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Redesign Social Housing: Design tools for improvement of social housing in Brazil MA ARCH STUDIO: REDESIGN

AntĂ´nio Santos Prof. Gunnar Hartmann (Thesis supervisor) Peter Ruge (Second advisor)



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Antônio Santos

Adequate housing was recognized as a human right in 1948, upon the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a universal right, accepted and applicable throughout the world as a fundamental human right. The right to housing is also a right guaranteed by the currently Brazilian‘s Federal Constitution (1988). According to article 6, “Are social rights, education, health, food, work, housing, leisure, security, social security, protection of motherhood and childhood, and assistance to the destitute.“ However, Brazil has a housing shortage of 6 million units1. Figure 01. Pedregulho building, an icon of Brazilian Modern Architecture. Source: http://padois. Until the beginning of the last century, the in- of the Brazilian government on the graficos.html issue of housing was almost nonexistent. There was only a concern about the health condition of cities in order to avoid the spread of diseases. Therefore, there was no clear discussion of the housing problem and its connection with the state. Due the huge migration of rural and poor population to the centers in development, which caused a growing social tension and pressure for housing policies, the Brazilian government began its participation and intervention in the housing supply. Indeed, throughout the twentieth century, despite some positive oneoff initiatives such as the Housing Complex PreFigure 02. MCMV Settlement erected in Londrifeito Mendes de Moraes, or Pedregulho, built in na, Paraná, Brazil. 1952, in Rio de Janeiro, designed by Affonso Reidy (Figure 01), and the Zezinho Magalhães Prado buitl in 1972, in Guaraulhos, designed by João Batista Vilanova Artigas, government initiatives were unable to meet the growing housing demand in the country. Housing programs lacked coordination and integration of federal, state and municipal spheres. Finally, in 2009 the federal government launched the MCMV Program (Programa Minha Casa, Minha Vida), which is far away to respond correctly the housing problem. The program demands improvements and the housing problem demands also some alternatives of housing policies. .



Data survey provided by the Foundation João Pinheiro.



Brazilian Population Explosion

Brazil experienced a huge population explosion in the last century, mainly due to the migration of rural population to cities in development, when its population grew up tenfold: from 17 million in 1900 to 170 million in 2000. In just three decades, between 1950 and 1980, the Brazilian’s population increased by 67 million people. In the 1960‘s, for the first time, the urban population overcame (in numbers) the rural population. In the following decades the growth has continued.

Basically, we can say that brazilian urbanization was almost entirely based on the informality. The result couldn’t be different from the reality we face nowadays.

Brazil has a housing deficit of 5,792,508 homes. Besides this massive number, Brazil‘s big metropolises have on average between 40 and 50% of its population living in urban informality, of which 15-20% on average live in favelas. This is a huge impromptu production, without This combination of rapid population the involvement of governments and without growth, insufficient supply of jobs and the significant technical and financial resources. lack of urban planning policies generated the problems which were not solved yet.

Figure 03. Brazilian’s growth population. Source: IBGE, Demographic Census, 2010




Complexities and Contradictions in Brazil

Figure 04. Paraisópolis. The largest slum in Latin America, flanked by the upper class neighborhood of Morumbi. Source: Jorge Maruta, USP Journal.

In the book Massive Change we run into the following promise: „We will create urban shelter for the entire world.“ Then we wonder how long is the distance between the promise and the reality in Brazil, which consists of a impressive shortage of housing? During the 60‘s, the public housing was the central issue of the architecture. The best architects thought social housing. But today, it‘s something technical, economic forecasting, but not architecture. The architects prefer to design museums. This is the time of so-called starchitects, this spectacle of architecture. But the house is in the basis of life. Therefore, It‘s worth reflecting about the popular housing.


For this reason, even in the height of starchitects period, we find many attempts to provide alternatives for the housing problem aimed at people with low incomes. Shigeru Ban has used cheap materials as paper to develop projects for lowincome people and people affected by natural disasters. Alastair Parvin is author of WikiHouse, Which is an open source project, whose construction kit can be downloaded by anyone interested in building a house. Mass Customisation is the central story. Jay Shafer designed mobile houses. Its Tumbleweed Tiny Houses are known for their craftsmanship and quality materials. Jay Shafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny the House Company has led the way in the tiny house movement and educating people on the benefits of living in a

tiny home and mobile. Doug Sharp led a team, which has created the Abod House, a sustainable home which can be built in less than one day. It‘s made of lightweight materials that can be easily delivered by truck, ship or place to those who need them. Highly affordable and flexible in design, each shelter can be can be customized to fit each owner‘s particular needs. All these ideas to open new perspectives on the possibility of eradicating the housing shortage worldwide. One of the wicked problem concerned to the Brazilian informal is that the land or the units are available as product only to those who can pay for it. It is common to find in our cities constructed and unoccupied buildings, contrasting with a growing number of homeless people. The city of São Paulo has about 40,000 abandoned buildings only in its center region. Most of these buildings consists of old empty or underused offices with an advanced degree of obsolescence. The best example is the Prestes Maia building in São Paulo, considered the largest occupation of homeless in the Latin America (Look at picture 03). The building was occupied three times by homeless. Today roughly 1,500 people from 378 families live there. They occupy 20 of the 22 floors of the main building and also an adjacent building with eight floors. The electrical connection is illegal and the plumbing was done by the residents in the hole of the old elevator. The bathrooms are shared - one for every 11, 12 and even 13 families. Occupying becomes the only alternative in front of the enhancement of urban lot and abusive rent. The major occupations of idle land by MTST (Movement of Homeless Workers) are in Sao Paulo. Currently 8000 people occupy the New Palestine (south side) and other 4000 occupy the People‘s Cup, which is in Itaquera (west), a neighborhood that housed the opening World Cup, in 2014. The MTST advocates the adoption of a law that limits the adjustment of rent inflation. What regulates the rent in the country today is the free market, ie, the law of supply and demand. However, these groups of invaders are also widely criticized for their methods. In some of these raids, many tents are empty overnight. Critics say many of those people own home and they participate in these movements just to get the advantage of having the right of posses land in this way.

