Urban Mining

Exhibition: Cities | October 11, 2011 by

Informally settled by rural migrants in 1970s, Heliópolis is the largest favela in São Paulo, with 70,000 residents living on an area of land less than a third that of New York’s Central Park. Urban design researchers from the science and technology university ETH Zürich, partnering with the city’s Municipal Housing authority (SEHAB), propose to engage local residents to recycle discarded materials, which will be combined with either concrete or polymer to create new materials used to make prefabricated elements for favela upgrading. Part of an effort by the World Bank Institute, the Carbon Finance Capacity Building program promotes sustainable development and reduced CO2 emissions in the Global South’s megacities. São Paulo, one of four pilot cities, is focusing on decentralized waste management for two of its informal housing settlements, Heliópolis and Paraisopolis. The planned first phase for the Urban Mining program will restructure local waste collection and build a recycling and prototyping center for composite materials and building systems.

Concrete, a familiar construction material in the favela, when combined with industrial and urban waste products, such as polystyrene, expanded clay, recycled plastic, or natural fiber, is lighter in weight and improves insulation and tensile properties. Polymer mixed with recycled paper, plastic, or textiles produces a material that is lightweight, flexible, weather-resistant, structurally sound, and durable for easier maintenance, transport, and use. The composite materials allow for a modular building system which can be used to construct affordable self-built housing units, collaboratively designed with residents. In addition, collecting and using waste material for upgrades adds to the local economy and generates income for its inhabitants—a model sustainable upgrading system for other informal settlements.

Designers: Rainer Hehl (Director of studies), with Tomas Polach, Rafael Schmidt, Julia Sulzer, and additional designers: Georgios Alexandrou, Joao Pedro Escaleira Amaral, Marija Blagojevic, Catherine Blum, Sarah Jane Bridges, Lindsay Ann Bush, Anna Calogero, Xenofon Dialeismas, Christian Esteban Calle Figueroa, Justyna Gwardys, Ting Fung Ho, Alexander Kneer, Kalliopi Kontou, Danai-Revekka Laskari, Charikleia Makedonopoulou, Keyvan Gharaee Nezhad, Ricardo Cabrera Nyst, David Gaston Robles, Anthi Skoupra, Manuela Dias Tamborino, Anteneh Tola Tesfaye, Theodoros Tousas, Ruta Vitonyte, MAS Urban Design ETH Zürich. Collaborators: Vanessa Padiá, Elisabete França, Maria Teresa Diniz, Ligia Miranda de Oliveira, Secretariat for Housing, Municipality of São Paulo (SEHAB), Heliópolis settlement community. 2011–present (design proposal)

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