Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization


What is the name of your solution?


Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Revolutionizing housing with recycled plastic blocks that reduce carbon emissions and eliminate 100% of traditional waste. Our affordable, sustainable, customizable system provides dignified spaces for vulnerable communities.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Our solution targets three interrelated problems that affect one same population. In today's constantly changing and growing globalized world, the housing deficit is becoming increasingly noticeable. The cities are overburdened, and the systems are unable to meet the needs of the societies being built in them. Large cities' gentrification and the global housing deficit create the need for construction systems that can adequately meet the demand for housing, particularly in developing countries.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), about 50 million people were living in substandard housing conditions in 2020, which do not meet minimum quality and safety standards. In Colombia, 12% of the population lacks access to housing, and 22.5% live in inadequate conditions.

Moreover, limited access to housing is a significant problem, particularly for the poorest segments of the population and vulnerable groups such as young people, women, and indigenous communities. In many instances, these groups face financial, legal, or social hurdles that prevent them from obtaining decent and suitable housing.

In addition to limited access to housing, the construction industry is an important but significantly polluting sector, in Colombia and throughout the world. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), construction and demolition generate over 2 billion tons of waste annually, accounting for roughly 40% of the total waste generated worldwide.

In Colombia, the construction and demolition industries generate approximately 12 million tons of waste each year, mostly consisting of a mixture of materials such as concrete, brick, ceramics, wood, and metal. Only a small portion of this waste is recycled or reused, with the majority being dumped in landfills and unauthorized sites.

Additionally, plastic is a widely used material in today's world. However, due to inadequate recycling and/or treatment during the post-consumer phase, it is causing significant pollution problems for all the planet's ecosystems and societies. In Colombia, only one-fifth of the total plastic waste produced is recycled, while highly industrialized countries like the United States generate around 51 million tons of plastic waste each year, with only 2.4 million tons being recycled, or only 4.7% of the total.

These statistics indicate a clear need for both private and public initiatives to create alternatives to solve these issues on a large and industrialized scale.

What is your solution?

Our company uses plastic waste to create construction components that replace traditional materials, reduce carbon emissions, and provide sustainable, affordable, and high-quality construction alternatives. With recycled plastic we create lightweight blocks that can replace the walls of a traditional home without compromising aesthetics, stability, or durability. Our modular system allows for customization and soundproofing while eliminating almost 100% of the waste traditionally generated by traditional construction materials, ensuring circular economy and correct disposal at the end of the life cycle. We believe that everyone deserves dignified spaces made with high-quality materials, especially vulnerable communities.

The recycled plastic formula we developed to produce components for our solution enables us to design several construction components, not just blocks. We quickly realized that the best way to enter the industry was through non-structural housing components.

The concept of manufacturing various components for constructing sustainable houses needs a long-term approach. Currently, we have successfully completed the first phase of designing and producing Lego-like plastic blocks that substitute the non-structural elements of a house and can be used alongside the conventional methods employed nowadays in house construction in Colombia. Once we've completed our pilot phase, we will focus on continuing to develop structural components, foundations, and other housing amenities.

Through technologies like plastic extrusion and plastic injection we mold the plastic into light weighted blocks with exceptional mechanical characteristics. Our blocks are more than just simple bricks for building walls. We have designed an integrated geometry that enables us to build modular walls which can manage climate conditions by reducing the usage of air conditioning and heaters while also providing better thermal and acoustic insulation for the house. The blocks can be customized at a low cost by complementing the base plastic structure with external layers of wood, ceramics, or other materials preferred by the client for the final look.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our solution wants to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable people in our society, particularly those with low income in large cities, as well as in rural areas of Colombia. This population in the rural area includes mainly countrymen and victims of the armed conflict that has affected Colombia for the last 60 years. The conflict's vestiges remain, and dissidents of armed groups continue to directly affect the population.

Our focus is to provide a sustainable housing solution to everyone, but especially to the most vulnerable population who currently lack decent housing in the region. As of 2021, the number of people affected by internal displacement in Colombia, whose homes are yet to be restituted, totals approximately 8 million. Additionally, according to World Bank statistics, approximately 7.2 million countrymen live in poverty. Our goal is to provide a housing solution to as many people as possible, reducing extreme poverty and lack of decent housing in Colombia. Thus, we aim to take some steps towards a more equitable and just society, seeking to collaborate in ensuring the fundamental rights of the Colombian people.