7 million people without houses or adequate houses. In addition, there is in the country a very strong patrimonial culture that makes hard the adoption of alternatives for the private production of new housing. Most of people still prefer to have possession of their homes, even in areas that lack infrastructure and no quality of life. The solutions are beyond the playing field exclusively for architects and planners. Changes in laws can also produce significant effects in the reality. Hernando Soto, a Peruvian economist, believes that, “Without formal property, no matter how many assets the excluded accumulate or how hard they work, most people will not be able to prosper in a capitalist society. They will continue to be beyond the range of policymakers, of the reach of official records, and thus economically invisible“. De Soto, who had a successful experience with legal reform in Peru, shows that, though it is by no means a simple task, establishing an inclusive property rights system and enabling people to at long last title their properties has had many economic benefits. By the start of 2007, over 3,200,000 properties were titled for 13 million Peruvians. The program that has had the most success is the legalization of property titles. For example, in Lima, 98 percent of the properties have been properly titled and this has had some interesting effects, for example in the development of mortgage credit. $400 million that was dead capital before but has now been converted into live capital has, no doubt, made the popular economy more dynamic, and has been a factor that has helped in the growth of the economy in the last few years. Brazilians could learn from the Peruvian case.

These complexities and contradictions are striking elements of Brazilian reality. For instance, in Brazil exist roughly 6 million empty buildings all over the country contrasting with the almost




General Overview

In 2009, just after the global financial crisis, the Brazilian federal government launched a program for mass housing that would be able to resolve the country‘s huge housing deficit and at the same time stimulate economic growth. The program „Minha Casa, Minha Vida“ was based on data surveys conducted in 2008 by the Foundation João Pinheiro, which determined that Brazil has, approximately, a shortage of 5,8 milion housing units. The studies specified the relationship between this housing deficiency and the territorial spatiality where it is playing out, while investigating how features of space correspond to specific income groups. The project MCMV was developed in order to expand credit in the housing market for families whose monthly income consists of up to ten minimum salaries, while boosting the civil construction industry, which had experienced a phase of intense growth beginning in 2006, but has been suffering from the impacts of the global financial crisis. The program is aimed at, mainly, the population with an income range of up to three minimum salaries, offering a unit of housing with no demands in return. However, the beneficiary must make a symbolic payment of R$50 or 10 percent of the family income for ten years. For the income bracket of up to ten minimum salaries, which is called the economic bracket, the program has available noncostly subsidies (in the form of discounts) and costly subsidies (in the form of parcels) Besides the subsides, the program interest rates, and creates a fund that provides insurance in case of default because of unemployment or other circumstances.

There is no doubt that MCMV Program will im- Figure 05. MCMV Settlement are established where land is cheap prove the statistical results concerning the housing deficit in Brazil. After all, it has built already 2 million units all over the country, according to what the federal government announced in the end of 2014. But the program is not only far away from satisfying the demand for housing for low-income families, it is even further away from producing the quality cities people desire, as this document addresses further. 8

p. The lack of integration with existing urban settings markes them prone to becoming ghettos. Source: Ruby Press.




How to Apply

To apply for the program, the income of a family must be between one and seven minimum salaries. The family at the same time mustn‘t own a house or have received housing funding from any of the federal government‘s social housing programs. The selection process is as follows: first, an applicant needs to enroll in the municipality database for the specific social program. After the data have been entered in the register, they are analyzed, and the list of the selected families is subsequently released to the financial institution, Caixa EconĂ´mica, a stateowned bank that operates on the regular financial market. In the selection of beneficiaries, priority is given to families that have lost property or that reside in unhealthy or risk

Figure 06. How to apply. Source: Ruby Press..


prone areas, that have women as the heads of families, or families with disabled persons. The selection for the program is the responsibility of the municipalities and states, which compromise with the regulations determined by the Ministry of Cities.



Minimum Requirements

The program defines minimum requirements for social housing production, while the cost per housing unit is established by the federal government. The technical specifications are defined for two different types, single family and multi-family housing. For the single-family type, houses and „sobrados�(one-or two-story houses); for the multifamily type, blocks of apartments, stacked apartments, and village types were allocated. The dimension of the rooms are by the furniture, which has specific sizes (in length and width). The area of each room is not standardized; however, the layout has to respect the local legislation.

Figure 07. Minimum Requirements. Source: Ruby Press.




Housing Types

Figure 08. MCMV Housing Types.Source: Ruby press.

