Nicaragua has a housing shortage. Roughly 22,000 houses annually are needed to meet the needs of the country’s growing population. Conventional buildings being constructed to meet that demand are not environmentally sustainable. SosteNica’s long term goal is to establish a “pay-it-forward” revolving fund, with affordable interest and sweat equity that would allow hundreds of mid-low income families (people who earn between $350 and $500 per month), to build their own, sustainably-built, homes costing less than $10,000.
SosteNica has set out to demonstrate that green design does not have to be more expensive! Our first model building has been constructed in the town of Nagarote by local and international building experts. It includes earth blocks, a composting toilet, a fuel efficient wood stove, rainwater caption, edible landscaping and grey water treatment systems. The model house demonstrates that holistically designed buildings can enrich the lives of their inhabitants in many ways. This building is more than just a building. It demonstrates how a productive home can function like a small ecosystem— growing food, recycling household waste, and treating its own grey water, and it is now used as the physical site of the EcoCenter (link).
With your help we can construct more eco-friendly homes, and in the process build healthy communities. Check out our video about our collaboration with Cornell University Sustainable Design — CUSD / SosteNica Project in Nagarote.
WHAT IS GREEN BUILDING?
“Green building” is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from site selection to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.
Although new technologies are constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener structures, the common objective in green building design is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
• Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
• Protecting the health of occupants and improving work productivity
• Reducing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation
Natural building tends to focus on the use of locally available natural materials. Appropriate technologies relevant to Nicaragua include:
• Composting toilets
• Rainwater capture
• Gray water treatment
• Solar electricity
• Edible landscaping
• Earth building
HOW DID SOSTENICA DECIDE TO EXPAND ITS FOCUS INTO HOUSING?
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing…”
SosteNica believes that “adequate housing” includes not harming the environment while contributing to a healthy living space for the residents.
In December 2009, SosteNica sent CEPRODEL’s lead architect, Carolina Arroliga, their lead mason, Lolo, and their community organizing leader, Fatima, to a week-long training on green building techniques in Tlaxcala, Mexico. During that week, the three professionals studied cob, rammed earth, adobe, pajareque (clay/straw), and straw bale construction. They returned from the training committed to building some of the first earth and straw bale structures in Managua at CEPRODEL’s main headquarters.
We continue to send SosteNica staff and our CEPRODEL colleagues to workshops on appropriate technology. We also engage with other non-profits with green building experience, encouraging them toadd edible landscaping, green urban design, and a host of alternative technologies to the already proven model of organizing low-income housing cooperatives.