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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Factors and interdependences of low-cost sustainable housing in the developing world in the context of Ecuador

Jose Andres Vallejo-Bermeo

Factors and interdependences of low-cost sustainable housing in the developing world in the context of Ecuador


The world faces unprecedented challenges associated with continued population growth, poverty and mitigating climate change. As the population of the developing world explodes and migrates to urban areas, and its economies continue to grow, the demand for improved housing will be equally large. Considering that the built environment currently accounts for 45% of global carbon emissions in the developed world, there is clearly a need for innovation to improve people’s quality of life in the developing world, whilst mitigating the impact of infrastructure on the environment.  In order to fully understand whether it is feasible to provide housing for the entire population in countries like Ecuador, and at the same time instil sustainable designs within these developments, the following factors were selected and analyzed regarding housing in the Ecuadorian context:

  • Economics
  • Social
  • Technical
  • Environmental

Whilst there are a wide range of complex interdependences associated with the key factors above, the focus of this research is to identify the financial capacity of the low income population, as well as, their preferences and acceptance of alternative materials in order to deliver sustainable housing in both urban and rural areas of Ecuador.

The research approach involved 190 field surveys and 5 interviews with Ecuador’s Vice minister of Innovation and Technology, the Head of the Planning Authority, the director of the leading Latin American shelter development organization, and banking and construction industry CEOs.  The aim was to identify and analyze the main constraints on providing universal housing, as well as, the key sustainable design areas to focus on when conceiving new sustainable housing developments.

The study’s findings reveal that both industry and government should aim for a different approach in contrast to the status quo in order to satisfy housing demand sustainably. An analysis of the housing finance risk view from an industry perspective and an overview of an alternative financial mechanism are presented based on the results obtained in the field research.

This paper contributes to an understanding of the interdependences and constraints regarding the implementation of social housing in Ecuador. The recommendations will be guiding principles for organizations embarked on design, financing, urban planning and policy making in order to ensure sustainable development.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.