Circular Economies and Affordable Housing in Mexico

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As a significant contributor to climate change, the housing sector (including construction and use) is responsible for 32% of Mexico’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, producing 40% of the country’s waste. Nationwide, construction and demolition produce 6.1 million tons of waste each year. Meanwhile, by 2030, an estimated seven million additional houses are needed to fit the country’s growing population demands. This disparity specifically affects the most vulnerable communities, where almost 40% of all homes are considered inadequate.

For these reasons, Habitat for Humanity, through the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, is looking to facilitate more inclusive and sustainable housing solutions within market systems. This report provides a landscape analysis of main opportunities, trends, private initiatives, barriers, key stakeholders, and policy options to promote and develop the circular economy in affordable housing in Mexico.

We combined desktop research and semi-structured interviews with more than 15 experts in the local housing ecosystem, representing the public sector, private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia. To facilitate the research process, we used the ReSOLVE Framework in combination with the concept of waste hierarchy to assess the most suitable options for waste management.

The investigation determined four main strategies and trends ongoing in Mexico to improve circularity in the housing sector: (1) improving the reuse and recycling of building materials within its value chain; (2) developing building materials by using recycling plastics; (3) shifting towards innovative construction systems that use industrialized production processes; and (4) increasing the use of natural and bio-based materials that have a less ecological footprint.

The outcomes of this research suggest:

  • Specific technologies can improve circularity in the housing sector, reducing the environmental impact while providing affordable and inclusive solutions.
  • There are vast opportunities and significant impact in supporting initiatives that aim to reduce, reuse, or recycle construction and demolition waste.
  • Financial and social barriers block the penetration of circular solutions like using plastic building components or industrialized construction systems.
  • A primary barrier to decarbonizing the production process of high-carbon-intensive materials is the availability and affordability of these innovative solutions, as well as their appropriate business model.

Future work should investigate other potential impacts of sustainable housing solutions, such as energy efficiency and net-zero buildings.

Construction of housing with circular principles: modular design, bio-based materials, and recycled plastics. Photo by Martin Ignacio del Pino. 

Click here to view the report.

ADVISORS AND COLLABORATORS: Jennifer Oomen, Ana Karen Medina, Juan Pablo Vargas, and Fernando Medoza, Habitat for Humanity International

E4C 2021 PROGRAM MANAGEMENT TEAM: Mariela Machado, Senior Program Manager; Grace Burleson, Research Manager; Marilynn Holguín Clover, Program Coordinator; Jonathan Kemp, Program Associate

This research was completed as part of the 2021 E4C Fellowship program. Learn more about the Fellows who worked on this research collaboration by connecting with them on LinkedIn: Martin Ignacio del Pino and Patrick Sours.

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