screws.

Power-point and light-switch: Using the same techniques, fix the double power-point with extra switch in place below the light. You will want the power-point to be about 100mm above any shelving to allow space for plugging-in a mobile phone charger.

The power-point unit is fed by a standard flexible three-wire electrical cable running up through the wall. During installation you will need a cable hole through Stud 5, into the wall space (between Studs 5 and 6) reserved for the water-tank and Divider Cupboard. The cable then runs (behind the cupboard) across to the Step-box. When buying plugs for this cable run, check that you have space for a conventional plug within the step-box; there's an alternative plug type which allows the cable to emerge at right-angles. (There may be potential problems with the space available in the Step-Box.)

Obviously the cable length feeding power to the Bed-side wall power-point will need to extend out from the wall by over a metre, and probably 1.2 m while that on the table side can be shorter by 0.5 m.

The connection between the power-point/switch and the batten-holder (entirely within the wall) should use the same cable type, but it actually only needs two wires (the red "active/switch wire" and the black "neutral/return"). With three-wire cable, cut off any un-used earth wire so it can't accidentally make contact with an active wire. For safety sake within these metal-clad walls the power cables need a double layer of insulation around any electrical conductor, so don't use cheap Figure 8 flex for this connection.

The electrics need a final check (probably by someone with a license) to ensure the earth wire is continuous and that the switches control the red ('active') connectors, rather than the black ('neutral') wires. You can buy a cheap electrical checking instrument at most hardware stores.

Obviously this all needs to be done before any outside cladding is added.

Mirror, paint and posters

Not strictly anything to do with electrics, but while you are embedding the light fittings, consider the possibility of adding a cheap mirror to the table-side wall. Even a small mirror will add to the impression of space. It will also be used for make-up, and for some less-particular residents their reflected image it may trigger memories of an unbearded face.

The ideal place for a mirror is in the 700mm wide section at the back of the Table-side wall. This has the lining sunk down (essential for fixing the back wall angle gal), so it will protect the mirror during transport. You could also fit a hinge-down table here under the mirror because the main shelf is well above, and the lower shelf is lower. We haven't included this in any plans.

We don't think the interiors should be painted white or any very light colour. When panels are stored and transported they are sure to get dirty.

It has been suggested that many highly attractive posters are available that could be stuck up permanently to the interior ply walls. We are not convinced that everyone would like those chosen, and wall posters tend to get daggy.

Note: Another useful way to attach objects directly to the ply liner in a finished cavity wall, is with toggles. There are a couple of designs of "Spring-toggle" found in hardware stores. You drill a moderate-sized hole through the ply into the cavity, push the 'spring-nut' end into the wall cavity where it locks inside against the ply, making it possible to tighten. There are both metal types (spring and non-spring) and plastic screw types, but they are often not cheap (unless purchased by the hundreds), so glue battons to the ply on the inside if you can.

This would be especially beneficial at the front of the Table-side panel, just behind the door, where you will want to add some clothes-hanging hooks or other fittings.

For light-weight attachment to plywood, you can buy packets of nylon or metal "Hollow-wall Anchors" which just screw into a larger hole, and allow the use of conventional screws without damaging the ply itself. These are often used for plaster-board fixings. (check in the Drywall section at your hardware store.)