Dencity 2015: Special Mention


Entry by: Patricio Cabal, Marcos Fioravanti, Esteban Martinez


In recent decades, as big cities become more attractive and population increases in third world countries, the demand for low-income housing has risen dramatically. Low-income neighborhoods in Guayaquil, Ecuador are vivid examples of urban areas that face critical social, economic and environmental problems. The aim of this research is to propose a low-cost housing unit for Guayaquil, Ecuador, that can dignify the living conditions of underprivileged people by implementing sustainable design strategies. In order to pursue a true low-cost sustainable dwelling for the city of Guayaquil, this proposal demonstrates the possibility of implementing passive cooling, use of local materials, water recycling, renewable energy, on-site food supply, recycling, community engagement and revised legal status in new housing proposals. This research shows that designing a sustainable housing unit for an informal settlement of Guayaquil is feasible with the following supportive actions: 1. Following bioclimatic principles (taking advantage of the climatic conditions of the site and using adequately local or recycled materials; 2.Optimizing the environmental conditions (integration of renewable energy, water treatment, waste, etc.). The result can provide a sense of dignity and pride to those most in need.

Guayaquil is the biggest city in Ecuador and the most important port in the country. With more than 3 million inhabitants, due to its condition as a port Guayaquil has always been a city of dynamic economic activity. People from all around the world and from other regions of Ecuador have come to the city and influence its culture and way of living. This has made Guayaquil a city of notorious social contrasts.

The Concept

The focus of this project is the informal settlements, specifically a slum neighborhood called Flor the Bastion located in the northeast part of Guayaquil where most of the new slums have settled. The neighborhood is popularly known as “La Ladrillera” (brickyard).This area lack many basic services such as: a poor sanitation system, little fire safety, inadequate transportation systems, unpaved roads, no access to potable water, legal and social insecurity, among others.

The initiative to generate a sustainable dwelling prototype was born through the collaboration of the Boston Architectural College together with Pro Labore Dei (PLD), an ONG currently working in La Ladrillera, Guayaquil which has undertaken the construction of houses to help many families living in critic conditions. Therefore a selection process was made to choose the most suitable family to live in the future prototype dwelling. Among the selection parameters were can mention the following: land properly legalized, active participation in the PLD Program and activities, children were the best students at school, deep commitment to an improved quality of life, positive habits of living, father working in the construction field or willing to participate in the construction of the house, presence of several children in the family and critic economic situation. Thus, taking into account the social aspects of the area, the design encompasses 3 major concepts that define this prototype house: Unit as a productive property, Unit as a school house and Unit as a Village Garden and community space.
Additionally, the preliminary design analysis led to study important geographical aspects in order to establish a conscious bioclimatic design proposal. The conditions implemented were:

  • T-Shape oriented towards the southwest to better capture the predominant winds in the area, and to create a wind tunnel on the west, that through big openings can nurture the spaces located on the east.
  • Service spaces used frequently such as the kitchen and laundry area were placed on this side of the house to buffer heat. Bedrooms on the other hand were located on the east.
  • Because the hours of most intense and direct sunlight go from 10 am to 2 pm, additional shading elements such as extensive overhangs and vegetation in the surroundings must be provided.

For the purpose of developing a real housing prototype, energy modeling was used as a way to make design decisions that evaluate and compare the environmental performance of typical construction methods used in the “La Ladrillera” such as bamboo and masonry. The modeling process analyzed current practices in both construction methods as wells as improved versions of them. The bamboo current practice model included a construction above ground (house on stilts), bamboo structure, zinc metal roof, bamboo walls, unsanitary latrine, small and few openings that restricted ventilation. Similarly the masonry current practice embraced a zinc metal roof, unsanitary latrine, small and few openings, but with a slab on grade and concrete blocks walls. On the other hand, the improved versions of both construction methods considered sustainable features such as: light color walls, high canopy trees on the perimeters, wood louvered shutters, breeze blocks with mosquito meshes in upper openings, white roofs, extended overhangs, orchard, medicinal garden, chicken hatchery, permeable surfaces, rainwater storage tanks, grey water system and the Eco-Toilet. The results showed that the Masonry improved version was the most suitable type of house for the climate of Guayaquil. Hence, the proposal presented here provides scientific backup for a sustainable, low-cost prototype house in Guayaquil, Ecuador that can serve as model for other cities within Ecuador and elsewhere in the region with similar climatic conditions.