The MCMV program offers a limited housing types. Basically there are two housing types for families with income between 03 and 10 minimum salaries, the typical onestory house with area of 35 sqm. and the typical MCMV apartment with area of 42 sqm. The floor plan is in both cases composed of two bedrooms (one with a double bed and the other with two single beds), a living room, corridor, bathroom, kitchen, and external laundry room.





In order to evaluate the MCMV Program, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Ministry of Cities launched in 2012 a search notice. The eleven teams contemplated formed the City Network and Housing and evaluated projects in 22 municipalities in six states: Pará, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Research reports pointed to structural problems of the program that have impacted the cities and the lives of beneficiary families. The following considerations were based on the main findings and results of research. 1)Standardization




2) Poor quality of urban spaces - segregation and lack of infrastructure; 3) Bad location: peripheral and distant location of sources of employment in the city; 4) Missmatch between housing types (with its unique architectural program: living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms) and the diversity of families. Furthermore, the units cannot adapt over time; 5) Monofunctional sets: there is no activities for income generation; and 6) Problems of social and economic sustainability of the settlements. The collapse of the condominium management due the maintenance costs of collective spaces in relation to the income of residents, resulting in high delinquency and conflicts with the liquidators.

The MCMV Program is a program that represented a major break from previous practices, by bringing the issue of housing to the center of government agenda for the scale of intervention, the volume of resources used by the grant concessions of up to 96% for layers with income up to R $ 1,600.00 and partial subsidies for the layers of income of up to R $ 5,000.00, providing access housing for lower income sectors, historically excluded from financing to home ownership However, a housing policy nationwide in a country of continental dimensions, can not have obviously only one program building and the transfer of ownership of new housing units. You must associate slum upgrading programs and slums, housing improvements, land tenure, occupation of empty and underutilized areas, real estate recovery in central areas for social housing and also a social rental program for families of lower income, that are not able to afford the costs of private property. What is worse, in the last five years, the ease of access to credit has caused a large housing boom in Brazil. A lack of regulation in the real-estate market has unleashed speculation, increasing property values in city centers, which has pushed social housing projects to the outskirts of cities. In addition, very few private companies were able to compete in the system—the scale of the projects demanded a high amount of initial capital—inevitably creating a monopoly. Therefore, the MCMV program, based on a stan dardized production and large-scale, detached from local realities, incorrectly inserted and isolated the city from a model of private condominium property, certainly needs to correct its failures and retrofit itself. Its clear that we need today an innovative action in urban and housing field.




Residential Vista Bela, Londrina, Brazil (2011)

Figure 09. Vista Bela MCMV Settlement was built in 2011 to accomodate 12.000 inhabitants. This mici city was the largest construction site of the MCMV Program.

The MCMV settlement was built 8,5 km di- The settlement was built without urban facilities. stant from the city center, even if still exists In fact, even after four years of its completion in some voids in the urban grid (figure 09). 2011, the locals residents still face problems as the lack of health center, children care center, The wicked problem is that the program doesn‘t school and commerce (figure 10). If somebody dialogue well with families and with the city. Its needs to visit the doctor, he/she has to move to dialogue is between the government and the the neighborhood distant 2 km, where the health contractors. The federal government provides center doesn’t meet the increasing demand. financing, the municipalities patronize and the constructors build the houses. Obviously, due As a result of this totally neglect of the poputhe construction price + land price pre-determi- lation needs, the municipality has to provide ned, the companies seek land in remote areas, public transportation to take the children to 23 outskirts, where the cost is minimum. The resi- different schools located in different parts of the dents must to shoulder the burden of expensi- city, which represents a huge monthly burden. ve and time consuming transport; the government, the expansion of services (or, more likely, failure to provide services, even the security). 14

Figure 10. Location of the residential Vista Bela.

Figure 11. Zoning.


Figure 12. The housing types.

The construction of Vista Bela Settlement was funded by the federal program MCMV to house 12.000 inhabitants. In total, 1440 apartments with area of 42 sqm and 1.272 units with area of 35 sqm were built. Therefore, there are only two types of housing. As Raquel Rolnik said, the mainly negative point is that home is not refrigerator, which is produced in series. Adequate housing means a place in the city, a point from which one has access to decent living conditions, employment, social facilities, commerce, a public space of quality and culture. It goes beyond the water supply, electricity, paving, sewer system, which of course are also important.




Analysis of the Vista Bela Housing Types

Figure 13. The fllor plan of the twin-houses types. Although the limitations of the reduced dimension of the lots and the structures does not allow any extension, in the most of cases the informal extensions begin immediately after the completion of the units. However, because these restrictions, the only informal adaptations the residents can do is erecting in the front and in the back of the lot. In the Residential Vista Bela a several residents expand the house in order to provide some spaces for shops to compensate the lack of commercial activities. The high cost of the lots forced the division of the lots with minimum size, which is 250 sqm, into two, resulting in the twin-houses with lots with area of 125 sqm, which limits the capacity of units expand for instance. Therefore, one of the first problem the residents of the Residential Vista Bela faced was the minimum size of the interior units. Some residents couldn‘t even carry their furniture or fit the hole family. Figure 14. The floor plan of the apartments. 17

The MCMV Vista Bela settlement presents a lot of constraints. Because the pressure to reduce the cost of the terrain, each lot was divided into two, generating twin-houses with 35 sqm in a lot with 125 sqm. The units one-story houses, compose by kitchen, bathroom, two dorms and the external laundry, are delivered only with the basics stuffs. The arrangement of units in the site, based on the massive repetition doesn’t consider the needs of each family. The MCMV schemes foster privatization rather than collective responsibility.

