How We Do It
The ecohouse initiative is a multi-disciplinary research and development platform which harnesses the power of innovation and collaboration to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.
We do it by bringing students, academics, industry and local partners under one roof to find and deploy the most sustainable technologies for urban communities in the developing world.
A passion for understanding lives and places underscores everything we do, and field research to understand the particular challenges that communities face in different urban contexts always comes first. Then ideas to address these challenges are modelled in world-class university laboratories and tested in field centres, where further development can take place within a specific local context.
In this safe environment, local teams of researchers, implementers, collaborators and end-users can evaluate our innovations and share improvements through an interactive process – which continues until the problem is solved and the intended benefits of an idea are realised.
During the process, innovative ideas are shaped into systems which are scalable and applicable to different countries. Most importantly, we build local capacity so that our partners gain the facilities and know-how to start developing and testing their own ideas independently.
Through its thorough testing, our research and development platform provides the opportunities to make constructive mistakes, the space to learn from them and therefore the ability to innovate with confidence.
If you stacked a socio-economic pyramid from lowest to highest incomes, you would see that we focus our energy, research and development on the two levels which pose the most pressing challenges for global sustainable development.
At the very bottom of the pyramid, 4 billion people have an annual income of less than $4,000. We work with local NGOs and local government to reach these most vulnerable groups.
But the greatest obstacle to sustainable growth arises as new middle classes emerge. With growing financial capabilities and incomes expanding from $4,000 to $20,000, they are able to scale up their consumption and their carbon footprint expands.
To address this, we ensure that our work reaches the market in the form of products developed by social entrepreneurs.
Economic growth creates huge opportunities in the developing world, yet cities are facing unprecedented challenges from population growth, climate change and urbanisation. Many struggle with rapid slum expansion, unsustainable infrastructure and vulnerability to natural disaster.
But no city is the same, and we cannot produce the same designs, innovations and solutions for every one.
The systems approach that we take means that these ideas can, however, be easily adapted and exported to other contexts. Our aim is therefore to understand the underlying patterns and characteristics of cities in developing countries.
Research is currently concentrated in the Latin American cities of São Paulo and Quito, with planned expansion to Africa and Asia over the coming years.