Innovation That Matters

People at work building their own home | Photo source Echale

Social enterprise teaches communities to build sustainable houses

Property & Construction

An adobe-based building system uses local materials and is produced on-site using cold processes

Spotted: In Mexico, housing is considered to be the main asset of a family — something to be passed onto children. Yet, there are 9 million families who do not have a decent home. These people are also likely to be workers, the very people who build houses and buildings for others. More than 30 years ago, social housing company Ecoblock International decided to do something about this. They founded Échale (‘Check it out’), which uses an innovative method for home-building.

Échale uses Ecoblocks to construct new houses. This is an adobe-based building system that uses local materials and is produced on-site using cold processes – so no power is required to produce them. Échale teaches community members to make the blocks and to build houses using them. At the same time, the company pays workers to produce Ecoblocks and works with partners to provide financing to unbanked families, so that they can purchase building materials.  

Échale does not stop at construction but works together with municipal, state and federal governments to ensure that all homes have access to basic electricity, water and waste management services. The civil society organisation not only generates employment but promotes sustainable development and helps people to build their own housing, with the understanding that “there is no better housing supervisor than the one who is going to live there,” according to founder Francesco Piazzesi.

To date, the organisation claims to have helped build more than 45,000 homes and made improvements to another 180,000 — impacting the lives of more than 1,000,000 people and generating 450,000 jobs. Échale is also a member of Clinton Global Initiative, a pioneer in the Global Impact Investment Ratings system, a Schwab Foundation Entrepreneur and an Ashoka member. 

Échale offers a unique model for constructing sustainable social housing, but it is not alone in helping people to have a home of their own. At Springwise, we have seen a surge in innovations in this area, including a project for the homeless in Los Angeles and bioceramic homes for low-income residents in Las Vegas.



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