Although we mainly focus on providing decent and quality housing to the most vulnerable and low-income population, we aim to make it clear that our ultimate goal is for all people, regardless of their economic level and social status, to have access to housing with ideal conditions. Moreover, we seek to promote a transition of the construction sector towards a much more sustainable and cleaner industry. Our innovative construction system has the needs of people and the health of our planet at its core.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Being part of society in a developing country inevitably exposes you to difficult contexts. You are confronted with problems where, for example, some of the basic needs of people are not being met. Most Colombian families directly or indirectly experience the difficulties of poverty, violence, and social inequality.

We believe that one of the great opportunities we had to gain insight into the Colombian national context and its communities was during our training and professional development at the National University of Colombia. It is a public university that educates people from all corners of the country, allowing for a diverse range of perspectives to be included in every practical and theoretical discussion. With each evaluated project and group work, we strengthen our collective conscience and social responsibility to use our abilities not only for our own benefit but also for the collective good.

Being surrounded by so many valuable people from areas with limited opportunities raises questions about what could happen if these constraints were lifted. This greatly stimulated our desire to transform these realities and participate in discussions on social transformation in the country and the world.

That is why we have volunteered for more than 6 years with different associations related to low-income housing. We participate in housing construction projects donated through foundations and maintain close relationships with community leaders of vulnerable populations who lack decent housing.

It was always clear to us that the lack of resources is a fundamental part of the limitation of access to decent housing. However, it was necessary to have direct contact with communities and foundations that currently help these people to understand the impact that these solutions have on families and what could be improved. Through direct communication with different actors in these communities, we identified areas that could be improved, especially during the post-construction stage. Maintaining contact with homeowners allowed us to understand that, for example, improvements could be made to service networks, the durability of materials in different environments, the accessibility of private spaces, and the aesthetics of the houses.

Our social conscience, genuine intentions to improve our communities, and creative vision, coupled with construction experience, have allowed us to innovate and propose new ways to improve current processes while contributing to solving the problem.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Reduce emissions from multifamily housing during construction, operation, and end-of-life while addressing barriers to local adoption.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?


In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • Colombia

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model, but which is not yet serving anyone

Please share details about what makes your solution a Prototype rather than a Concept.

Our solution is now a working model. We have conducted lab tests to check the efficiency and features of the system.

We have performed functional interior wall installations and we have started the production and testing of structural frames to test the mechanical performance of these elements. All this using the technologies and processes mentioned in this document.

During the installation and execution of the tests we have identified necessary improvements in the system and we have fixed them. Our current prototypes are ready to be dropped in the first pilot stage, in simple housing development projects.

How many people does your solution currently serve?

We are currently in the prototype stage. As of January 2023, we have installed 10 different frames in homes in rural areas around Bogota to test the real-life performance of our solution.

We also measured the acceptance of the product by our potential clients by asking them to score the aesthetics, feeling of the material, perceived durability, insulation properties, and personal preferences.

Furthermore, we conducted a focus group with the help of construction workers to test the usability of our product and the level of difficulty in assembling the walls. We addressed some potential barriers that workers could face when using the product for the first time.

Why are you applying to Solve?

At Solve, we are seeking to expand our global network by engaging with potential partners within and beyond the United States. As a company in the construction and recycling industry, we aim to grow our network both domestically and internationally. Currently, we have limited exposure and no networks in the US, which we believe can provide significant benefits and be a valuable learning experience.

Our ambition is to become a scalable company that can help millions of people in Colombia and beyond. To achieve our scaling goals, we require access to a wider pool of technical, financial, and strategic resources. Therefore, Solve's connections will be invaluable in meeting our resourcing requirements and aiding our growth.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. delivery, logistics, expanding client base)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Daniela Barragan

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

In the last 15 years, Colombia has attempted to introduce construction solutions with alternative materials to mitigate problems related to sustainability in construction and housing deficits. Despite these efforts, none of these solutions have been effectively introduced into the Colombian market, as there has not been a conscious process of analyzing our society. As a result, fundamental factors such as customs and cultural traits, which influence the adoption of new products and services by people, have been overlooked.

Our solution not only uses recycled materials as raw materials, but also offers the possibility of customizing interior spaces and facades of the house. It is adaptable to existing construction systems such as traditional construction in concrete, bamboo, wood, and more. Guavienda considers factors such as the variety of climates present in Colombia and Latam, as well as the complicated geography that makes it more difficult to transport materials to remote places and rural areas. Moreover, a house can be built in a shorter time compared to a traditionally built house, which benefits people who urgently need a roof over their heads.

