The Building and Social Housing Foundation this year chose a pioneering project in Cuba as a winner of its World Habitat Awards, which honor practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems with a £10,000 prize. The project, entitled "Ecomaterials in Social Housing Projects," seeks to to make building materials more affordable and accessible to local people using resources with low embodied energy, often through recycling wastes.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and ceased to be a major patron of the Cuban economy, Cuba suddently found itself struggling to maintain a supply of building materials, particularly to areas far from the production centers. The ecomaterials project has helped to develop a local supply system, where materials are produced and sold directly in the community, with very low energy input and minor transportation costs.
An estimated 2,300 houses in the Villa Clara province, and over 5,000 nationwide, have been built or renovated using ecomaterials. The materials include micro-concrete roofing tiles; lime-pozzolana cement (CP-40); pre-cast hollow concrete blocks, where Portland cement has been partially replaced by CP-40; low-energy fired clay bricks using bio-wastes as fuel; and bamboo.
The project has been funded through a range of donor agencies including the European Commission, GTZ, the Swiss Development Cooperation and private foundations. The local government has also made important contributions.