Looking over the airplane window. Lima, the capital of Peru. 10 million inhabitants, doubled since 1980, with an estimated 30% occupying land on the steep peripheral slopes, in self-constructed neighbourhoods. This visit would not only bring the team members close for the first time, it would also bring our thinking and our modelling closer to reality. During our stay we visited three low-income, self-constructed housing informal settlements, all at different stages of their development. Barrios Altos, one of the oldest neighbourhoods located near the historical centre, El Agustino, a very populous district and Jose Carlos Mariategui sitting on the steep Andean hills, towards the Easten boarder of the city.
In Jose Carlos Mariategui, our meetings with local residents, revealed practices and realities beyond what we believed was the ground truth. The continuous struggle of residents with both extreme cold and heat indoors in the winter and summer months respectively, quickly became apparent. With measured data indicating extreme indoor temperatures, persistently reaching above 35 °C during summer months, it was clear that avoiding the imminent health hazards is a challenge. Furthermore, the inhospitable terrain of the steep Andean hills translates to very high costs for transporting building materials. Often the cost of such labour equals to that of the materials, leaving very little room for considerations like built quality. This results in practises such as the lack of insulation or the installation of metal sheet roofs, which in turn allow for indoor temperature ranges well outside thermal comfort envelopes. In El Agustino, similar extreme indoor environmental conditions, are driving families to swap over their living and sleeping spaces between floors every winter and summer, aiming for friendlier night-time temperatures. In Barrios Altos, the fear of eviction is an everyday reality. The increasing value of the land, situated in such proximity to the historical centre, is driving unjust illegal practices such as land trafficking, forcing the displacement of communities that have reside there for decades. One can witness the new car parking courtyards popping up every so often, as well as the warehouse storage spaces camouflaged behind degrading colonial building facades.
Experiencing the ground realities enabled the GEMDev team to refine our pathways to impact, with Building Fabric, Health Mapping and Community Hubs forming the centre of our work over the next year.