Cardboard, tin, wood and plastic foils: These materials symbolize Mexico’s severe housing problems. In many communities, families are forced to raise their children in unstable conditions and in unstable homes. ¡Échale! a tu Casa, a social housing enterprise, helps low-income families to exchange cardboard for eco-friendly earth blocks and to free themselves from precarious living conditions.
It’s early on Saturday morning in Morelos State, South-Central Mexico. Everybody, whether young and old, are up and listening to the architects from Échale. The professionals show the community how they can build affordable and secure homes – collectively. Everybody is integrated in the construction process, has different responsibilities and is learning how to produce Echale’s special building material Adoblock. The compressed earth blocks are mainly made from non-fertile soil, helping to reduce deforestation in the region. With the help of an easy operated machine called Adopress, the residents are able to locally produce their eco-friendly construction material.
Echale houses are impressive due to further environmental features like rainwater harvesting systems, energy-efficient stoves and bulbs as well as bio digesters producing fertilizer. “I feel happy when I’m constructing because it’s good for my family”, explains Claudia Gutiérrez, one of the participants in the housing program. “I need a house so that I can protect my daughters. Now we live in a small wooden house, but often we feel cold and when it’s raining, water enters inside.”
After the community has finished constructing Claudia Gutiérrez’ house, they will start to build her neighbor’s house as well as homes in neighboring communities. A social franchise model ensures that local leaders with experience train other local authorities. In this way, more and more people learn how to build their own affordable and environmentally-friendly house.