Wednesday, December 2, 2015



Sustainable Housing and Weatherization in low-income housing in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tomás F. Crowder -Taraborrelli,


Once considered the Paris of Latin America due to its rich architectural history, Buenos Aires is now recognized for a dramatic surge of unregulated and unplanned suburban settlements. It is estimated that half a million families live in 864 slums in the metropolitan area. With an increasing population of economically disenfranchised citizens finding refuge in unregulated housing, Buenos Aires now faces the challenge of incorporating the illegal settlements into the city’s infrastructure to ensure their safety and livability.

Past Learning Cluster trips led by Professor Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli have constructed environmentally sound dwellings in Buenos Aires, affording students the opportunity to apply sustainability research in a significant and contributive way. To re-approach recent developments in Buenos Aires’ low-income housing crisis, 2016’s proposed Argentina Learning Cluster aims to complement the investigation of sustainable housing with specialized, hands-on weatherization training. This instruction would outfit students with the knowledge and skill set necessary to execute low-cost home improvements on site in Buenos Aires. Participants of the Learning Cluster will collaborate directly with Dr. Nicolas Maggio, President of the Foro de Vivienda Social y Eficiencia Energética (FOVISEE)[1] and Weatherizers Without Borders (WWB)[2], to gain and implement their weatherization training. Dr. Maggio will work in conjunction with the WWB to coordinate a four day trip to the city of Campana, where SUA and University of Buenos Aires (UBA) students will perform energy assessments and provide recommendations for participating low-income families. As Dr. Maggio explained in a 2014 weatherization interview, “the need for energy efficiency in existing housing becomes even more important for low-income families, as they end up paying more for energy and are subject to health and safety threats.”[3]

The Argentinian Weatherization Learning Cluster is inspired by three questions: first, what factors have contributed to making homes become unaffordable for most people in the world? Second, how can the Learning Cluster group diagnose the energy efficiency of unregulated homes and implement changes to improve their safety and economic viability? Third, how can sustainable practices explored in this Learning Cluster impact future generation?

The Argentinian Weatherization Learning Cluster will visit different neighborhoods in Buenos Aires to investigate the decisive historical, socioeconomic, and environmental factors that have shaped the urban identity of the city. The Learning Cluster will compare traditionally wealthy neighborhoods like Barrio Norte, working class neighborhoods like La Boca, and transitioning neighborhoods like Palermo Soho and Puerto Madero, as well as the controversial Villa 31 slum. Students will also revisit the two dwellings built by previous Learning Clusters and meet with plastic artist Pablo Salvadó to participate in an intensive adobe construction workshop and discussion.[4]

The training is broken into three components:
1) Pre-training
2) Training
3) Field mentoring in Campana. 

The first component of training will occur in Buenos Aires and consist of three days of weatherization instruction, encompassing topics such as Energy Auditing and Retrofitting of dwellings. WWB will provide intensive classroom, hands-on field mentoring and online training to students, including Retrofit Installer Technician, HVAC Fundamentals and Energy Auditor.

The second component of training will entail three days of classroom and field training with weatherization equipment and WWB mentors.

The third component of training will apply weatherization knowledge to the geographic location of Campana. Students will gather information about health, safety issues within a home, quality of life, energy, and environmental impacts.

During the Learning Cluster, students will form teams according to their interests. These teams will be coordinated by Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli and Dr. Maggio and include:
* A design team (which will consider the structural styles of homes and buildings)
* A budget team (which will calculate costs for purchasing equipment and materials)
*An environmental and services team (which will assess the resources available in the area)
* A building team (which will coordinate the field work)

Over the course of the Learning Cluster, students will create a fifteen to twenty minute documentary film to be presented at the Learning Cluster Fair.  The short documentary will educate SUA students about the practical, structural, and societal effects of sustainable living, as well as demonstrating the positive effects of weatherization on low-income families in Buenos Aires. In the end, the goal is to shed light on the benefits of weatherization and its potential international significance regarding impoverished areas on a global scale.

