ELEA 2011 – El Salvador

I will be presenting research regarding sinkholes in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador at the ELEA 2011 conference in San Salvador. Here is the very brief brief of the project:

San Salvador, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, is the capital of El Salvador. Rapid growth, volcanic soil conditions, natural and human made hydrological systems, seismic activity and aging infrastructure contribute to an endemic sinkhole problem that is consuming the city. Pre-settlement geological and hydrological conditions allowed storm water to flow in braided rivers that changed course throughout the rainy and dry seasons. Human development in San Salvador increased impermeable surfaces, decreased flexibility in surface water ways and created human-made, underground water systems. These systems are the pipes that carry water to and remove water from buildings. The current social practice of using water in buildings is causing the city to sink.

Redesigning and rebuilding San Salvador’s water use network is not enough to prevent the city from sinking. Individuals, businesses and families will need to change how they use water in order to make a systematic change that will save the city. Rainwater harvesting and waste composting are systems that can slow the damage. The largest question is, How will the cultural revolution gain momentum to convince people to change their way of life?

My Master of Science in Architecture, Sustainable Design thesis topic will investigate strategies to mitigate the sinkhole disaster in San Salvador using existing technologies to capture, treat and distribute water at the building level. San Salvador is a city that is faced with the very real danger of sinkholes and they are well poised adopt more sustainable practices in terms of water and energy in their buildings. What can we learn from Salvadorans that can apply to cities that are not in eminent danger in order to encourage mass adoption of more sustainable practices?