Figure 15. The one-story twin-house unit.

Figure 16. A possible scenario after informal expansion.


As it did fifty years ago with the mass housing settlement Cidade de Deus, “City of God�, in Rio de Janeiro, informal construction starts right after the erection of newly built MCMV settlements. The new residents are compensating for the deficiencies of urban planning. Informality and degradation are the consequences when a sense of community is lacking in the neighborhood. The lack of integration with existing urban settings makes them prone to becoming ghettos.



Quinta Monroy, Iquique, Chile (2004)

Figure 17. The Quinta Monroy was built in 2004 to house 93 families. Source: Elemental, Cristรณbal Palma. The fist lesson we can learn from the Elemental Project is that good location is the key to increase the property value. Despite very bad living condition, families had a survival network in the city around them, consisting of jobs, education, health facilities and transportation. So the project maintained that network and rooted the families where they were, even if the cost of the site was three times more than what social housing is normally able to afford. Instead of doing the best possible $7.500 dollar unit and repeating it a 100 times, the Elemental, which designed this project, went for best possible $750.000 dollar building which could host a 100 families and their growth in time. Furthermore, Elemental developed a set of design conditions that if followed, improve the chances of a property to gain value over time.

According to Elemental equation, these are the conditions that can increase the value. 1. Good location in the city (close to the opportunity networks): Dense enough to pay for expensive well located sites; 2. Introduction of the collective space (extensive family as an economical and social unit): 20 to 30 families; 3. Able to develop harmonically over time (avoid the impoverishment the neighborhood and of the house typical of progressive building): Conquer the corner of the lot / alternate voids for expansions; 4. middle class DNA (instead of small house give half of a good house); 5. Maximum flexibility/ minimum technology (voids big enough for decent rooms but small enough to facilities low tech expansions: 3m; 6. Structural design for final scenario: Partition walls for the final house.


Figure 18. Location of Quinta Monroy, Iquique.

Figure 19. The Zoning. 20

Figure 20. Housing Types.

The lots have 9mx9m. The First-and-LastFloor-Building, wrapped around to form 4 collective courtyards of 20 families each Square 9 x 9 m lots for the house, allow to fit better the irregular shape of the site.




Analyse of the Quinta Monroy Housing Types

Figure 21. Ground floor plan. Source: Elemental, Cristรณbal Palma.

As we can see in the drawings, the Elemental project consists in a prefabricated minimum structure, which only provides the walls, kitchen, bathroom and staircases, which according to Alejandro Aravena, are the parts that the families cannot build by themselves very well. He created an equation to attack what he considers the weakest point of social housing projects: quality. He said that is better to do good half house than a bad entirely house.


So, the entirely project was designed to allows the residents to extend their units, at least double their dimensions. The houses initial area has 36 sqm and final area of 70 sqm (figure 20). The apartments initial area has 25 sqm and final area of 72 sqm (figures 21 and 22).

Figure 22. First floor plan. Source: Elemental, Cristรณbal Palma.

Figure 23. Second floor plan.


As buildings block expansions, except in the first and last floor, the solution was a building that had just the first and last floor. With 2 properties one on top of the other, we doubled the efficiency of land use, before even going to the design. The great design innovation related to the Quinta Monroy, besides the employment of self construction, is its prefabricated structure which was develop to fit final configuration. Instead of providing a structure for the 40 sqm initial, it provided its final structure for the final 80 sqm. What is amazing is that the project combines maximum flexibility and minimum technology, in order to facilitates low tech expansions, using cheap and light materials as wood and sheet metal. It means that the first half cost U$ 7.500 and the second half cost only U$ 750. So, as the property is able to expand, it increased in value up to U$ 20.000. (figure 24).

Figure 24. The original structure.

Figure 25. The final scenario after expansion.




The Rules of Favelas Construction

Figure 26. The Unspoken Rules of Favela Construction. Source: Solène Veysseyre. From an urban planning point of view1, if we have to simplify and apply a single term to all favelas, we can say that favelas are, simply: (1) Neighborhoods that emerge from an unmet need for housing; (2) Established and developed with no outside or governmental regulation; (3) Established and developed by individual residents (no centralized or outside ‘developers’); and (4) Continuously evolving based on culture and access to resources, jobs, knowledge, and the city. Yes, at first glance, this environment seems to be an impressive chaotic mass: houses waves that invaded every place, especially if we see it with eyes used to see outlined streets, open spaces and formal organizations. But the informal environments is a world of narrow streets, 2 Theresa Williamson

Once adapted, one understands how this particular space follows its own rules, its own logic and its own nuances. In the favelas time plays an essential role. The construction costs time and money. A single unit takes a several generation to be built: a slab is constructed, columns are erected and a simple cover is installed, but that is just to mark where the next Mason must continue their service. In favelas building a roof with tiles means that someone didn‘t have enough money to continue building the house. It is also common in slums that a family rents different floors of their homes to other families or relatives. Homes facing the main street tend to use the ground floor for commercial activities. Some people hire bricklayers, especially for specific tasks, such as casting slabs or roof installation.


