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Home | San Pablo | Appropriate Technologies | Cross-Cultural Communication | Holistic Development | Meet the Team


This diverse group came together based on our interests in design and construction. We wanted to explore how building materials and methods that pre-industrial countries are working on are or could be improved to reflect a more sustainable way of living.

After deciding to focus our project on Guateca, which we will get into, we quickly found out that the information and the power is already there. It is the potential to adopt the appropriate technologies that is lacking and needs contemplation. Who decides whether solar ovens are best in a San Pablan home? Not Californians, but the community that lives there. Understanding that we do not know and breaking down our struggle to “help” them became the frame of mind that has changed the group as a whole.

Guateca is a cross-cultural program led by Professor Pete Schwartz which connects Guatamalans and Californians together for exploration of sustainable enterprises and appropriate technologies. The specific community that the program works with is San Pablo Tacana, Guatemala. This is a small village of about 800 people and has an appropriate technology school where Guatamalan college students connect with Cal Poly students. A 2-month immersion happens where Californian students at Cal Poly travel to Guatamela. These students come from all different backgrounds and truly “learn by doing” putting sustainable business models to the test.

We examined the existing appropriate technologies, and found that the engineering and creativity of Guateca is proving effective in retrofitting the demonstration house to become a sustainable building. The demonstration house is an actual residence of a local San Pablan, Mase, who is supportive of the Guateca program. He has allowed experimentation of applied appropriate technologies in his home. After contacting Wendy, a local representative of the Guateca Program, and speaking with Rory Aronson, past Guateca student at Cal Poly, we discovered a new issue: there is a lack of interest from locals in the demo house and the new technologies. We have concluded that the issue comes from a lack of outreach and education about the technologies to the locals.

Our hope was to develop the potential this program has to not only educate and experiment with Guateca participants, but implement retrofits in San Pablan homes. In order to accomplish this, we need to examine best strategies to outreach to the community and improve the way information is shared.

We came to the conclusion that education is the best development action.

Our group has adopted a holistic approach to retrofitting local homes through the Guateca Program efforts. How can the demonstration house be used to interpret the projects being worked on? What are the most effective ways to communicate with local groups eager to start training and building? How will the education and training program be run? The building is not just shelter and living space. The structure can be a teacher in it self and promote a cultural change. We need to think outside the building. We seek to address the main goal of the program that focuses on improving “the quality of life for both Guatemalans and North Americans by developing local sustainable businesses to strengthen the local and regional economy”.


In defining our project we asked ourselves a series of questions that led us to our proposal to spread the knowledge of the appropriate technologies already existing in San Pablo. Below is our thought process.

How can developing countries progress sustainably?

The existing Demonstration House in San Pablo, Guatemala.  The house will serve as a model of appropriate technologies we wish to distribute.
The existing Demonstration House in San Pablo, Guatemala. The house will serve as a model of appropriate technologies we wish to distribute.

Its not just about the basic needs of an impoverished community. Smart growth, food security and education are examples of sustainable progress.

How can developing countries build sustainably?
Over 50% of the world’s pollution comes from construction materials and processes. How can growing countries build and do so responsibly?

What community wants to adopt sustainable methods?
We need to find a community willing to work with our ideas a program. San Pablo, Guatemala is a village where sustainable development and interest already exists. The Guateca program has developed five sustainable solutions to building methods.

How can appropriate building technologies be applied in San Pablo?
The technologies exist but are not being used by San Pablenses. How can we promote the use of these technologies to improve the built environment of San Pablo? Click here for further explanation of San Pablo and the technologies.

We used a Stakeholder’s analysis to develop our idea and identify parties involved.


  • To learn and promote sustainable building methods.
  • To spread awareness of the demonstration house and its technologies to the local community.
  • To encourage San Pablenses to implement appropriate technologies in their own homes.
  • To develop an educational program with Guateca or a community group to implement the existing appropriate building technologies.
  • To establish cross-cultural relationships between Cal Poly, Californians and Guatemalans.
  • To learn from the San Pablo community how to live more simply and sustainably.
  • To implement appropriate technologies in our own homes from our experience with Guateca.
  • To learn how to spread awareness of existing technologies (worldwide) and encourage people to make changes to their ways of living. This is in response to the Cal Poly Solar Decathlon House.


Our holistic approach of introducing the appropriate technologies in San Pablo is outlined in the following program.


