Solar Energy for Social Housing –An Open Power Recipe out of Colombia

Published on Friday, 8 January 2016

Combine two academic experts, 40 students from the University of Los Andes, divided into seven work groups (architecture and urban planning, construction engineering, logistics, energy resources, sociology, communication and design, bioclimatology). Add a sociological study, an analysis of social housing in Latin America, an open and interdisciplinary working method, ideas, enthusiasm and the support of a multinational energy group such as Enel. Mix well and the result is an innovative and sustainable project, to help solve housing issues in big cities in Central and South America.

This is the recipe of Más Más Casa Huerto, a project started last year by the University of Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, with the support of Codensa and Emgesa, as well as the Enel Group. This initiative that has resulted in the construction of a self-sufficient and sustainable home, as well as participation in the Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean 2015 – the first Latin American edition of competition that has been promoted since 2002 by the United States Department of Energy to encourage academic research and the development of renewable energy.

The Más Huerto Más Casa team developed an innovative social housing model, designed to respond to the needs of families living in a tropical climate, by integrating green construction methods, self-produced solar power and the cultivation of small home gardens.

The project finally became reality last December, with the construction of a house in Villa Solar, the “solar village” built in the city of Cali for the Solar Decathlon. The house has an area of 70 sq.m. and consists in modular spaces (3 bedrooms, a large living room, a kitchen equipped with smart appliances). It is built entirely from bamboo panels and has a 17-sq.m garden. The environment is ventilated through gaps in the wall panels, allowing the home to be naturally ventilated, while 20 solar panels provide electricity to power all the appliances and lighting, ensuring the home’s energy self-sufficiency. Energy is also used to help make water consumption efficient: water is re-used to feed the irrigation system in the yard, where a small vegetable garden can be planted to grow food for the family’s own use or to trade with other families in the area.

Codensa, Emgesa, and the Enel Group have supported the initiative both financially, with a 70,000 dollar investment, and technically, in terms of the development, design and construction of the home’s power system and energy-efficient appliances.

The Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean 2015 awarded the Más Huerto Más Casa project second place in the Energy Balance category and third place in the Urban Design category.

“We’ve decided to support the initiative, as we firmly believe the exchange of ideas between young talented individuals can truly lead to the development of alternative solutions in the field of power generation and energy consumption. The Enel Group is committed to innovation and we are ready to implement ideas that allow us to develop environmentally sustainable projects that are more open to social needs,” explained Lucio Rubio, General Director of Enel Colombia.

We are aware that the world is constantly changing. And so is energy. We are therefore very interested in discussing new proposals, solutions and innovative ideas coming from open minds, young talented individuals and an open and interdisciplinary approach. This is why we support projects like Más Huerto Más Casa and NoV.A. (Nós Vivemos o Amanhã – We are living the Future): a crowdsourcing initiative that will lead to the construction of the home of the future in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by the end of the year.
A sustainable home that is: able to reduce waste by 85% and CO2 emissions by 80%; self-sufficient in terms of energy and water; smart, thanks to the Internet of Things and home automation technology; and equipped with an organic garden. An entirely open power house, from energy to food.