But many build their houses with the help of friends who lend a hand on the weekends. Sometimes occurs barter - one takes the facade tiles of the house of a friend in exchange for windows for instance. Although there are no official rules of construction, there is a law of mutual respect. As an extra floor almost always blocks the view of the neighbor, it is common to leave a space of at least one meter between each home. The construction materials of the units must meet three main criteria: low cost, lightness to be carried on the masons back and small enough to pass through the alleys of the slum. As a result, all the houses are built with bricks, the structure is made by concrete pillars, the slabs are of beams and ceramic blocks and coverage almost always in asbestos tiles. While the exterior of the commercial type of houses can be painted or covered with tiles, in general, the houses are more austere: almost all leave the brick to the street, with air conditioners and antennas hanging on the walls, one or two water tanks installed in the roof slabs to ensure water and windows protected with security grills, often with ornamental designs.

Figure 27. Time plays an essential role in the favelas construction. Source: Solène Veysseyre.

However, in general, the internal spaces are well maintained and clean, painted and decorated, and almost all have large TVs as a central element. Tiles are often used on the facades, walls, stairs and floors. The inner walls of the slab-terrace are also painted in particularly bright colors: blue, green, purple and yellow.

Figure 28. The material types employed in the favelas construction. Source: Solène Veysseyre. 26

“If you examine closely how they emerge and how they evolve, you realize that favelas are not only about a marginalized shadow-world, a parallel system separate from the official city. You realize that they are just another expression of the same system, the same economy and in some cases even the same political actors are involved. The formal and the informal system are strongly related and we cannot separate one from the other”. (Rainer Hehl)

Figures 29-32. Favelas contructions present a richness of housin typologies. Source: Solène Veysseyre.


05 Obviouslt, the informality couldn‘t solve the problem of the housing production by itself. Rainer Hehl says that the formal basis and the infrastructure must to move together with a thought of architecture as culture.


Is the Informality a model for the urban future?

Many things have changed since the height of modern architecture. At that time, until the first half of the twentieth century, architects and governments believed that the solution to eradicate the housing shortage was to build mammoths in the peripheries of the big centers, using prefabricated components to materialize buildings in format of blades with few stores and upon pilotis, whose Unité d‘Habitation of Le Corbusier is the greatest symbol of this modern belief in design. But today has been about not designing to solve problems. Nowadays it is much more common to see experts praising the social order and even aesthetic of informal settlements, which in many cases provide their residents with a stronger community and higher standard of living than did many formal social housing projects of the past. Today we have new approaches and new parameters. British environmentalist David King argues that the slums could serve as a model for cities of the future. In fact, King defends the adoption of two of its most desirable characteristics: a form of self-organization of communities, avoiding planning „top-down“, and distances that can be percussed by foot. The Quinta Monroy project, located in Iquique, Chile, designed by Elemental and the case of David Tower, an illegal occupation of an abandoned business tower in the center of Caracas, Venezuela, indicate new directions and a new mindset related to the housing problem, which consider involving locals residents in the process of building their homes and communities, using their time, energy and potential, preventing the planning top-down, in which urban planners think they know more than communities, paying attention to what local people really want, which results in most cases in a real sense of ownership and stronger and collaborative communities.


This in other words, as Ludwig Engel said, means that the he idea of social housing seems to be able to shift from the empowerment of the state to take land and money to an empowerment of the people to build faster and smaller structures without much more than an informal organizational overhead. Flexible approaches to providing building infrastructure might be today’s form of social housing. The cities’ governments can empower individuals and small interest groups of the urban poor not only to find a more or less acceptable home but to create a process in which home can be re-defined and adapted as the soaring dynamics of the bustling megacities change their appearance fortnight. A number of qualities of the built environment in favelas have caught the attention of international planners, architects and sustainability practitioners in recent years. Favelas are places of: (1) Low-rise, high density development; (2) Pedestrian orientation; (3) High use of bicycles & public transportation; (4) Mixed use (homes above shops); (5) Residence close to workplace; (6) Organic architecture (architecture evolves according to need); (7) New urbanism; (8) Collective action; (9) Intricate solidarity networks; and (10) Vibrant cultural production.



Guidelines For Improvement of Brazilian Social Housing Production

Based on the analysis of the case studies and the understanding of the informality rules of favelas constructions, it’s possible to define some design strategies to guide the future proposal of evolutionary social housing. The following items form the scope of the design tools for social housing. 1. Take root residents close works, in order to enable the opportunities of jobs, education, transportation

8. Provide space for commercial activities, in order to avoid the mono functional settlements, activate the street life and stimulate the generation of incomes, which is especially crucial for low-income people.

to the city nettheir access to health facilities, and services;

2. Provide high enough density, in order to pay for expensive well located sites, to reduce the footprint buildings and gain extra space for green and everyday activities and also to reduce the expense of public resources in the infrastructure expansion; 3. Create settlements with diversity of lots and housing types, in order to foster the mix of classes and avoid the massive standardization of lots and units, which always result in the creation of islands of poor and in segregation;

“We need to think of cities not just as artifacts but as systems built more like organisms than machines” – Michael Batty, the new Sciences of Cities

4. Employ the self construction potential present in the informal settlements, by providing only a compact building structure that enables residents to build faster and smaller units by themselves; 5. Employ low technology and cheap and light materials in order to foster the self-builders, who for cultural and mainly economical reasons have access and knowledge to manage materials as bricks, concrete and wood. panels. 6. Maximize the flexibility in order to enable residents to expand or adapt their units. If the units can grow and improve over time, they increase their value over time and instead of becoming social expense, it becomes an investment; 7. Provide public spaces and facilities, in order to create urban environment with quality and engage residents in the community life; and




First Design Tool: Set People at a Good Location

Figure 32. Good location means acess to the cities opportunities and networks.