We aim to collaborate with other companies that, like us, focus on delivering a comprehensive sustainable housing solution to all people. We design our blocks to be adaptable to other systems such as blocks and beams of new materials, solar panels, and energy-saving systems. Such systems allow our product to be able to adapt to any changes that might be introduced in the near future, preventing it from lagging in our ever-evolving world.

Our solution demonstrates that it is possible to offer sustainable construction alternatives that are not only eco-friendly and sustainable, but also appealing to families who want to live in them, making them their own and proving the efficiency of Guavienda. This could possibly introduce it to a much larger and globalized market where there is a need for such solutions.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

As Guavienda, during the first year we plan to participate in the construction  of a pilot project of 25 sustainable homes for low-income families as a part of our efforts to achieve our long-term goals. This pilot project will help us to evaluate and fine-tune our approach to building sustainable homes before we scale up our operations.

In addition to the pilot project, our goals for the subsequent year are:

  • Participate in the construction of 100 sustainable homes
  • Facilitate employment opportunities for 200 workers through the construction of these homes
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 1,500 metric tons per year through the energy-efficient and renewable features of these homes

Next Five Years:

  • Participate in the construction of 2,500 sustainable homes for low-income families
  • Facilitate employment opportunities for 5,000 workers through the construction of these homes
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 37,500 metric tons per year through the energy-efficient and renewable features of these homes
  • Secure funding through partnerships with government entities and private investors to support the construction of sustainable homes

To achieve these goals, we plan to:

  • Work with local communities to identify families in need of sustainable housing and prioritize their needs and include them in the construction process
  • Employ skilled workers from the local community and provide job training to those who require it
  • Use energy-efficient and renewable technologies in the construction of the homes to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Conduct regular monitoring and evaluation to ensure that our impact goals are being met and make adjustments to our approach as necessary.

A measurable indicator related to the goal of quality education for the communities who will benefit from our projects include:

  • Increase in the number of adults who have access to vocational and technical training programs to improve their employability through construction jobs.

By achieving our goals, we believe that we can make a meaningful impact on the lives of vulnerable communities in Colombia while also contributing to the global effort to combat climate change.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

At BuildCycle, we are committed to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we prioritize measuring our impact based on three specific goals:

  • Sustainable Cities and Communities: We believe in creating livable, inclusive, and sustainable cities and communities that prioritize the well-being of their residents. By implementing sustainable construction practices, we aim to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and promote the use of renewable energy sources, which ultimately leads to better living conditions for all.
    Main indicators for this goal are:
    - Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing vs. Number of population/families adopting our new system of housing
    - Number of houses built in rural and urban areas with our system.
    - CO2 emissions per square meter built with our system vs CO2 emissions per square meter built with traditional systems. 
  • Responsible Consumption and Production: Our mission is to reduce waste and promote a circular economy that prioritizes recycling and reuse of materials.
    Main indicators for this goal are:
    -Recycling rate: Tons of material recycled per number of houses built
    -Tons of debris saved per number of houses
  • Reduced Inequalities: we prioritize working with local communities to provide education and training opportunities. By empowering local residents with the skills and knowledge to implement sustainable practices in their own communities, we aim to create a ripple effect that leads to more sustainable and resilient societies.
    Main indicators for this goal are: 
    - Number of people enrolled in training courses 
    - Number of people with a formal job in construction using our methods


What is your theory of change?

Our theory of change is based on the idea that by introducing sustainable housing and construction practices, we can help reduce waste and tackle homelessness and improper housing for low-income Colombian citizens, while also introducing a culture and mentality to our society that values recycling, innovation, diversity, and inclusion.

We believe that our operations will not only have short-term outcomes of reducing waste and providing better housing for those in need but will also have longer-term outcomes of empowering the youth through education and opportunities to work on our projects. By involving young males and females in our workforce, including those born on the side of the guerilla war that has divided the country and denied them opportunities, we can provide them with the means to achieve their life goals and succeed, and encourage them to take the lead on issues that affect them, their society, and the world.

We believe that change is destined to happen but there is a heavy reliance on projects like ours to direct old industries and society into this path, and to give the people the tools and resources to create a better future for themselves and their communities. We are committed to creating a first wave of a butterfly effect that will push Colombians into a new era of sustainable construction and help our people to become leaders in the fight against climate change and social inequality.

