Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1990
Associação Pró-Habitar-HABITEC


This profile was prepared when Aldanio Roberto Oliveira de Carvalho was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
Seventy percent of Brazil's people live in cities, and the bulk of them cannot afford quality housing. Lowering the cost of homebuilding would simultaneously cut their expenses and build up an important form of savings; for many families, accumulating bricks in the favela home site is analogous to developing a bank savings account. Better housing also means more self-respect, less of the family-damaging friction that flows from too close quarters, and a bit more room for children to use to study in relative quiet. Aldanio sees his task, then, as meeting the technical and organizational needs of these poor families, who must build their homes themselves with very little money or help.
Bricks constitute the largest single cost most such self-help builders must bear, in many cases roughly half the cash costs. Therefore, Aldanio has given priority attention to developing new ways of producing low-cost bricks.
His main challenge has been to develop a durable brick that does not need the expensive step of firing. The standard alternative has been to "press" bricks from easily available ingredients, chiefly clay. But pressed bricks, especially if used near the boot of a building, are likely to absorb moisture from the ground and crumble. They also suffer from slashing water, such as rain bouncing off the ground against the bottom of a wall.
Aldanio has found a new way of solving this problem at very low cost. By adding to his brick mixes certain widely available industrial wastes, e.g., from paint-making, he's now able to produce non-fired bricks that solidly withstand such watery threats.
He's also developed production processes and equipment that allow him to produce thousands of such bricks, realizing economies of scale. He's now hoping to open a pilot, self-supporting brick factory in the Recife area. As he gains experience with the first production unit and further refines the process, and as demand firms up, the factory's design foresees the addition of other modular production units.
Although Aldanio expects these new low-cost, durable bricks to provide a powerful incentive for self-help homebuilders in poor communities, and hopefully an economic base for his organization, he knows they alone are not enough. That's why he especially wants to attract community groups as partners.
"We have to find equally alternative and adequate methods for planning, for capturing and using financing, and for administering projects," he says. Consequently Aldanio's nonprofit organization, HABITEC, backs up its sale of bricks and equipment with comprehensive technical and organizational support programs.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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