Additionally, the results conduct to establish a new conventional wisdom to design a Prototype house for the climate of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

  1. Capture predominant winds and provide constant ventilation
  2. Build with masonry and white metal roof
  3. Include Heat Buffering Spaces, plantings, shading devices and colors.
  4. Maximize room height and openness
  5. Sustain the family economy
  6. Implement sustainable technologies and innovations concerning sanitation, water and electricity where possible
  7. Protect the house against robbery attempts
  8. Prevent future house expansion and accessibility

Thus, the final program needs established was the following:

  • Kitchen/Dining/Living Room 22.18m2
  • Master Bedroom 8.10m2
  • Bedroom 1 7.65m2
  • Bedroom 2 5.13m2
  • Bathroom 3.05m2
  • Laundry Area 1.00m2
  • TOTAL 47.11m2
  • TOTAL COST USD 15,000.00

Among the systems incorporated in the prototype house to complement the bioclimatic strategies implemented we can mention:

Grey water recycling system, which collects soapy water in a bucket, passes it through a 50 gallon jugs filled with wood chips. This bio filter separates food bits and oils from soapy water. Then, this cleaner water is passed through a chamber that is planted with wetland plants. These plants absorb nitrogen and phosphorus and use it as nutrients. Finally the overflow from this process can be used to water fruit trees in the backyard.

The Eco-toilet, developed by Ecuadorian ecologist Marcos Fioravanti and Americans ecologist Chuck Henry and Christopher Canaday for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which basically functions in the following way:

  1. Accumulation of excreta and sawdust under the seat generates an anaerobic decomposition.
  2. Optional decomposition. As the material is moved through the action of the pedal, it is mixed and aerated. This produces aerobic decomposition in the upper part and anaerobic decomposition in the lower part.
  3. Transfer and harvesting phase. The material has finally become into compost rich in nutrients and ready to be harvested.

Dlight d20 Solar Home System, is an innovative modular, upgradable solar system for homes around the world. The system features a grid like experience. It comprises 2 hanging lamps and a portable lantern(provides up to 15 hours of bright light on a single charge of 8 hours from Solar/AC), separate wall switches that have a low and a high setting, a portable lantern that charges right off the system, an outdoor cable (6 meters long) with and anchor point for security and flexibility, a compact battery and control unit packed with power and a battery indicator that shows the system’s charge level, offering also the possibility to be charged with an AC charger. Moreover, the SHS has a USB output that can charge mobile phones, smartphones and others low-power USB devices all at once.

Since the design of the prototype house has contemplated a generic scheme, the beneficiary family and future homeowners of sustainable houses in the community will have the chance to adapt or change the initial design in order to satisfy their particular requirements. Due to that, the design provides the structural capacity to support a second floor and enough space to grow backwards. Furthermore, in future sustainable houses, the store space will be an optional feature and it will be considered as an area for future expansion. Depending on each case, houses will have an inclusive design that can provide accessibility to everyone, especially to older people and people with disabilities.


Finally, the goal of the Prototype house is to provide more than a house, but a home that can enhance the self-esteem and the living conditions of those who need it most. Even though policies favoring sustainability have not yet been adopted in Ecuador, there is a rising interest in ecology and energy efficient procedures, supported by the current government. Now is the time to provide rigorously researched, workable sustainable solutions for incorporation in future housing renovations and new constructions.

About the entrants

Patricio Cabal is an architect from Guayaquil Ecuador. He graduated as an architect in 2011 at Universidad de Especialidades Espiritu Santo, Samborondon, Ecuador. Patricio comes from a family of constructors and designers. This personal background – besides his deep interest in architecture – motivated him to pursue a degree in this field and later a degree in Sustainability, obtained at the Boston Architectural College in 2014 (Master in Sustainable design). Since 2012 Patricio runs his own architectural firm, Patricio Cabal Arquitectos. Currently he works in several design projects here in the city, especially residential, and also in the architectural supervision of governmental projects. Patricio is also a current member of Pro Labore Dei Ecuador, an international ONG working for the poor worldwide.

Marcos Fioravanti is an ecologist from Guayaquil,Ecuador. He obtained his degree at University of California, Berkeley. His professional career has been dedicated to Sustainable Development and Eco-efficiency, with the private and public sectors. In -Fundación In Terris- where he is the current Director, he promotes Sustainable Rural Development by fighting against the lack of sanitation, as a core problem; and activating agroecology as an holistic solution. Additionally, through Ambiente Creativo,(current President) he aims to develop solutions on specific needs related to Eco-efficiency, but also holistic approaches and strategies on Sustainable Development for communities or enterprises.

Esteban Martinez is an architect and civil engineer from Bogota, Colombia. He obtained both degrees at the University of Los Andes. He also has a Masters in Sustainable Design from Boston Architectural College. He is currently the CEO Green Loop where he has had the opportunity to get involved in a little more than 40 LEED projects (NC, CS, EB and ID) in Colombia, Brazil and EEUU as a LEED consultant, energy modeler and commissioning agent.