Adequate housing, of course, goes beyond the access to a new unit. The adequate housing means a place in the city, from which one has access to decent living conditions, employment, education, health care, transportation, public spaces of quality, commerce and culture (Figure 28). It means maintain people close to the opportunities network.

of resources to provide them the public facilities, which will represent a burden to the citizens (Figure 29); 02) The government won‘t provide the public facilities, which means that the residents won‘t have access to the public facilities and their precarious conditions of living will decay over time; and 03) As the land is a scarce resource, its value increases with time. , the good location is the key to increases property value.


Therefore, before going into design, is essential to run alternatives housing policies, in order to guarantee the access to city network for low income classes, as occupation of empty buildings, social rent, improvement of favelas, and finally, make sure that the social housing projects begins with a good location in the city, provided by the state.

CONSEQUENCES: If a settlement is built in the outskirts, which is characterized by the lack of the public facilities, we‘ll have three negative results: 01) The first is that the government will spend a huge amount




Second Design Tool: Increase the density

Figure 33. Increasing density means a more efficient and sustainable environment. The cost of land is the higher social housing expense. Therefore, especially in this context, increasing density means that the residents will be able to afford for expensive located sites. ACTORS: State, construction companies, architects and urban planners.

CONSEQUENCES: (01) Besides of cheapening land price, which enables the low income people to pay for a good located site in the city, (02) the high density means optimizing the use of the existent urban infrastructure, reducing public spending on the expansion of urban facilities. In addition, this design tool also reduces the footprint buildings and gain extra space for green and everyday activities, liberating also territory for the production of nature. Therefore, before going into design, we have to avoid some solutions, which generate bad results. The solution “one lot, one unit” is very inefficient in land use, so the market tries to

make land cost as close to zero as possible. Those pieces of land are in the periphery of cities. But even if it was possible to pay for a well located site, this isolated type is unable to take some responsibility on self construction. The given units are normally swallowed by expansions producing a very bad urban environment, once again. The solution „lot width = house width = room width“ increases the density, but with bad spatial consequences. The problem with the row house type, is that whenever families expand, they block previous rooms access to ventilation and light, and compromise privacy. Finally, building in height is a efficient solution to use the land. But, it blocks completely expansions. In addition, generally we can say that towers are in any case less sustainable in construction and maintenance. The towers do not offer the same kind of social space and opportunities for small scale business and street vending. However the problem is also that the towers only offer quality of life if they are built with high standards. The cheap version of the housing models that are meant to represent upper class living is just a failure because the inhabitants are squeezed into minimum standards (maximum 50 m2).

„The the denser we make our cities, the more we can sustain ecosystems. High dense environments require less transportation, fewer sewer lines, fewer power lines, fewer roads, and more tightly packed structures, which in and of themselves are more energy efficient“ – Patrick Moore, Greenpeace co-funder and environmental consultant.



DESIGN TOOLS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING Third Design Tool: Diversify the Lots and Housing Types

Figure 34. The lots and housing types should consider the families needs.

A healthy and livable city, which architects and urban planner should provide, is not a collection of isolated islands, but is a place where all the people, doesn‘t matter their incomes, have access to the urban facilities and share all the city‘s opportunities. In this sense, social housing shouldn‘t mean island of poor. ACTORS: State, construction companies, architects and urban planners.

CONSEQUENCES: When we design a social housing settlement, we have to heed that the massive repetition brings about (at least) two negative consequences: 01) The standardization of housing types (with minimum size), which always results in a mismatch between housing types, with its unique architectural program, and the diversity of families; 02) Generation of islands of poor, which results in stigmatization and segregation. 32

Therefore, avoiding the massive repetition of minimum lots types and promoting the mix of classes by providing also lots with the DNA of the middle class, we can prevent that social housing settlements become a stigmatized place.


DESIGN TOOLS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING Fourth Design Tool: Employ Self-Construction

Figure 35. MCMV flow: the process is addressed to benefit the construction sector.

Figure 36. Redesign proposal: the process is addressed to matches the familie needs as self-builders. 33

The informality have taught us, architects, urban planners and politicians, that people have a great capacity to adapt to their needs and to build their units. They are able to build 40, 50 sqm by themselves, without any support of the state and technical resources. Why we do not employ this self-construction potential in the public policies? Why we do not build only the parts that families don‘t build very well, In order to reduce the construction costs and encourage residents to extend and customize their units by themselves, which enhance their sense of ownership, as they spend their own time, energy and money to build and re-build their units?

ACTORS: Construction companies, architects and urban planners.

CONSEQUENCES: The construction of a basic incremental typology with the possibility of expansion (01) enhances flexibility and diversity, and, at the same time, (02) drastically reduces the construction costs. Therefore, in order to take advantage of the self construction and prevent unexpected results, the incremental model must to provide alternate voids for expansion. The voids have to be big enough for decent rooms but small enough to facilitate low tech expansions (3 m).




