Working Towards Design Solutions for the Water and Nutrition Crisis of Informal Settlements

Working Towards Design Solutions for the Water and Nutrition Crisis of Informal Settlements

C. Cerro

College of Architecture, Art and Design, American University of Sharjah, UAE

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According to the World Water Assessment Program, today, half the world’s population lives in urban areas. Because of this, many of the world cities are growing exponentially and unchecked urban sprawl is spawning areas that lack water infrastructure. The vast majority of these people will be living in crowded informal settlements with inadequate, sometimes non-existent, water and sanitation services. The poor as always, are the first to suffer. Globally, an estimated 2,000 children (UNICEF) under the age of five die every day from diarrheal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Extending safe drinking water to the 180 million urban dwellers currently lacking it, will play a key role in improving the health and security of cities, protecting economies and ecosystems, and minimizing the risk of pandemics. With this in mind, this paper will cover an ongoing design process that started in 2012, for the development of water generating facilities to be implemented as independent, self-sufficient interventions within impoverished communities. Each one of the proposed buildings will use atmospheric water generators to produce water from the humidity in the air, which will be re-mineralized and stored for free access by the communities around them. A small percentage of the water produced will also be used to feed a mushroom and hydroponic vegetable farm within the building, designed to provide cheap and accessible nourishment to the neighborhood. Ultimately, a network of interdependent facilities could be placed around the informal settlements creating a hive that would function more as urban acupuncture than urban development, producing a financially feasible proposal designed to directly serve a community through architectural interventions that require minimal maintenance and the possibility of creating local jobs while helping solve the water and food crisis in informal settlements around the developing world.


Atmospheric water generator, hydroponics, informal settlements, sustainability, urban acupuncture, urban farming, water


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