Affordable housing is considered the housing which is affordable to those of household income or having a below-average household income. Affordable housing is the future of urban living in the urban areas which experience a sustainable increase in economic growth. Architects nowadays are experimenting with new trends and approaches in affordable housing. 

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Sustainable affordable social housing by Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO _©

As mentioned by the architects: “Social housing has become one of the most important issues in our present-day architectural agenda. Only in Mexico, there are more than 30 million houses all over the country, but with a total population of about 120 million, and with one of the fastest population growth rates in Latin America, the housing shortage constitutes a total of 9 million homes.”

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Self portrait of the Mexican Architect Tatiana Bilbao_©

Tatiana Bilbao Spamer is a Mexican architect (Born on August 2, 1972) who focuses on the design integration of geometry with nature in many of her designed structures. The architect views architecture as not just about building as a building but about building a community. The architect is the founder of the well-known architectural firm Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO (2004). 

The studio is well known for many projects located in different parts of the world like China, Mexico, Guatemala, France, The United States, etc. The studio mainly focuses on sustainable design and social housing.

Overview of the project

The social housing located in Ciudad Acuña (Mexico) is considered the best example of a sustainable housing prototype unit in Mexico. The project is the best example of geometry integrated with nature. This project saw the Mexican architect selected for the Women Architect of the Year Award 2016.

This Affordable social housing unit prototype is a solution to Mexico’s affordable housing shortage. The housing prototype is a flexible prototype that is context responsive and to the different requirements of the occupants. This Affordable housing prototype, built using around $8,000 up to $14,000. The cost of the housing units depends on various factors such as location, construction phase selected, and local regulations. The final objective of the project was to provide every Mexican family with a smart, affordable solution for a dignified house.

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Form development of the housing units_©

The development of the form involved various methods before fixating on the final form design. Various in-situ interviews and workshops we conducted during the form development phase. Their design and what types of social housing are built all around the country were analyzed. The final design adopts the form of the archetypical house (two slanted roofs). The final form design of the house can adapt to various geography, social and cultural changes.

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The final form of the social housing units’ prototype_©
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The social housing prototype showing various activities_©

Spatial Design and Flexibility

The project primarily aims to create a housing prototype with good spatial design and material qualities at an affordable price. Affordable Spatial quality design can be by a detailed study of people and their behaviour. One should know the people who will reside in the house needed and their needs in materials, form, function, and appearance of their future homes. The spatial arrangement of different interior spaces was developed to cope with the changing urban and rural habits and traditions.

The materials used allow flexibility and are affordable to everyone. The materials and layout of the housing units are flexible and can be varied as per the requirement to match the climate, context, culture, geography of the housing unit. 

Main spaces included in the dwelling unit

The modular components of the house used are flexible, can expand to adapt to each family’s requirements, interests, budget while the home’s external appearance will not be compromised. The flexible form allows for a bigger floor plan. Initially, the house includes two bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen, and a five-meter ceiling height living and dining spaces. In the later phase, five extra bedrooms are added. These spaces can be adapted to each separate house according to the family’s needs. 

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Conceptual plan of the unit showing additional bedrooms_©
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Section of the social housing activity showing various functions_©

The flexible materials used the integration of concrete and lighter materials (wood). Firstly, the solid core using concrete blocks, and the surrounding rooms modules using lightweight materials such as wooden pallets.

The model shows integrated material application_©

The design also includes several Eco technologies, which were also included in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

The Exterior view of the social housing units showing from/facade_©

The project is an example of how architecture can address and prioritize the needs and requirements of the users. The project shows how architecture can create sustainable, affordable, flexible spaces that can change according to the individuals’ requirements.


Arpitha is pursuing her bachelor's degree.She has passion for writing and design.She interests herself in designing and writing about architecture. She believes architecture has a prominent impact in any person's life and we architects have the ability to create change. She loves exploring new ideas, concepts, thoughts and believes there is no end to learning!!!

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