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This proposal was moved here from Buildings Workspace 2016


Sustainable energy toolkit for slum upgrading projects. Toolkit is oriented to decision makers and customizable according to local needs.



Slums and Shanty towns may have low energy efficiency, waste disposal and contamination problems.

Purpose of the Eco Slums flexible toolkit: to help decision makers see at first glance which energy efficiency and renewable energy options are available to make the slum more sustainable.

When doing research for this proposal, we did not find customized renewable energy / energy efficiency information for slum upgrading projects in publications by UN, etheir UN - HABITA or IPCC pages. So we think that many managers without extensive engineering knowledge will have easy access to information about the possibilities for saving money, energy and GHG emissions by using this toolkit.

We think that better results might be achieved if key decision makers are aware and / or take into account the 11 possibilities to save energy or generate renewable energy offered by the co Slums flexible toolkit.

Here is the complete Eco Slums flexible Toolkit.


Expected benefits from the use of the toolkit:

World wide implementation of the toolkit would take 20 -30 years, and that by 2050 would save

  • 521 million tCO2e/year
  • 55.000 million USD/year
  • 612.000.000 million MWh/year

Toolkit Data sources;:

a) 35 different references to Latam success stories / cases.

b) Buenos Aires slum upgrading project:

The Argentine government is revamping a slum, building new houses or updating existing ones. Part of the project is improving energy efficiency adopting 6 measures that increase energy efficiency:

  1. use of solar water heaters,
  2. improving wall insulation,
  3. installing solar panels whenever possible,
  4. installing AC heat pumps
  5. use of microwave and electric stoves.
  6. improving AC settings for winter and summer to recommended 25C in summer and 20 C in winter.

As energy is paid by the Argentine government, so up to 2050, energy savings may pay for 6% of the slum upgrading costs (see below).

As in the case of Argentina, either the local Government, or an NGO like “Techo” might implement slum upgrading projects.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?


We propose are:

1) Create a wiki of shared knowledge known as “Eco Slums flexible toolkit” with data, segmented by cultural zones.

2)Non technical key decision makers will use the toolkit as a first reference in order to understand and take into account the possibilities that sustainable energy slum upgrading  has to offer, saving money, GHG emissions, and energy in the long run.

3)The maintenance of the toolkit would be done by slum upgrading managers, as well as key technology manufactures.

4)Project Information required by the toolkit:

a) number of people benefited by the project

b) number of refurbished or rebuilt houses

c) energy savings due to  slum upgrading project.

5) The maintenance of the toolkit perhaps would be implemented by the UN-HABITAT organization.


TYPICAL ISSUES AND ACTIONS of the Buenos Aires Slum upgrading project:

Many government around the world are doing Slum upgrading projects to improve the quality of life of about 1 billion people.

UN literature tackles issues like financing and change management, as many publications by UN-HABITAT show.

We found almost no publicly published hard data related to slum upgrading projects with the installation of renewable energy sources and / or energy efficiency measures such as

a) number of people benefited by the project

b) number of refurbished or rebuilt houses

c) energy savings due to  slum upgrading project.

However we did not find in the UN sites like IPCC or UN-HABITAT which were the best practices to be followed for energy sustainability best practices for renewable energies or energy efficiency.

Therefore we propose the "Eco Slum flexible toolkit" to be used by non technical key decision makers in order to understand and take into account the possibilities that sustainable energy slum upgrading  has to offer, saving money, GHG emissions, and energy in the long run.

As an example in order to calculate possible impacts, we take as an example the slum upgrading project recently done by the Buenos Aires city government.

Some of the problems present in the Buenos Aires city government slum upgrading project that were the following:

  1. Informality. They have their own rules. Nobody has legal ownership documents. There is a lot of commercial activity where everyone works there in informal jobs selling or offering small services. It is like a separate city within CABA.

  2. Bad natural lightening. Lack of planning for buildings and vertical construction translates to low natural light in houses, resulting in darker streets and increased use of artificial lights.

  3. Bad air circulation. As houses are built very close to one another, air does not flow easily, which causes humid and heated environments.

  4. There is no gas network installation. They have to buy propane tanks, whose price is very high for the income of the inhabitants.

  5. There is a significant lack of green areas. It is important to stand out that homeless people look for shelter wherever they can, so citizens don’t like trees near their houses because homeless will sleep under those trees.

  6. Noise pollution is another factor to be taken into account as a consequence of the adjacency to the motorway.

  7. The density of the neighbourhood caused roads to narrow to the point that many of them are not wide enough for garbage trucks to drive through, making waste a difficult task.

