Since early 1970's, some Latin American pioneers decided to experiment with construction systems based on timber, earth, and bamboo, to make low-cost housing more affordable for poor people. Scepticism was the first major obstacle they came across, particularly from professionals in the civil engineering and construction sector. Despite strong opposition from these profesionals, they managed, nevertheless, to attract the attention of various international organisations (for e.g. United Nations) who have since recognised the validity of these alternative construction
Currently, a number of low-cost housing programmes using timber, earth and bamboo are being implemented in different parts of the world. These materials are also being used in the construction of high-cost private housing and other building types.
Now in many developing countries, the recognition and use of these construction technologies and systems, together with the intensified use of local materials, is becoming increasingly common. One of the greatest problems in the implementation of these housing programmes, is their social acceptability among the low-income, specially in urban
For the rural population who migrate to the cities, a house built from earth or timber has connotations of insecurity, poverty, obscurity and lack of basic amenities: it represents all that they hoped to leave behind, when they set off for a new life in the city. However, the quality, design and durability of housing in local materials can be euqivalent or superior to "modern" reinforced concrete
Low-cost housing programmes developed by governmental and non governmental organisations are usually implemented in a hierarchical manner, whether they use conventional concrete construction or local materials. In both cases, there is little, if any, user participation. These housing programmes end up reflecting exactly the “working class” that their inhabitants resent. Although they optimise self-help labour, they do not evoke the modern image the immigrant rural population aspires
Research and wide experience of implementation of low-cost housing programmes has led to the development of a new method of intervention based on “showhouses”. Local materials are used for the construction of important buildings, such as upper-middle class houses, country clubs and luxury hotels, with excellent quality finishes so as to act as a "shop window" to enhance the prestige and social acceptability of these
Meanwhile the construction of these luxury models provides great opportunity for experimenting with and consolidating various construction technologies, which can subsequently be used in large-scale housing projects for low-cost