Waste recycling for housing construction

The Best Practices Hub in Vienna recently highlighted CIDEM´s “From Waste to Houses” project in their on-line Best Practices Newsletter No. 18 that focused upon ecological construction. Following are excerpts from that article. CIDEMis a university research institute at  the Universidad de las Villas and is a major player in the EcoSouth Network as well as host to the third EcoMaterials conference to be held in Santa Clara in November.

Lead idea
This Best Practices example is essentially about a local construction technology. To become independent of imports Cuba had to find an alternative to traditional construction cement. Local sugar cane was used to make a building material, a method which also incorporates further processing of building debris. The new technology has triggered a reconstruction process which draws on the participation of citizens.

Starting position
The Caribbean climate takes a heavy toll of buildings in Cuba´s towns. Frequent hurricanes in recent years have also done enormous damage. The quickest and most economical way to give hurricane victims a roof over their heads is to renovate their damaged homes.

Building material, however, especially Portland cement, is far too expensive and complicated to use. Time and again the country has been faced with bottle-necks and price increases. During the 1990ies economic crisis CIDEM sought alternatives and invented a method to create a substitute made from old building material and waste from sugar production: cement, a bonding agent for many types of building material, made from ashes produced during incineration of residuary sugar cane. The latter is traditionally used to heat furnaces for clay tiles and sand-lime bricks which are also produced locally.

Workshops were organized for country-wide dissemination of the new technology developed at the University in Santa Clara.
With plenty of affordable building material available it was possible to launch renovating measures. The National Institute of Housing, local authorities and banks negotiated a well-priced loan system to support residents in reconstructing their homes. Most Cubans own their homes but with frequent supply and delivery difficulties are usually inactive when it comes to seeking support. Spurred on by the availability of local building material and financial support they now organized self-help groups. Of the 350 families who decided to use the new building material to reconstruct their homes 80 availed themselves of the loans. New jobs were created for 50 people, many of them women.  By March 2004, 1,200 homes had been reconstructed and made hurricane-safe.


You are here: Home Past editions Edition #11, March 2005 Waste recycling for housing construction


Peter Arndt
Social worker and Mechanical technician
German, English, Spanish
Project administration and management, social organization, mechanical innovation


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