  8. Houses are the primal investment of the people living in the slums, as they rent them once finished. The construction itself is not planned, and the resulting homes cause many of the problems mentioned. On top of those, poor quality of construction materials can make dangerous structures and thermally inefficient housings.    

  9. Low pressure for running water. In addition, without gas, there is no way to heat up the water for a bath.                                 

  10. The lack of space causes narrow streets. In the presence of medical emergencies, ambulances cannot pass through. There is only room for walkers, bicycles and small cars (this causes the absence of trash trucks).   

  11. As electricity is free (is funded by the government), people doesn’t know how much are they spending, so, on average, their consumption is equivalent to a middle class citizen of CABA.

  12. There are lots of cooperatives, and it is not easy to make changes because each sector of the slum belongs to one of this cooperatives. In consequence, when it is time to alter some politics they refuse or complain.

  13. Their own rules prevent the progress of certain changes. For example, when building homes, they expect for enough space for rent.


Poor structuring is the source of most of the listed problems, so working around it is key to improve the situation in slums. To do so, we propose two ways of action, both to be taken.


Remodelling existing houses:

Buildings with access to the widest streets can be made much more efficient without a total reconstruction. Trucks can go through and collect their waste and ambulances can reach them, but they can also benefit from infrastructural reforms, like new waterworks, drains, sewers and street lights. To make these houses more efficient, the following was proposed:

  • Insulation of walls and windows. This would reduce the use of energy to cool or heat houses, which reduces the money spent by the government (when electricity is used) or the people (when propane is used).

  • Improving air circulation. To do this, having to slightly alter the structure of many houses is likely, as the problem comes from these being built too closely. Ventilation helps towards reducing the expense in cooling and building a healthier environment.

  • Installation of fully electrical appliances. Removing the need for propane is an economical relief for the people. Examples would be stoves, solar water tanks, and air conditioners, with the latter already benefiting from house insulation.

  • Installation of solar panels. Buildings of five or six floors provide a good location for solar panels, which will reduce the money spent by the government to provide electricity, and of course, helps against climate change.

  • Rebuilding dangerous structures. The slums of Buenos Aires have weak and unsafe spiral staircases to access houses in higher floors which can be strengthened. While this change, or others of its kind, provide no monetary relief or help against climate change, a safe home is also very important, and this can be carried out while other reformations are under way.


Construction of new houses:

In many places of the slums, the high density of the neighborhood makes it impossible for certain services to reach them, and the government cannot bring infrastructure improvements to the people living there. Removing  houses in these extremely packed zones would make room for new streets and make other houses suitable for remodelling, but that means that people must be relocated. If there is land available nearby, economical options do exist for new homes. Shipping Container Homes are a great option for this purpose:

  • Houses in the slums are rather small, so very few containers are needed to relocate families.

  • They can be brought to the location be ready for use in little time, which allows for a faster advance of the project.

  • They are not as expensive as newly built houses.

Who will take these actions?

The "Eco Slums flexible toolkit" might be applied by non technical decision makers all over the word as a first draft of the possible sustainable energy actions that can be done for the slum upgrading project, saving GHG emissions, money and energy.

As stated above, perhaps UN-HABITAT would house and maintain the toolkit.

The key roles that we identified where:

1) Electrical Home appliances & building industries, they would be directed involved in slum upgrading projects as purveyors of the technology.

2) Other country governments with slum upgrading projects that might use the Eco Slums toolkit, mostly in Latam, because success stories included in the toolkit are from Latam cases.

3) ONU might include the toolkit in its literature and actively foster its application for slum upgrading projects.

4) The slum's population, which must actively be engaged for the necessary slum upgrading project "buy in".

5) Other roles are the Climate Colab itself, the Kiri team, and peer reviewed journals where papers might be published.

The following image depicts how different key roles interact in order to complete a slum upgrading project.

Where will these actions be taken?

The "Eco Slums flexible toolkit" might be applied by non technical decision makers all over the word as a first draft of the possible sustainable energy actions that can be done for the slum upgrading project, saving GHG emissions, money and energy.

The Eco Slums flexible toolkit  takes into account different possible scenarios on several key variables:

  1. External temperature,
  2. Population density,
  3. Grid access,
  4. Availability of drinking water,
  5. availability of sewage,
  6. Gas availability.

Taking account these variables, decision makers can see which technologies might be applied, and check they are appropriate for their own slum upgrading project.

