Low Cost Energy Efficient Home for Families in Need, Project in Argentina

Our previously featured Argentine architect Carlos Levinton has just finished his latest project: a construction and home improvements project to reduce energy consume and improve the life quality of a number of families in a poor neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

The project consisted in building two prototypes of energy-efficient homes, analyzing and fixing the energy consume of another eight homes to make them more efficient, and testing refrigerators, lamps, solar collectors, heat stations and water-recycling systems in other houses in the area. "The average energy consume in a low income neighborhood is higher than the one in a high-class one, and energy supply in poor areas is limited, so consuming less makes all the difference for all families to have proper access to electricity. With this project, we were able to achieve savings of up to 30% with simple construction details," he says.

Check the results after the jump.The project

"We did two pilot homes to analyze and prove how much energy you can save incorporating proper isolation, crossed ventilation, solar devices, orientation and placing windows strategically. We also improved other homes with kits and components that can be applied by families themselves or cooperatives. And we proved an efficient home is cheaper than a regular one, so now the government's federal plans can recommend the incorporation of these innovations on a massive scale," explains the architect, that works with environmental issues since 1986.

The support for the project came from energy provider Edenor, and the chosen neighborhood for the experience was Puente Marquez in Moreno, one of the poorest and biggest districts in the Buenos Aires suburbs. However, one of the most organized ones, with a community eager to copy the innovations.

The energy saving low-cost home prototypes

The initiative's stars are two prototypes of low-cost, energy saving homes. Their eco features start with the house design: a floor in U with a 'bio-climatic' patio in the middle, which participates in the rooms' climate control. In winter, it's covered with transparent polycarbonate and works as a greenhouse, with hot air coming in through the lower windows. In summer, it's covered with plants to achieve shading, the cool breeze enters through higher windows and generate refrigerating drafts. The rooms have crossed ventilation, which also acts as cooler.


A view of the home's patio from the built prototype.

The U shape floor and the roof's pitch makes the houses suitable for large neighborhoods, as they allow good sun conditions even when placed in front of each other, according to Levinton.

A high-density polystyrene filling isolates the house's walls and the ceiling, allowing better environmental temperatures inside, both in summer and winter. On the roof, a solar collector acts as water heater. During the last summer, the group confirmed that temperature inside the house was 10 degrees lower than outside and that families did not use electric energy to heat water: the solar collector and the efficient stove were enough.


Graphic showing how the warm and cool drafts work, and the other parts of the efficient home.
The stove and its recycled-bricks fuel

The mentioned stove is the Nuke, which we featured previously in our article High Performance Non-Contaminant Stove Designed in Argentina. This kitchen-stove serves as oven, heater for the house, and water heater. Achieving 900 degrees, it's also suitable for jobs generation: funding glass or ceramic, for example.


The Nuke, efficient stove made in Argentina.

According to Levinton, the firewood was replaced by a block of pressed cardboard, tree leafs and polyethylene bags. This achieves reduction of gas consume, a non renewable resource Argentina is having trouble to provide (read Savings in summer, Big Challenges to Come in winter for Argentine and Latin American Energy).

What's really cool about this, is that the technique to build these blocks is being taught at schools in the neighborhood for kids to be able to continue making them and teach their parents about it. In an eco-laboratory also installed by Levinton at schools, kids will learn how to make isolating panels from waste so that they can improve the walls in their homes themselves.

Within the plans of this project, there is also a micro-financing initiative that will be used to help people in the neighborhood who want to improve their homes.

"This is an experimental project that only makes sense if copied on a large scale. If energy efficiency could be applied in low-income homes as national policy, the lives of thousands of families could change," said Levinton.

For more details on the project, contact architect Carlos Levinton at clevinton at fibertel dot com dot ar.

Read more on this Argentine architect in these articles:
::The TH Interview: Argentinean Architect Carlos Levinton
::Levinton's Project Helping Bolivian Communities to Improve their Homes with PET
Find out about the energy crisis in Argentina and Latin America:
::Chile Signs Agreement with California for Alternative Energy Cooperation
::Energy Consume Grows in Argentina, Government Launches Yet Another Plan
::Gas and Nuclear Power Talk at the Presidential Summit Between Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia
::Savings in Summer, Big Challenges to Come in Winter for Argentine (and Latin American) Energy
::Argentina Announces Energy Saving Plan, Takes Back DST After 14 Years
::Energy Crisis Leads to Green Measures in Argentine Companies and Citizens

Tags: Architects | Architecture | Argentina | Buenos Aires | Energy Efficiency

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