Fifth Design Tool: Employ Low Technology and Cheap and Light Materials

Figure 37. The structure takes responsability on self construction. The employment of low technology, cheap and light materials is essential to enable the self-contruction strategy, which is much more efficient. The basic compact unit, except for its structural elements, must allow people to expand and adpat their units by spending the minimum of their income and make the the process easier as possible. ACTORS: Construction companies, architects and urban planners.

that the expansion occurs with low cost, which means, cheap materials and low technology. According to a recent survey of 6 communities, 95% of favela homes are built of brick, concrete, and reinforced steel. 75% have tile floors. Residents put decades-worth of income and physical labor into the construction and consolidation of their homes. Peek inside and you’ll not only see the basics of electricity, running water and indoor plumbing, but a large-screen television and, in over 44% of cases, a computer.1

CONSEQUENCES: The incremental social housing, which will be expanded and customized by the residents, have to apply the materials which people with low income can afford. Otherwise people won’t be able to improve or customize their units. Therefore, the project should enable 3 A City Planner Responds: What is a Favela? by Theresa Williamson



DESIGN TOOLS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING Sixth Design Tool: Maximize the Flexibility

Figure 38. Maximizing the flexibility means enable people to customize their houses.

As a family grows, so can their house. Adequate housing or a unit is not a tv set, which is produced in series. Therefore, we must to consider from the starting point that families are heterogeneous and they have different needs and consequent“The ideal living ly different demand of housing types. For this environment can ne- reason, we should enable that people expand ver be reached since and adapt their units according to their needs. every new generation of inhabitants newly rebuilds upon its individual desires. What is always in progress of being built is never ready to be demolished” – Horst Krüger.


ACTORS: Construction companies, architects and urban planners.

CONSEQUENCES: The minimum basic structure should have the the possibility to expand up to its double and tripple original size. The imediate basic structure contains the kitchen, living room, bedroom and the stair. It’s fundamental provide the elements, which people don’t build by themselves very well, as the bathroom, kitchen and the stair.


DESIGN TOOLS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING Seventh Design Tool: Provide Public Spaces and Facilities

Figure 39.The public space is the place of equality, where exchanges both social and economic take place

Although the informality is characterized by the ability to adapt to immediate necessities, providing themselves houses with up to three or four stores, the self-builders only build houses. In general the residents of favelas never build public spaces or community facilities, as park, schools, libraries, etc. If they build very well some parts, would be more efficient if we provided them what they don‘t build very well and what they aren’t able to do. Therefore, the public space, with good environment, is an essential element of social housing, which plays a fundamental role in the quality of urban environment and in the communities everyday life. ACTORS: State, construction companies, architects and urban planners.

CONSEQUENCES: The introduction of public spaces and facilities in the agenda of social housing production aims at making sure that the residents will have access to a meeting place, as an extension of the comunity, which gives identity to the neighborhood and connect the community to the city as a whole. It‘s known that public places contribute to community health – whether socially, economically, culturally or environmentally. They add enhancement to the civic realm – not only visually, but also in providing a sense of character and a forum for public activities. All of these assets, as well as the opportunity these places offer for people to relax and enjoy themselves, add up to greater community livability.



DESIGN TOOLS FOR SOCIAL HOUSING Eighth Design Tool: Provide Commercial Spaces

Figure 40. The commercial activities activates the street life and stimulates the generation of icnomes.

If we relocate people we have to provide an adequate livelihood for them. As social housing basically accommodates people with low incomes, is essential to provide spaces for commercial activities, in order to avoid the monofunctional settlements and stimulate the generation of incomes, which is especially crucial for low-income people. ACTORS: State, construction companies, architects and urban planners. CONSEQUENCES: When we available space or structures to the local commerce activities, we have the following results: (01) The possibility of people generate incomes and available for the neighborhood the goods and services; (02) The activation of the street life, whcih results in more social interactions and security.



HOW THE INCREMENTAL MODEL GROWS ON A SITE From the initial structure to the final scenario

Figure 41. The incremental strategy foccus on the capacity of people to expand their homes by themselves As the organic architecture in the informal settlemets (as favelas) have taught us, the architecture evolves according to need. Time plays an essential role in this practice, as each generation put their own physical labor, time and a lot of their income to expand their houses and meet their demands. This incremental process, which result in most of the cases in environments with a strong sense of community and self-organization, indicates that the residents, as self-builders, are a key actors to deal with the housing problem. This chapter displays how a model of incremental design grows on a generic site. The model is made of prefabricated concrete elements. The arrangement of the delivered basic units facilitates the self-construction process, as all the structure for the final scenario is built and the self-builders only have to erect the partition walls and fill the voids with the materials they have available and can pay for (Figure 41), in order to double or even tripple the units area according to their necessities. 39

In the first stage of the developing process, the family has access to a basic and unfinished structure. The basic structure corresponds to the immediate minimum living spaces, which fits well a single person or a couple without children, and the unfinished part consist of voids, which take responsability on self-construction. The unoccupied ground floor allows residents use them as a recreation area or as a commercial area or workshop and the second empty floor serves as a terrace. THE FAMILY:

STAGE 01: 37,5 sqm Basic house: kitchen (3mx1,95m), living room (3mx3,30m), bathroom (3x1,2m), bedroom (3x3,30) and stairs.