Course Objectives

1. Gain a deeper understanding of the significance of sustainable living where environmentally stable housing and financial security is under threat.
2. Research the process and practice of sustainable construction and weatherization.
3. Critically analyze the contrasting architectural styles as well as the use of materials among affluent and impoverished communities.
4. Create meaningful relationships between the group and organizations in Argentina dedicated to building sustainable homes and weatherizing homes.
5. Facilitate discussions that encourage social change through community activism.

Learning Outcomes

Team building; experience hands on learning; production of a short- documentary film.

As the universal movement for sustainable living collects momentum, the students of this Learning Cluster will have a much more expansive and tangible understanding of what it takes to bring the theory of sustainable living into practice. By visiting and exploring wealthy and poor neighborhoods alike, students will gain knowledge of both the materials and resources that have been utilized, in a highly contrasting way, to create the city of Buenos Aires. Students will aspire to achieve the following learning outcomes in a variety of ways:

Develop students’ habits of independent inquiry and study: Prior to leaving for Argentina, all students will form research teams and present their findings to the rest of the class. The documentary aspect of the project in Argentina will provide another avenue for independent growth, as students will be able to develop their own questions. These questions will be asked in interviews to provide professional intel on sustainable living and the weatherization process. Above all, the film will organize visual material to complement the pedagogical objectives of the Learning Cluster.

Engender analytical and investigative skills in order to apply them to a specific problem or question: During the first days in Argentina, students will develop questions and expectations based both on their own research as well as research presented by their classmates. Once questions have been developed, research and firsthand experience will be combined in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Enhance the ability to work collaboratively: Students will be working together to organize the trip, develop the documentary interviews, divide the subject matter, and create a cohesive final project.  They will also have to develop a steadfast work ethic to include all team members, both domestic and international, who will be collaborating and contributing to the success of the project.  The experience in its entirety will require students to depend on each other’s skills, including Spanish speaking abilities, different cultural understandings, and creative writing talents.

Foster a contributive ethic by working on issues that have a larger social significance or meaning: The creation of sustainable housing immediately benefits the community and environment. In addition, it provides people who cannot afford the standard industrialized corporate approach to building with a beneficial alternative. Furthermore, we will spread this knowledge of the feasibility of this type of sustainable living and weatherization through our documentary.

Prepare students for their roles as engaged global citizens:  Through personal encounters, new experiences, hands on creation, community collaboration, and inquiry into government regulations, critical evaluation of materials and resources, and an overall objective of contributing to the sustainability of humanity, this experience in Argentina will help deepen the understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

Assignments and Grade breakdown
Writing assignment 1 (10%)
Writing assignment 2 (15%)
Writing assignment 3 (25%)
Documentary production (25%)
Class Participation (25%)

Writing assignments (students will answer questions about specific readings)
Written summaries of the main arguments of the readings (25%)
Students explain the relevance of the reading to the course’s objectives (25%)
Students explain how the readings can have practical applications in the field to the rest of the class (25%)
Students explain clearly (orally or in writing) their critical analyses of the readings to the rest of the class in a manner that is free of grammar and spelling errors (25%)

Documentary production
Students participate diligently in the production area to which he or she has been assigned (25%)
Students complete the video assignment on time and contribute creatively to its conception (25%)
Students write a two-page description of their documentary production work (25%)
Students evaluate and approve final edited copy of the documentary before the LC fair (25%)

Class participation
Students collaborate effectively (25%)
Students turn written homework in on time (25%)
Students are always ready to join in the field work and are properly prepared (25%)
Students contribute efficaciously in the LC fair (25%)

*We will be filming throughout our Learning Cluster. The objective is to create a short film documentary (15-20 min) about our group and individual studies on Urban Development, Architecture, Sustainable Housing and Weatherization in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Students will require all participants to sign a Personal Appearance Release Form (draft of the release form is included in this proposal).

*Students will submit photo essays, personal essays, and possibly more material about their experiences with building, their time spent in the city, and the economic, social, and environmental issues they study.

