Sustainable Urban Social Housing Initiative (SUSHI) in Brazil


Diana Csillag engaged students in a discussion about the use of resource and energy efficient building solutions in social housing programs in developing countries.

As part of the Leaders in Sustainable Global Enterprise speaker series, Ms Diana Csillag, program manager for the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Construction, engaged students in a discussion about their Sustainable Urban Social Housing Initiative (SUSHI) Project, a UNEP-financed initiative.  Brazil and Thailand are two pilot SUSHI locations where the first phase (2009-2011) of the program was carried out. The second phase of the initiative (2012-2014) will be tested in India and in Bangladesh. 

Brazil faces a housing shortage of 5.57 million units, 10% of demand, and lacks an additional 10 million units of adequate housing, homes not connected to infrastructure.  Furthermore, Brazil has approximately 11.4 million people or 6% of the population who are slum dwellers. The Brazilian housing sector, sustained by rapid urbanization and demographic growth, is struggling to meet the demands for new housing.  As a result, housing prices are on the rise and low-income families find themselves excluded from the housing market.  

According to Ms. Csillag, Brazil currently has an even split in its energy matrix of renewable energy and non-renewable energy, while the rest of the world’s energy usage comprises of 80% non-renewable and 20% renewable.  UNEP reports that, in a city like São Paulo, buildings are responsible for a significant share of global energy use, resource consumption, and waste generation.  However, Brazil social housing units can control carbon dioxide, as they provide high efficiency incandescent light, limited use of air-conditioning, and adequate insulation in the homes.

SUSHI was created in order to foster the use of resource and energy efficient building solutions in social housing programs in developing countries. Ms Csillag described the project as having three main components: mapping and local assessment; selection of solutions; and awareness-raising, training and dissemination.

Mapping consists of an assessment of the existing policy structure and the identification of available market solutions for water and energy efficiency that could be employed in social housing.  When selecting solutions Ms. Csillag noted that they take a practical approach to evaluating potential solutions and implementation requirements, ranking these solutions based on their efficiency and impacts at social, economic and environmental level.  Finally, collaboration with local partners is used to identify gaps in information and training, and to improve the dissemination of existing knowledge.

However, Ms Csillag also showed evidence that the project presents some notable remaining challenges and barriers to its effective implementation:  Costs of implementing new technologies are higher than conventional ones; there is a shortage of technical capacity for development and maintenance of the sustainable technologies; there are lost opportunities for improving housing in general such as improved efficiency in energy consumption, thermal comfort, correct use of water, health issues of the built environment and reduction of maintenance costs; and the absence of low-income community users on the project team.

As a pilot experiment, the SUSHI project in Brazil is not flawless. Indeed, the project is still unfolding and many lessons learned from phase 1 can help improve the steps undertaken in phase II.


Based on a write up provided by Dina Ranarifidy, Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Cornell University.