Figure 42. The first stage perspective.


As a family grows, so can their house. Now there are a couple and two children. So, the second scenario consists of the partial ocupation of the ground floor in order to add two rooms and fit better the family. The room on the front of the house could serve as a small shop. For this reason is very important that all the units face the street. It enables people to generate and increase their income.


STAGE 02: 63,85 sqm Additional: shop / living room (3mx3,3m), bedroom (3mx3,3m).


Figure 43. The second stage perspective


The family is even bigger. It‘s still possible to add a third room on the ground floor by erecting only one partition wall, which could be made as ceramic bricks, as the residents use to build in informal settlements. By now the family has doubled the units area.


STAGE 03: 75,0 sqm Additional: bedroom (3mx2,2m).


Figure 44. The third stage perspective.


The minimum width of 3 meters allows that residents build also more bathrooms. In this simulation, the fourth scenario has an additional bathroom on the ground floor. The internal patio (3mx2,3m), an vertical void, allows the construction of internal rooms and provides natural illumination and ventilation. This second one is really important in the brazilian climate context.


STAGE 04: 86,5 sqm Additional: bedroom (3mx3,3m) Renovation: bathroom (3mx1,2m)


Figre 45. The fourth stage perspective


Instead of families to adapt to the houses, the incremental model is designed to adapt to the familie needs. In this fifth scenario the unit reachs the tripple size of the basic strutucture. It‘s the maximum area that the unit enables.


STAGE 05: 112,5 sqm Additional: bedroom / office (3mx3,3m), terrace (3mx3,3m) Renovation: kitchen and garage.


Figure 46. The fifth stage perspective.


The sixth scenario just shows that the incremental model, which delivered a initial unit with 37,5 sqm can reach up three times its size and provides the families a final scenario with 112,5 sqm, which corresponds to a high standard of living. The expansion allows also that the household rents the ground floor to another family (two people). In this case, it‘s necessary to add an external stair, in order to provide an independent access to the apartment above. THE FAMILY A:

STAGE 06: 75,0 sqm


STAGE 06: 37,5 sqm 50 Figure 47. The sixth stage perspective.


Figure 48. The site with the incremental models.



Figure 49. The initial scenario.



Figure 50. A simulated scenario after the intervention of self-builders.




CONCLUSION Antônio Santos

This thesis work analyzed the mass housing production of the MCMV program, which actually is the only public housing program running in Brazil, the studie cases of Vista Bela settlement, funded by the MCMV Program, and Quinta Monroy, the incremental project designed by Alejandro Aravena in Chile, the rules of favelas construction and the shifting of the social housing approach, in order to understand the current scope of the housing problem and provide as output a proposal of design „The incremental tools, which can contribute to improcity is more flexible, ve the public housing production in Brazil. more specific, and ultimately more diverse than planned environments. Informal logic also enhances the establishment of popular neighborhoods, since it corresponds to people‘s identity and their everyday practices. By combining formal and informal practices, the defaults of both operational modes can be suspened“. (Rainer Hehl)

Its clear that only the construction of new units isn‘t the solution to guarantee adequate housing for the roughly 6 million people in the country. This strategy only benefits the construction sector and foster the urban sprawl and the creation of ghettos and island of poors. The urban policies should combine alternatives of housing policies, before going into the foundation of new settlements. It‘s also clear that design tools as the following presented here: (1) set people at good location; (2) increase the density; (3) diversify the lots and housing types; (4) employ self-construction; (5) maximize the flexibility; (6) employ low tech and cheap materials; (7) provide space for commercial activities; and (8) provide public spaces ad facilities, do not exhaust the possibilities and strategies to improve the housing production Brazil. We could add further tools, as (9) provide essential furnitures built-in, in order to prevent that the residents spend their income buying stuffs, instead of invest them to improve the house, (10) use simple solutions to improve microclimate and provide good living environment, as internal patio and green roof, (11) promote wood construction among self-buildres and so on. These design tools presented here are only a starting point, from which the conception of social housing begins and goes forward, including with the envolvement of the comunities in the developing process.


They provide just some guidelines, in order to enable that the social housing production in Brazil generates settlements close to the cities networks, with high density and mix of classes, and which allows people expand and adapt their houses. However, the solutions to eradicate the shortage of housing demand the participation of the state, private sector, architects and urban planners, who manage the power of the design sintese in creating compact and safety structures, and also the self-builder, who have a great self-construction potential, which must to be considered in every single social housing project. The images (Figure 48-50) show how the incremental model, a compact structure which is a key component of the redesign social housing process, could grow on the site, evolving over time according to the people needs and combining the informal self-construction potential, based on the employment of low technology and cheap materials and the formal structure, already designed for a final scenario, which provides initialy only a immediate basic living spaces.

Cover Design and Master Layout Cornelia BĂśttner

I Dessau International Architecture School Anhalt University Department 3 Š 2015

Redesign Social Housing: Design Tools For Improvement Of Social Housing in Brazil  

An investigation about the brazilian shortage of housing and the most significant social housing program in Brazil, called Minha Casa Minha...

Redesign Social Housing: Design Tools For Improvement Of Social Housing in Brazil  

An investigation about the brazilian shortage of housing and the most significant social housing program in Brazil, called Minha Casa Minha...