Collaborating Institutions

* below is a statement from the non-profit organization
The founders of FOVISEE are a group of professionals sharing a strong commitment towards the improvement of our society. For over 10 years we have worked on the design and implementation of programs on access to energy in low income communities.
The context which inspired us is one of a developing country, where large numbers of the population live under the line of poverty, where the social policies agenda targeted at these people does not include sustainability or energy efficiency topics. The Argentine state builds annually around 36,000 new social housing units, where construction is based on living space needs and reduced budget not including energy efficiency criteria, so it yearly adds thousands of homes that will waste energy for decades and lessen families' comfort.
To make up for the lack of experience, we built and measured new energy efficient affordable housing model units, and designed, applied and measured rehabilitation models. Determined to influence public policies, we base our work on feasibility; and believe that the most definitive way of assessing it is actually carrying out applied field projects. During our experience we attempted to carry out several ideas with unsuccessful results, where the lessons were all the more valuable than with successful cases: it has helped us rule out ideas that were impracticable, too costly, complicated, or fragile; and also helped us work on ideas that were originally flawed, but could be improved.

FOVISEE does not charge for its services. Sponsorships and donations from businesses and individuals are the foundation’s financial sources. But above everything, the specificity of the Forum is to gather different institutions that contribute to the projects with human, technical and financial resources. The main partners from the beginning of the Forum are:
CIHE (Center of Research on Habitat and Energy), Architecture Faculty, University of Buenos Aires: Professional advising.
DRS-UTN (Social Responsibility Department, National Technological University): Human resources and logistics support.
INTI (National Institute of Industrial Technology): Institutional support and professional advising.
Edenor (largest electrical distributor of Argentina): Financial, logistical and human resources support.


As mentioned in the itinerary, this Learning Cluster will meet with representatives of this non-profit organization to discuss the implications of sustainable housing for impoverished communities. Students will conduct a short interview to gain clarity on urban development policies in inner-city neighborhoods where most Techo volunteers work to improve the quality of life for members of each area. This organization maintains an exceptional standard that coincides with the objectives of the course.

* below is a statement from the non-profit organization

TECHO pursues three strategic objectives: (1) The promotion of community development in slums, through a process of community strengthening that promotes representative & validated leadership, drives the organization and participation of thousands of families living in slums to generate solutions of their own problems. (2) Fostering social awareness and action, with special emphasis on generating critical and determined volunteers working next to the families living in slums while involving different actors of society. (3) Political advocacy that promotes necessary structural changes to ensure that poverty does not continue reproducing, and that it begins to decrease rapidly.

Vision: A fair and poverty free society, where everyone has the opportunities needed to develop their capacities and fully exercise their rights

Mission: Work Tirelessly to overcome extreme poverty in slums, through training and joint action of families and youth volunteers. Furthermore, to promote community development, denouncing the situation in which the most excluded communities live. And lastly, to advocate for social policies with other actors in society.

Asociación Guardianes del Ambiente (A.Gu.A)

* below is a statement from the non-profit organization
The Asociación Guardianes del Ambiente (A.Gu.A) is a non-profit organization that has as a mission the development of the "sense of initiative" to create the tools to preserve environmental harmony through formal and informal education. A. Gu. A was founded by professors and students of the Instituto Pizzurno de Enseñanza Integral, Nivel ESB and Polimodal. It organizes international and national gatherings, lectures, workshops and and seminars to promote the sense of responsability towards the environment. A. Gu. A has became an space of training, exchange, and reflection between Educational Institutions and their students to foster the action of youth in the political decisions of sustainability in Argentina.

Person in charge: Gustavo Horacio Vera
Contact: /

Through this organization, we would be able to meet with students to establish dialogue about our projects and exchange ideas.


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[1]The FOVISEE (Housing Forum, Sustainability and Energy)
is a foundation that works on the issues of housing, energy and poverty in order to promote energy efficiency. The Forum creates projects applied for energy efficiency in housing, produces opportunities for dialogue and exchange on these issues, and seeks to raise awareness in society about the importance of energy efficiency in housing in general and social housing in particular. “
[2] “WWB fights energy inefficiency and energy poverty, improving the health, safety comfort, and economy of families across the globe.”
[4] *For more information about the previous sustainable housing projects, please visit our Learning Cluster websites:
add the second one