In hoping that Guatemalans will adopt the appropriate technologies into their own homes, we will first introduce WHY responsible development is a good choice.

WHY Guatemalans should build sustainably:

  • Improved quality and comfort of life through efficient designs and technologies. For example the efficient stove warms the house and cooks food quickly.
  • Decrease pollution in San Pablo and worldwide. Reduction of wate by using local materials smartly.
  • Decrease Greenhouse Gas emissions to not add to climate warming by sustainable design.
  • Increased longevity of buildings and technologies through better designs.

Ideas for Spreading Awareness:

  • Guateca developing personal relationships with the community to share with them reasons for living sustainably.
  • Specifically target a community group (like Las Mujeres) to share the reasons and ways for sustainable development.
  • Give weekly tours at the demonstration house to promote awareness of the technologies available and there reasons.
  • Presentions at community meetings to introduce reasons and potential for new technologies.
  • Community events and parties at the demonstration house to show technologies to people.
  • Creating informative flyers and posters to spread awareness around town.

Through awareness, we hope we will a Guatemalan family interested in developing some of these appropriate technologies in their own homes for our prototype stage.


Once (if) there is interest in any Guatemalans personally implementing some of the appropriate technologies, we propose the Guateca team will educate those interested about the appropriate technologies. This education plan will teach those interested a step-by-step process to develop these technologies in their own home.

Education Methods Include:

  • ask of their needs and qualms in implementing the appropriate technologies. We have started this process by communicating with Wendy and Las Mujeres.
  • Guateca working side by side with interested families to share how appropriate technologies may improve their lives.
  • Teaching building methods at the weekend workshops we learned about from our interview with Rory Aaronson.
  • Community information meetings to share of technologies and how to implement technologies.
  • Informational pamphlets and manuals about the process of introducing the appropriate technologies.

Development of a Prototype

We hope to find a willing Guatemalan family to use to develop a prototype. The Guateca team will help the family develop these technologies in their own home.
The prototype will show us the difficulties and advantages for the families implementing the technologies. Through the development (and hopeful success) of a prototype we hope to develop an accessible program which other Guatemalan families can follow to sustainably retrofit their own homes.

Training Program
Once we have learned from the successes and failures of the prototype, we propose the development of a training program.
This training program will outline the process how to properly install these sustainable technologies in many homes.

This training program can be a can be part of the weekend workshops available to San Pablan students taught by Guateca or another community development group, like Las Mujeres.

Our Hope
Through the training program, we hope to educate leaders of sustainable building techniques in the community and hope that sustainable building practices will be used in future and existing development.

Through this program development, we hope these sustainable technologies and others will become popular ways of building in San Pablo and expand to Central American.


First we have learned about how much we do not know and how we cannot anticipate people’s reaction to change. We have developed this plan for expanding the knowledge of the appropriate technologies, yet we have no idea if this plan will be successful. Understanding all the unknowns has been a learning and humbling experience.

Additionally, we have learned how to struggle. The process of the project has been a lesson is perservernce and failure. From our original idea of recycled building materials to education of the appropriate technologies, we have learned to look at an issue holistically and consider all factors influencing change.

Lastly, it is to our hope that the San Pablo can serve as an example of sustainable and efficient building development. The more we have learned about and from Guateca, we understand the potential of such a group. We hope the potential of the appropriate technologies can be realized by introducing appropriate solutions to Guatemala’s building challenges.

In reflection, we see parallels of Guateca’s Appropriate Technologies and the Cal Poly Solar Decathalon House. In 2005 a three-year interdisciplinary team competed in the international Solar Decathlon Challenge, designing and building a small home showcasing green technology and principles to the extreme. Solar panels, thermal mass heating, efficient lighting and windows and sustainable materials are just a few of the showcased technologies available within the home. The home placed an honorable third in the competition in Washington DC.

The home could serve as a hands-on educational tool for teaching future architects, engineers, community planners and others about sustainable design, yet it currently sits in the Staff Parking Lot behind the library where its potential is being lost daily by neglect and decay.

We hope the implementation of Appropriate Technologies in San Pablo will educate us, Californians how to implement the great ideas and technologies available in the Solar Decathlon House. We have learned that we are not going to Guatemala with all the solutions to life. In fact, we hope to learn from them to teach US a tale of sustainability.


Resources and Additional Reading

Concept of Managing Wholes at

Holistic Management founded by Allan Savory at

Comparison to the project in Guatemala at home:

Photos found from Flickr Creative Commons: