ECPA Fellow Visits Colombia

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Senior ECPA Fellow María Paz Gutiérrez traveled in early August to Medellín, Colombia, to share some of her expertise on sustainable housing and learn more about environmentally friendly projects being built locally.

The Chilean architect was invited by the National University’s Medellín campus, which asked for her advice on a project that a team of students will present at the “Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean 2015,” an international competition on sustainable building. The students’ design for a solar-powered house was one of 16 proposals selected to compete at the event, which will take place in December in the Colombian city of Cali.

During her stay in Medellín, Gutiérrez also met with representatives of the Empresa de Vivienda de Antioquia (VIVA), a public housing entity created by the state government of Antioquia. VIVA representatives explained the details of a sustainable-building project underway to create “educational parks” in communities across Antioquia. Gutiérrez and VIVA also talked about a possible collaboration to develop a housing prototype that uses local materials such as a species of bamboo called guadua, which has many potential uses in construction.

The goal of sustainable housing is to achieve “synergy with the environment and the context,” Gutiérrez told a local newspaper, El Colombiano. “There are sociocultural and economic conditions that are also essential for housing to be sustainable, and none of this can be done if there is no social equality,” she said.

Creativity in design is essential in building low-cost housing, so as to achieve maximum effect with the fewest resources possible, she added. Using local materials in conjunction with other industrialized materials, installing mechanisms to capture rainwater, incorporating natural ventilation, and using solar power for light and energy are other ways to make housing more sustainable, according to Gutiérrez.

An Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of California Berkeley, Gutiérrez participates in the Senior ECPA Fellows Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Partners of the Americas. Gutiérrez founded BioMS, an interdisciplinary initiative that brings together architects, engineers, and scientists to develop new technologies for sustainable building.