Energy efficient and affordable housing for Brazil

PLANTING SEEDSApplying permaculture principles to housing developments in Brazil

Community: Rio De Janeiro’s Minha Casa Housing Program

IntroductionWe are focused on Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) residents throughout Brazil, but more specifically in the Rio De Janeiro region. MCMV is a housing development project designed in 2009 for the massive amounts of displaced persons due to the FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Displaced households consisted of impoverished families that spend a majority of their income on basic necessities. The MAX annual income for a family that wishes to be selected for a MCMV unit is $R9,000, or $2898.64 US Dollars. They’ve had to increase this number over the years because it is becoming evident that even Brazil’s middle class is living in sub-standard conditions, especially when it comes to proper sanitation.
The MCMV initiative has provided many people with affordable home alternatives, but there are still many problems that residents continue to face. A major complaint is that the MCMV developments are often located far away from where residents work, so they are forced so spend money on their daily commute. This has actually resulted in people returning back to the favelas where they would live in worse conditions but wouldn’t have to pay for transportation.The MCMV buildings are also easily corrupted by local militia groups that illegally tax residents for water and electricity.


Create a model home that incorporates permaculture principles for the Minha Casa Minha Vida housing projects in Brazil. This housing model specifically utilizes indigenous plants to improve the energy efficiency of affordable home developments. The multifaceted benefits of plants and trees can potentially save Minha Casa residents on electricity and food costs. It is not necessarily to replace any homes that’s already available but to provide fruit-bearing trees that can provide extra help.

Solutions #1 Provide fruit-bearing trees along the north side that block the sun and provide shades when needed.#2 Use this community as a data source to propose more widespread implementation for other low-income areas like this one with similar weather and problems.
Demographic of Rio De Janeiro

  • Population: 6.5 Million, 6th largest city in Americas
  • Density: 5, 377 people per square kilometer or 13,390 people per square mile
  • Area: 4,557 km^2
  • GDP: $368 billion
  • GDP per person: R$22,500 ($6,750 USD)
  • Ethnic Composition: Portuguese (`50%), Asian, Europeans, and African descent
  • Religion: Majority Catholic and Protestant


  • Weather conditions: tropical, hot and humid (summer), mild (winter)
  • Housing should be seen as one part of creating healthy and sustainable places to live, not as poor solutions. The favelas, or shanty towns around the city, have homes that pile on top of each other; many without WATER, without SANITATION, without ELECTRICITY.
  • Rio De Janeiro is one the best known cities in Brazil and in the world
  • Hosted the 2016 Olympics
  • Brazil has a history of promoting programs and policies related to sustainable housing design construction and maintenance, such as product certification, supply-chain, research and development, and Green Building programs

Gapminder Graphs

Gapminder Tools - Google Chrome 3182017 82854 PM.jpg
About 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s population live in favelas below the poverty lineSource: Gapminder. Retrieved March 2017

Gapminder Tools - Google Chrome 3192017 32741 PM.jpg
Source: Gapminder. Retrieved March 2017.


  • Funding: Grants from government, charitable contributions
    • Hire admins to oversee the project and make sure the trees are taken care during harvest
  • Work with the citizens of this area so they feel involved and accountable; encourage the people to help sustain the trees
  • Determine multiple fruit-bearing crops and test the in case not suited to the area
  • Establish income from sale of excess fruit to continue funding the project (?)
  • Implement educational classes in the community to be knowledgeable about the project

ClimateRio de Janeiro is a Atlantic tropical region with year-round pleasant weather. Summer is hot and humid, winter is mild and rainfall is significant throughout the year. Average temperature is 23.2 C with annual rainfall of approximately 1,278 mm (diagrams below). Meanwhile, July is the coldest and driest month with 20 C with 55 mm precipitation.

(left) average rainfall (right) average temperature(source: click img)

Plant SelectionsBefore introducing the plant selections…Utility plants (food bearing trees) can be harm to a community if not maintained properly. In a sense, they are high-maintenance because of their specific need for maintenance. If they aren’t managed (pruned and picked) properly, it would be:

  • UnsanitaryAttract wild animals
    • fruits fall -> people would step over -> bad odor
  • Destroy infrastructure
    • sidewalk stains
    • fruits falling above buildings (not part of the calculated weight)

So it’s significant to consider the cost of maintenance when planting utility plants. But advantage of utility plants are more than food, as they can be used for shade to cool houses and contribute to less energy consumption. These utility plants can also provide screening, thus safety, between properties without building additional fences or property boundaries.
Musa x paradisciaca (common name: Banana/Plantain)
This plant is a type of banana cultivar sometimes referred to as banana tree due to its tall height (20-25 ft). Plant produces edible banana and is appropriate for humid tropical regions like Rio de Janeiro. This cultivar in particular is most commonly cultivated and used in cooking practices of Central and South America. Such tall tree can function as a shade tree for infrastructure and pedestrians.
Psidium guajava (common name: Guava)
Guavas are one of the most appropriate utility plants for the tropical region like Rio de Janeiro. It is expected to flourish and produce large amount of fruits for the community. It is also one of the most familiar fruit to the local community. Plant tolerates high temperature very well, it even endures the heat in India. It’s plant form is in small tree and does not require excessive maintenance.
Anacardium giganteum (common name: Caja Acu)
This plant produces Caja Acu, which is a very juicy fruit with a slight strawberry flavor. Fruit serves multiple purpose as the nuts are edible and often roasted similar to cashew nuts. Plant grows to tall height, which can be utilized for providing shade to infrastructure and pedestrians. It is also expected to flourish in the humid tropical zones.
Phaseolus vulgaris (common name: Black Turtle Bean)
Majority of the bean species are native to America, including this Black Turtle Bean as well. Native plants includes various advantages in growth and cultural practice (Black Turtle Bean is very popular in Latin American cuisine). Plant grows in form of small shrub or vine, which means they can be planted in various areas throughout the housing community.
“Ecocrop.” Ecocrop. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (, 1993. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <>.
Flores Rodas, M. A. Food and Fruit-Bearing Forest Species. Dorking, Surrey: Templar, 2015. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( Web. 13 Mar. 2017. <>.
“Useful Tropical Plants.” Useful Tropical Plants. Ken Fern, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. <>.