Assuming that we are able to achieve the conservative goal of building 2,500 sustainable homes for low-income families over the course of 5 years, the impact could be significant. If we assume an average household size of 4, then these 2,500 homes could provide sustainable shelter for 10,000 people. Additionally, if we assume that the homes are built to be energy-efficient and use renewable energy sources, then we could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of these households.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average U.S. household generates around 15 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. If we assume a similar figure for these households in Colombia, then our 2,500 sustainable homes could reduce carbon emissions by around 37,500 metric tons per year.

Moreover, if we consider the economic impact of building sustainable homes, our project could also provide employment opportunities for hundreds or even thousands of people, especially part of the vulnerable population affected by the war. If we assume that the construction of the non-structural elements of each home requires 2 workers for a period of 4 months, then our project could provide jobs for 5,000 workers over 5 years.

Overall, the potential impact of our project could be significant, with benefits for low-income families, the environment, and the local economy.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Our solution focuses on the innovative use of a material that would otherwise be a pollutant in our ecosystems. We use two types of technologies: plastic extrusion and plastic injection molding. Although these are established technologies and even considered traditional, the key to the added value of our solution lies in the final product we propose.

The non-structural elements are obtained from a mix of pelletized recycled plastic, that is melted, until it reaches a malleable state. It is then molded into different volumes and geometric shapes depending on the housing design and the parameters of each project.

One key advantage of this technology is its capability to process different types of plastics, allowing us to work with polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, or PVC. Additionally, this methodology is versatile, efficient, and cost-effective. We are able to produce high volumes of products with consistent quality.

The walls made from our panels are lightweight, strong, durable, and offer excellent thermal and sound insulation capabilities. Moreover, at the end of its cycle life, the material can be reused or recycled and converted back into raw material, ensuring a circular economy within the solution. Plastic as material has crucial advantages for the housing sector, including its durability, resistance to extreme weather conditions, protection from humidity, chemical stability over time, and its repelling effect of  microorganisms on its surface.

The structural elements we produce are obtained through injected plastic molding. This methodology achieves better finishes and uses much more volume of materials because these elements are usually more robust. We believe that the use of recycled plastic in the housing construction industry will greatly help to increase the recycling levels of these materials in the territory while decreasing the housing deficit and the pollution traditionally generated by the industry.

These technologies allow us to produce construction elements on a large scale and in a short period of time, contributing to reduce construction times and associated costs. The high mechanical strength that we achieve is essential in the construction of housing in seismic areas or areas with high wind intensity.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Materials Science

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Colombia

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Colombia
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

Our team consists of CEO Daniela Barragan, Industrial Designer with extensive experience in social innovation projects; CPO David Erazo, Civil Engineer with experience in the construction sector and finance; and COO Cristian Medina, Mechanical Engineer with expertise in materials and product development. The core team works full-time, with occasional outsourcing for services such as material collection, processing, and consulting.

How long have you been working on your solution?

2-3 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

In our team, we value equity for all people regardless of their race, gender, social status or place of origin. Our team comprises both men and women who are open to listening and learning from their environment with people being our top priority. Our company is led by a woman who believes that design is a key tool, able to install radical changes in society. We think that participatory and collaborative design with our users is crucial in bridging social gaps and executing ideas that bring real value to communities.

Our product design and testing process involves focus groups of people from the communities affected by the problem, providing immediate feedback and achieving a more comprehensive product that meets the needs and desires of our customers.

Our pilot test implementation plan includes involving different sectors of the population affected by the war in Colombia. We have designed a system where ex-combatants of the armed conflict (guerrilla) will be trained in our construction method to provide them with jobs and help them to gradually reintegrate into society. We intend to work in collab with the Colombian government on social housing projects to restore a percentage of the homes of the conflict victims, creating a symbolic act of forgiveness from the ex-combatants to the victims.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Our current business model seeks to deliver value through two approaches. The first one is a social approach that aims to help those in vulnerable conditions. Our main partners are governmental and non-governmental organizations that support the development and restoration of communities affected by environmental emergencies, territorial violence, or poverty. This unmet demand generates the housing deficit.

The second approach has a focus on economic convenience and environmental awareness. We serve individuals with the intention of developing a construction project, making it economically convenient, and providing the added value of clean construction that offers, among other things, high practicality when obtaining licenses and permits. Our clients are those who, for example, initiate personal projects looking to get away from big cities or ecotourism and luxury rural tourism projects.

