Among the basic needs of humanity - food, clothing and shelter - our work embraces shelter.
EcoSouth addresses the great housing deficit in southern countries, especially the vast majority of people who have no adequate roof over their heads. Whether through social housing projects with locally produced construction materials (ecomaterials) and designs to resist natural disasters, or ongoing research that connects science with practice, EcoSouth confronts the housing issue.
The EcoSouth Network engages in South-South communication and knowledge sharing through its website, periodicals, seminars and conferences, and brings this to the grass roots through technology transfer, provision of equipment and consulting.
From simple beginnings at the first international seminar in 1991 some 20 MicroConcrete Roofing (MCR) tile producers from 11 countries created the Latin American MCR Network. The MCR tile workshops in Latin America grew from 20 pilot plants at that time to around 650 at the start of the new millenium, providing hundreds of thousands of families with elegant, enduring and economical roofs over their heads.
Soon Network participants noted that their interests went far beyond tiles, to embrace the entire habitat. Thus, in 1996 the Network expanded its scope to include other environmentally friendly technologies and changed its name to reflect the enriched scope: EcoSouth, the Network for an Ecologically and Economically Sustainable Habitat. Coordination is in the hands of Kurt Rhyner of Grupo Sofonias and Fernando Martirena of CIDEM. Communication Paul Moreno.
EcoMateriales and disaster resistant designs combine to provide secure dwellings for the multiple and recurring natural calamities in the southern hemisphere. EcoSouth experts can quickly come together in multi-disciplinary teams for post-disaster reconstruction, that includes settlement planning, house designs and technology transfer for local production of construction materials. Availability of construction materials after a disaster is one of the great brakes on reconstruction. Thus, quickly setting up decentralized production units for ecomaterials is an important first step.
EcoSouth coined the word “ecomaterials” to define construction materials that are ecologically and economically viable and able to resist the recurring natural disasters that plague the southern regions. It organized the first international ecomaterials conference in 1998, drawing participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and most Latin American countries, and has continued the series in 2001, 2004, with the most recent held in November of 2009.
EcoSouth focuses upon cientific investigation and involves students in both the academic and applied research, the latter carried out in friendly terrain, on projects of colleague organizations in different countries, an crucial step prior to launching a technology to a wider public.
In addition to semi-industrial technologies such as MicroConcreteRoofing (MCR) and alternative cement (CP40), EcoSouth also propagates traditional sun-baked clay bricks (adobe) as another choice for walls, as well as cyclop concrete. Recent developments with light weight ferro cement panels (SER) have been a breakthrough with regard to disaster response, resulting in the core house concept. With walls and roofs somewhat resolved, it fosters bicycles as a viable means of transportation for the sustainable Habitat.
Ecological awareness becomes more and more important and the themes of recent conferences have reflected this. The combination of ecology and economy has been intensified with the global awareness about climate change.
EcoSouth is a dynamic entity of colleagues who move with finesse between the grassroots and e-mail connections. This balancing act requires skill and the commitment of the participants. They must be able to mount mules with a computer in their hands!