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International competition for social interest architecture in wood
They purify the air, regulate the climate, control rainfall, protect the soil from erosion and serve as a home for hundreds of animal and plant species. Can anybody doubt of the many benefits that trees offer us? They deserve our care and protection. The controlled felling of trees, although many people do not know it, is not something negative for the ecosystem. Rather, it is something beneficial, as it allows the recovery and regeneration of forests. For example, the removal of mature trees does not damage the health of the forest because it benefits the forest in terms of pathogens and diseases. In addition, clear cutting allows younger trees, which cannot thrive in the shade, to receive more sunlight and grow healthier.
We have recently explained in detail why wood is considered one of the most sustainable materials (click here for an article on this subject) and suitable for building construction. However, its use in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), unlike in countries such as the United States, Japan or the Nordic countries, is very limited. Our region should not be an exception, and should not lagg behind in the development of an industry that is so beneficial to the economy and at the same time environmentally sustainable.
For this reason, and on the ocassion of International Mother Earth Day, we dedicate this article to inform about a public competition in Uruguay, organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Ministry of Housing and Land Management (MVOT), which aims to promote the design of social housing and equipment in wood in that country. Keep reading, you will love this initiative!
Why is Uruguay a forerunner in the timber industry?
The forestry industry has great relevance in Uruguay, as it exceeds 2.1 billion dollars and represents almost 4% of the national GDP. Over the last 30 years, thanks to the implementation of an innovative Forestry Law, the country has increased its forest area and currently has 850,000 hectares of forest. Uruguay is a leader in sustainable timber production in the region. Eighty percent of its forest plantations are certified sustainable. That figure reaches 100% in the case of products that have industrial processing in this sector.
Left: Plantation of Pinus elliottii | Center: Detail of Pinus taeda | Right: Plantation of Eucalyptus grandis
Uruguayan forestry production is mainly focused on pine and eucalyptus species (Pinus elliottii/taeda and Eucalyptus grandis). These varieties can be suitable for both structural use (building construction) and carpentry (furniture, decoration, etc.). Their characteristics are included in the European reference standard for strength classes and the structural feasibility of their use in GLT (Glue Laminated Timber) has been demonstrated. The structural suitability of Uruguayan pine for the manufacture of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) panels, widely used in other countries for the construction of housing and high-rise residential buildings, has also been experimentally demonstrated.
Left: Example of Cross Laminated Timbed wood | Right: Example of Glue Laminated Timber
Call for housing design: “Wood: innovating social interest architecture“.
It is common in LAC to associate wood housing with low-quality housing and/or poor design. To overcome this missunderstanding, the IDB, together with the Government of Uruguay, have joined forces and have issued an international call for companies/professionals willing to contribute to the design of three buildings of social interest with wood technologies.
The call Madera: innovando la arquitectura de interés social, represents an opportunity to develop and build demonstration projects that prioritize wood as the main construction material in Uruguay. The main objective of the competition is to incorporate technological and design innovation, energy efficiency and sustainability inputs in social interest architecture. It is also intended that the success of this competition will serve in the long term to encourage the production of housing built in wood, with the consequent positive impact on the carbon footprint, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation of climate change.
The competition terms and conditions seek to generate synergies between national and international technicians and companies to develop and disseminate sustainable wood construction systems. It also seeks to create new economies based on the wood industry, reduce the carbon footprint of the construction sector and address the national housing deficit through innovative architectural solutions of high quality standards. Below are the three buildings that will be designed and built in Uruguay thanks to this call for proposals.
1. Single-family housing:
The solicitation seeks the design of a set of 20 single-family, one-level, sprawling houses in a peri-urban area surrounded by forestation in the town of Tranqueras, Department of Rivera, northern Uruguay. The houses may be detached or semi-detached and the winning proposal will be built by MEVIR (Uruguay’s public housing system), which is responsible for social housing in rural areas of the country.
The deadline for submission of proposals is May 15, 2023.
2. High-rise residential building:
The city of Durazno will see the construction of the first high-rise residential building in Uruguay, a tower with a minimum of six stories and a maximum of nine, accommodating between 24 and 30 apartments. In this case, the National Housing Agency will be the partner in making the housing units a reality, and the winning proposal will build the units in accordance with the agency’s guidelines and allocation of resources.
Deadline for submission of proposals: May 15, 2023.
3. Health center
In Montevideo, a program aimed at improving the living conditions of people residing in informal settlements is under implementation, one of them being Parque Cauceglia. In this case, the winning bidder will build a health facility (polyclinic) with financing from the program and subsequently managed by the Administración de los Servicios de Salud del Estado (ASSE).
The tender will be published in the next few weeks