Currently, we offer prompt solutions that effectively replace non-structural elements of small constructions. Our economic activity not only helps to increase the volume of recycled plastic but also reduces the housing deficit. Our initial focus is Colombia, but we plan to expand our activities to Latin America and beyond. Any country with plastic waste and a need for housing or small buildings is a potential market for our technology. Our customers are active participants in the fight against climate change and are ambassadors of sustainable construction.

Our suppliers have the necessary capacity to provide us with the raw materials currently required. Our manufacturing operations are order-based, we currently outsource space, our primary expenses fluctuate with the order size in terms of volume, weight, or complexity. Our production, personnel, energy consumption, and transportation expenses exist solely during manufacturing and order execution. We anticipate investing in space, machinery, and equipment exclusively for the near future when we have a stable demand that enables reliable forecasts.

As part of our growth strategy, we aim to achieve greater visibility to the public through channels such as social networks, mainly through content marketing and community building. We also participate in every event related to the industry, from innovation and technology fairs to academic discussion spaces on sustainable construction solutions and environmental impact. Complementary to this, we work hand in hand with academia and the different institutions that regulate the technical specifications of construction to establish the general standards for the use of recycled plastic in construction.

Finally, we also plan to provide structural solutions and offer an integral product for the sector. A complete house that takes advantage of recycled plastic in almost all its fundamental elements. We plan to invest more than 50% of our profits in maintaining and solidifying our production methodologies and the quality of the products we manufacture, as well as in the development of new uses for the material.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Our financial sustainability is dependent on the correct execution of our strategy and business model. We begin by correctly identifying and addressing the requirements of potential clients who are seeking sustainable, durable, practical, aesthetically pleasing, and economically viable construction solutions.

Social projects will rely on stakeholders such as donors, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and governments. These actors already invest in and implement social construction projects. We will establish regular meetings with representatives of these organizations to present our value proposition and highlight the mutual benefits, especially those of an environmental, social, and economic nature.

We aim to obtain seed capital to conduct sufficient pilot tests in various communities and projects, demonstrating the effectiveness of our solution. This will generate concrete and measurable results. With the endorsement of those in charge of housing construction projects, we will begin to replace traditional materials in the construction industry.

Our sources of income will be diversified, so we do not rely solely on social organizations. We will develop private interest projects with similar costs, offering more elaborate solutions with high levels of customization and support in the design of the spaces. We recognize that this segment presents fewer restrictions in the execution of projects, and policies promoting sustainable construction are in place. We expect this segment to become a dynamic business unit over time.

Currently, we aim to reduce fixed costs of the business to almost zero. By manufacturing to order, we are able to save a considerable amount of operating capital during the early stages of growth. We manage the resources required for each project efficiently, avoiding overspending and prioritizing the generated revenues to be fully reinvested in crucial aspects of the business, such as improving operational processes, research and development, team building, and business expansion.

Lastly, constant monitoring of our financial capacity will be fundamental in maintaining our profitable operations and alerting us to possible liquidity or solvency difficulties in the company. It will also help us make objective management decisions. Dedicated evaluation of raw material, production, transportation, and installation costs for each project is an essential part of our long-term financial success.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

In the quest for funding the team has participated in several construction fairs and events, as well as an entrepreneurial competition, under the name of JUMP Chile in December of 2018, where we were honored with recognition and awarded a prize of approximately $8,000 USD. To receive the funds, the payment scheme was designed around a "stage investment" strategy. we received a percentage of the funding as we progressed with the work, with the remaining amount being disbursed per stage of operation. This system provided us with the necessary incentives to move forward with our work and build steppingstones through partnerships and experiences.

Our journey began by working with the Bogota Chamber of Commerce, where we gathered more information and applied our theory to the real-life construction scene. Through this process, we were able to create the first prototypes of our materials and begin lab-testing them, which allowed us to obtain reliable evidence of the project's feasibility.

We partnered with Socialab, a startup incubator that provided financial, legal, and business consulting services, which greatly supported our work. During this period, we also participated in various construction fairs and events to expose ourselves to the construction industry in Colombia and to connect with other firms and businesses. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020, and it paralyzed our work for a couple of years. This situation caused the funding entity that was supporting us to close, making it impossible for us to continue with our investment plan as budgeted. Nonetheless, we firmly believe that Solve is the ideal platform for us to keep our journey alive and achieve our final goals of contributing to Colombian society and the world.

Solution Team

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