Obviously, when going in the detailed engineering of the project, experienced engineers and architects will seek the best alternatives for the project.

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.


Country 2


Country 3


Country 4

South Africa

Country 5



What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

1) Estimated number of world slum / shanty town population:

25% of global urban population lives in slums[1] x 58 % of world population live in cities (urban) [2] x 7.5 billion people [3] = 1087 million people


2) Projected impact of energy saving measures by the Argentine government in local slum project:

40.000 people, 8.500 houses that consume 45.833 MWh/year.

a) Table depicting the expected savings from the 6 proposed energy saving measures:


b)Table depicting total expected energy saving measures:

3) Projected world GHG emission savings:

Projecting the diffusion of these measures worldwide following a typical diffusion curve up to 2050, and extrapolating these energy saving measures from the Argentine case to the world slum / shanty town population would result in:


What are other key benefits?

1) Projected worldwide USD savings from the implementation of the proposal



2) Worldwide energy consumption savings:

The following table projects slum / shanty town savings following a diffusion adoption model.


In those countries where the government pays for the electrical energy consumed by slums, resulting  savings may pay for part the revamping of houses and the slum.

3) Climate change mitigation through reduced GHGs emissions.

4) Better quality of life for the slum inhabitants.

5) Better circulation / transportation inside the slum / shanty town.

6) Better look and feel for the rest of city inhabitants.

7) Development of new technologies related to insulation, air conditioning, ventilation, lightning.



What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Data from the Buenos Aires slum upgrading project tells us that the local slum's improvement project budget is 6874 USD / person.

As calculated above, we think that world wide implementation of the toolkit would take 20 -30 years, and that by 2050 would save

  • 521 million tCO2e/year

  • 55.000 million USD/year

  • 612.000.000 million MWh/year

The amount of money saved, when the energy is paid by government, as happens in many Latam countries, would pay for upgrading houses for 1999 million people, the approximate  overall cost would be 6874 USD / person x 1999 million people = 13.714.000 million USD over 30 years.

Over these 30 years, perhaps the average money savings would be 55.000 million USD/year / 2 = 27500 million USD/year

Over 30 years about 30 x 27500 = 825.000 million USD would be saved, that is about 6% of the slum upgrading cost.



May follow a Bass - diffusion model [14], typically a project like this could easily take 20 - 30 years, with the following timeline.




Data from the Buenos Aires slum upgrading project


The project time line was 154 week = 38,5 months = 3,2 years comes from a real project by the Buenos Aires city government for a slum with 40.000 people living in it.


The Buenos Aires slum upgrading project had the following phases:


1) Design, change management and project evaluation: by architects, engineers, city officials and people's representatives in order to ensure the necessary - buy in.



It is critical to the success of an eco slum upgrading project that people living in the slum value, accept and help with the upgrading of the slum.


So it is important to warn that population about the changes that the house upgrading or rebuilding project changes that could be made and accept some of their ideas or changes that are needed. These actions will be no longer than one week.


The first and second week of this project, it is important to make a correct structural and functional analysis about the reforms to be made. Also integrate the proposals made by the inhabitants and what was seen in the tour of the place.


After doing this appropriate analysis of the area and its inhabitants, it is important to teach them how to improve their quality of life and how to take care about the environment and its importance (recycling, composting, pollution). It is really important to create a teaching method that takes into account their low level of education and their custom. )


One of the most important aims is to teach them how to take care of electricity so that, before three years of project start, the state will not have to pay their electricity bill no more.


2) Construction of new homes and existing house revamping:

The new households will be built with the new sustainable changes appropriate for the place.  

Before the next four months of the start of the project, the existing housing will be reformed with the necessary adaptive changes that make them more sustainable in order to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants.


About the author(s)

1. Nicolas Brown is an engineer, who studied at ITBA,  former 2016  Kiri Team Climate Colab Industry category winner, works for the Argentine government and works in the project.

2. Aylin Vazquez Chenlo is an ITBA bioengineering student and former 2016 Kiri Team Climate Colab Industry category winner.

3. Marina Fuster is an ITBA IT engineering student and former 2016  Kiri Team Climate Colab Industry category winner.

4. Marco Esposito is an ITBA bioengineering student and former 2016  Kiri Team Climate Colab Industry category winner.

5. Eduardo Fracassi, is an industrial engineer, who studied at ITBA,  former 2016  Kiri Team Coordinator and Climate Colab Industry category winner; and is a Climate Change Professor at ITBA.

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