Year | 2023
Location | Bueno Aires, Argentina
Clients | IIED – América Latina

Empowering Residents in climate resilient construction in Buenos Aires

The Villa 20 Retrofit Manual launches self-build guidance for residents to improve their homes in an informal settlement outside Buenos Aires. The project was developed in collaboration with an architecture student group at the University of Sheffield (Uos), UK, and the International Institute for Environment and Development-Latin America (IIED-LA). This Live Project was inspired by the development of the local best-seller ‘Manual práctico de construcción’, which provided affordable and safe construction advice for residents looking to build their own homes. In addition to building on this database, this Live Project now looks to address a visceral threat affecting global communities – Climate Change.

The effects of climate change are often disproportionately experienced in the global south. In the context of Villa 20, temperatures are soaring as the shanty town experiences the effects of Urban Heat Islands. Temperatures are now reaching upwards of 50C inside the Villa. Futhermore, over the last 60 years “The neighbourhood has been growing” (Representative of IIED-LA, 2023). This “degree of overcrowding” has “limited open spaces”, creating “difficulties in the ventilation and illumination of the houses.” (Representative of IIED-LA, 2023). Alongside the clients, the students have recognised 8 areas of the home that the residents can begin to adapt.

As the shanty town operates outside the realms of government ownership, it is critical for the residents to begin to self organise and adapt to these threats. The Live Project Retrofit Manual is the first step in IIED-LA’s strategic master plan. Its aim is to provide resources to the residents that can inform future construction, through the lens of self-organised climatic resilience. Although it is not the responsibility of the residents to address these climate issues, through informed construction they can work towards improving their local and wider environments.

The proposal advocates a circular self-assessment process of ‘Look, Learn, Act’ which forms a feedback loop between households, the neighbourhood and IIED. The student groups’ engagement package provides tools, both digital and physical, for continued outreach to maximise community participation and inform future manuals. Every building is unique, and the variety of spaces, arrangements, and details are particular to each resident. Therefore, the Live Project pilot’s options for residents to test and evolve through bottom-up participatory design.

Instead of designing a one size fits all approach the students have created a series of manuals and engagement packs that can inspire both IIED-LA and the residents when looking to address the climate emergency within shanty towns in Argentina. This framework not only allows IIED-LA to adapt the manual based on feedback, but also encourages the residents to take ownership of tactics through the provision of resources and the assessment of existing conditions.


Mentor: Adriana Massidda
Client: IIED – América Latina
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Students: Tom Durham, Libby Henstridge, Patrick Gurmin, Jhern Han Len, Hannah Wolowacz, Robert McCarthy, Emily Simpson, Yann Bracegirdle, Saylah Hussain, Bashaer Alsahafi, Yinan Liu, Rundong Mao