Climate Resilient Housing – Building and living sustainably in informal settlements

Kajsa Leon-Lilja - 2018


'Climate Resilient Housing’ is an urban research report aiming to provide clear and concise information on low-cost-environmentally-sustainable building methods and material for informal settlements that lack the resources to build environmentally conscious housing despite being particularly vulnerable to its effects.


‘Climate Resilient Housing’ is an urban research report looking at sustainable construction methods and their materials along already established Colombian building options. The project evolved out of an MSc Urban Strategies and Design study trip to Medellin where it became vividly obvious that families are clearly mindful of the risks posed by building informal housing, but that their need to quickly have a home outweighed any potential future risks. In the case of Medellín’s informal settlements, the houses are almost exclusively self-help builds on hazardous hillsides with ad-hoc low-quality materials uniquely vulnerable to climate change.

The report addressed significant contributors to climate change and what if anything is being done concerning the issue, mostly within the context of Colombia and its informal settlements but also more generally. Furthermore, the project covered informal building processes to understand the reasoning behind their building methods and material choices backed up by material analysis based on my personal experience in Medellín. The work also looked at sustainable building methods applicable in the climatic condition of Medellín as well as highlighting the health and socio-economic benefits of building sustainably in informal settlement. Additionally, the research highlighted how academic research often stays within its own sphere, rarely shared in with the people it concerns.

The report promoted a ’passive housing’ design, that took into account the reuse of building debris from previous builds and nationally available green materials. Data that was gathered from local interviews, building observations, case studies and various academic and locally available information. The aim of the project was to provide locals with a simple leaflet which informed them of practical low cost, low impact solutions for everyday construction. Furthermore, it was hoped that the leaflet would encourage discussion amongst inhabitants and authorities about possible solutions to continuous natural disasters that overwhelmingly negatively impact informal settlements.


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