FSMIP/USDA project report on wooden social housing in Latin America

By Henry Quesada, quesada@vt.edu

A wooden social home in Costa Rica made with Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) imported from the United States.

Sustainable housing is one of the fundamental necessities for socio-economic development. Yet a considerable population of the developing world is living in substandard houses. On the other hand, developed countries like the United States have substantially improved the residential construction sector by engineering new materials and developing efficient systems.

This study attempts to link this supply capacity of the system built wood construction sector in the United States to urban low-income housing markets in the Latin-American region. Expansion to new markets and diversification to new products can rejuvenate this industry in the U.S. Linking the manufacturer with potential buyers overseas would need efficient production, logistics and marketing systems. This research is focused on product development for bottom-of-the pyramid buyers to give them an affordable yet sustainable alternative to traditional systems. Interviews and survey tools were used to assess key aspects of housing deficits in target demographics of the South and Central American regions. System built wood construction manufacturers in the U.S. were assessed to identify barriers and incentives for internationalization and how they differ from exporting to non-exporting manufacturers within the same industry. Findings indicate that developing products for social housing programs can provide access to potential untapped markets. Lack of existing wood construction in some of the selected markets indicates the possibility of resistance to acceptance but also assures no local competition. The learnings can also contribute to opening of new markets for exports of prefabricated wooden buildings in other housing sectors.

Click here to download the full report.