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The understanding of local conditions of the environment is fundamental for develop of a successful project. The climate, the availability of resources and characteristics of landscape are basic inputs with which is possible to create designs that make a rational use of natural resources and that, at the same time, generate the least impact on ecosystems. 

The following are two examples of social housing located in tropical regions, where both the location of houses and the choice of materials are strongly linked to the characteristics of their environment.

Santay Eco-village, Ecuador

This development, located in Santay Island on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast, comprises a total of 56 homes for an estimated population of 250 inhabitants. The project aims to develop a sustainable and affordable settlement for the local population of the island, avoiding a considerable impact on the natural environment, which is listed as a protected forest reserve.

Image 1: Aerial view of the settlement.

The houses are built on stilts because the land receives periodic flooding. Also, the paths that communicate to the units were made on elevated platforms, avoiding the construction of paved roads on the ground. Meanwhile, houses use low cost materials which are available in the area, and each unit has solar panels located on the roofs, making each house self-sufficient in energy.

Image 2. View of the houses


Finally, this development also includes other facilities such as a communal hall for meetings and community events, as well as a main dining room and the pier, from where residents can leave by boats to the mainland.

Image 3. Communal house.
Image 4. View of the elevated walkways
Bamboo low-cost housing, Vietnam

This housing prototype has been designed to meet the demand for affordable housing in agricultural areas of Vietnam. The project proposes the use of materials of low energy consumption that are available in those areas, using mainly bamboo, which is strongly associated with the traditional architecture of the country.

Image 5: Representation of the settlement.
Image 6: House type.

The houses are located on platforms that allow the natural flooding of the soil. Likewise, the enclosure walls have openings that allow air circulation and thus avoid problems caused by high humidity and hot weather in the area. But perhaps the greatest advantage of this project is adaptability of the design, allowing the growth of families, by adding new modules that can easily expand the area of ​​the houses.

Image 7: Concept diagram of the house.
Image 8: Floor plan and sections of the house type.

In conclusion, the two previous projects show that low cost solutions do not necessarily imply a low quality in the final result. Especially in social housing developments, where financial support is generally scarce, the flexibility of the design and the appropriate choice of materials and technology are key elements to achieve a project that generates an improvement in the quality of life of its residents.


Designboom (2013). Low cost bamboo housing in vietnam by H&P architects. Available at:

Dezeen (2013). Blooming Bamboo Home by H&P Architects. Available at:

Ecovillage Book (n.d.). What is an ecovillage?

El Tefegrafo (2014). Isla Santay, santuario de lagartijas. Available at:

La Bioguia (2010). ¿Qué es una eco-aldea y porqué querrías vivir en ella? (What is an eco-village and why would you like to live there?). Available at:

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509


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