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Download Title page, table of contents, introduction, illustration credits, and acknowledgements (192 KB)

Download Chapter 1: Cultural Factors Shaping Housing at the U.S.-Mexico Border (8.2 MB)

Download Chapter 2: Overview of Housing in Tecate, Baja California (170 KB)

Download Chapter 3: Characteristics of Housing Construction in Tecate Colonias (1.2 MB)

Download Chapter 4: Energy Efficiency Through Housing Design (1.2 MB)

Download Chapter 5: Selecting Energy Conserving Housing Materials (890 KB)

Download Chapter 6: Building Sustainable Housing in Colonia Border Communities (379 KB)

Download Conclusion (54 KB)

Download References (70 KB)

Download Back cover (94 KB)


An approach to creating sustainable housing in an informal community or colonia located on the railroad right of way in El Rincon, City of Tecate, Baja California, Mexico is the focus of this monograph. Drawing on technical research supported by the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy (SCERP) and summarized in the report Housing and Sustainable Communities in Rapidly Urbanizing Border Regions this monograph organizes the findings to make them accessible to a lay and concerned audience. It presents an analysis of existing housing in an informal settlement, reviews the technical options for building sustainable housing in such environments, and contextualizes the challenges and possibilities of building sustainable housing within a particular site given regional and national trends and concerns. Prototype sustainable houses developed for specific contexts illustrate this approach.

This monograph posits that “green” technologies are just one facet of building sustainable housing in low income communities such as El Rincon. Sustainability is context and site specific and derived from analyzing technical factors related to building such as climate, soil and vegetation type, water and materials availability but it must also account for other forces including: social factors related to culture, history, community and class; economic factors including productive capacity, skills and income; and organizational factors of governance, regulation, and the status and power of resident groups. Sustainable housing is attained through judicious choices in the design of the housing units themselves; in their orientation and configuration of layouts; in the materials of construction and their assembly and finish; and in the choice and location of landscaping and ground cover. Choices leading to sustainability need to be made by institutions in both the private and the public sectors and by individuals and the community. In short, building sustainable housing requires multiple actors and multiple commitments. This inquiry illustrates the complexity of such an enterprise and the necessity of bringing all potential stakeholders and players together in making decisions that yield housing which is sustainable over the long term.

Publication Date



School of Planning, College of Design, Arizona State University


Tempe, AZ

Building Sustainable Housing on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Insights from Tecate, Baja California