Cultural Recipes and Medicinal ApplicationsIt’s important that the food resources available to the people of Minah Casa support already existing cultural practices so that they will be fully utilized. As seen through various applications of technology and resources in service projects around the world: people won’t use things if they don’t want to, more specifically if it doesn’t fit their cultural customs. By choosing plants that typical Brazilians already use to cook or are aware of their medicinal properties allows the Minah Casa housing development program and the Brazilian government to better support their displaced citizens. The localization of food resources on the property also allows for increased food availability, which not only cuts costs for the residents and increases nutrients in their diets, but decrease transportation of foods from other parts of the country or international importation, which decreases energy use specifically seen in CO2 emissions.

Fresh Bananas
Fried Bananas

Guavas: peeled, sliced, whole

Raw Guavas

Black Turtle Bean:

Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew)
Black beans over rice

Caja Acu: variety of medicinal purposes

Caja Acu fruit and bark

Challenges and Limitations
US Model Option
What We Know

  • Corruption in Brazil government, and the infiltration of drug lords onto the community
  • Requires significant maintenance to keep the fruit bearing trees from rotting and to continue producing
  • Requires a certain level of community involvement, unknown if this can be successful
  • Initial funding and installment

Energy Technologies and Calculations

Retrieved from
Retrieved from

Permaculture: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficientEvapotranspiration: the combined process of evaporation and transpiration that cools surrounding air because trees use heat to evaporate water and simultaneously reflect heat away
Shaded areas under trees only receive 10-30% of the sun’s full intensity. This means that the Minha Casa Minha Vida homes will experience up to 900 watts less of heat intensity per square inch! The shaded home and pavements will absorb less heat, making the entire area cooler. Also, positioning trees to shade air conditioning units can significantly increase their efficiency.
In comparing average daily temperatures in Rio with the temperatures of shaded areas if trees were planted (likely banana trees for shade), we see that at peak times of day the difference is the largest.
Assuming people begin to use their air conditioning at 78 degrees, this graph shows that shading homes could reduce A/C usage by 6 hours a day.
If we are generous and assume 3 hours less usage with a .5 kW air conditioner, Brazil residents will save about 550 kWh per year, or almost $100 US or R$309. Note: Brazil electricity costs $0.17/kWh and peak times of day can see a 9*F decrease in temperature in shaded areas.

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Costs for seeds and plants*
R$150 or $45

Labor for planting
(R$4/hr)(500hrs) = R$2000 or $600

Equipment for planting*
R$6,000 or $1800

Trellis costs*
R$13,000 or $4,000

Maintenance, year-round: R$4/hr x 40hrs/month x 12 months = R$1920/year or $576/year
Dollars saved in electricity: R$309/household per year x 100 households = R$30,900 in savings on electricity per year
Payback time: total costs/total savings
R$23070/R$30900 →9 months
*costs obtained from alibaba.comFacts about trees and their shade retrieved from:

Group Members

group pic.jpg
Group members (left to right) Tiffany N, Jiyu K, Leila M, and Olivia M

Jiyu Kang | 3rd year | Landscape Architecture
Currently Los Angeles is where I call home but I came to Cal Poly hoping to learn about designing urban space in harmony with nature. I’m currently working as a student reporter at Korea Daily’s CollegeInside to introduce our school to the various Korean communities throughout the world. In the future I hope to become a licensed Landscape Architect and contribute in healthy urbanization of the developing countries.

Olivia Madison | 2nd year | Industrial Technology
I am a Cal Poly Student from Arroyo Grande, CA who is greatly interested in green technologies and environmental sustainability. I hope to apply my exposure to efficiency and sustainability to the industrial world, or possibly packaging after college. In addition to my academic endeavors, tennis plays a huge part in my life. Other things I’m passionate about include most outdoor activities, activism in politics, and playing with my dog (duh).

Tiffany Nhin | 4th year | Liberal Studies, concentration Science
I am interested in how green technologies can be integrated in different culture appropriations for better sustainability. From this project I would like to take something from it and incorporate into my future classroom as a teacher, teaching young students on how they can help the Earth.

Leila Morrison | 2nd year | Anthropology & Geography
I am interested in culturally and geographically specific sustainability practices and systems.

Pete’s Comments
Please outline an energy calculation, and possibly financial. Please check comments below