With a background in social initiatives, nonprofit Critical Concrete aims to refurbish socially relevant spaces that are shared by low-income communities in Portugal. In addition to refurbishing homes for those in need, Critical Concrete is also focused on educating the local community on sustainable actions and earth-friendly practices by running several different educational programs and activities. The organization promotes green architecture and social action through a summer school program that refurbishes a home for a family in need every year.

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In August, 32 students from 20 countries were brought together for three intense weeks, with a plan to establish a model to refurbish housing through sustainable methods. With the help of 15 experienced mentors and support from the team at Critical Concrete, the group worked on a home in the Bairro dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Neighborhood) of Matosinhos in northern Porto. The old quarter was originally built for fishermen and their families around the turn of the 20th century.

Related: Derelict property transformed into a vibrant, sunny hostel in Portugal

white room with two open doorways leading to other white rooms with wood ceiling beams

To ensure that the theories behind the actions were being absorbed as well, students spent Tuesdays and Thursdays attending lectures by the program mentors, who were experts in architecture, new ways of building and urban perspective. Critical Concrete has made these lectures available on its Youtube channel, so anyone can learn more about these topics.

white room with glass door leading to outdoors

Along with cooperation from the Municipality of Matosinhos, Critical Concrete also worked alongside public organization MatosinhosHabit, who contributed the cost of materials. The original building was constructed in the 1930s and is a representation of typical homes found around the Bairro dos Pescadores neighborhood, as in it is built without insulation.

bathroom with dark floors, tan tiled walls and an open shower

Previously, the nonprofit had used materials such as mycelium and wool to create an insulation solution for these types of structures, but in 2019, Critical Concrete started working with a new mixture of cardboard and lime. While this blend proved to be the most durable solution, it was also quite arduous. First, the cardboard is wetted and shredded, then mixed with sand, hydraulic and hydrated lime and plaster. Finally, the mix is applied to the formwork molds of the structure and dried.

wood wall with glass panel revealing cloth insulation

Though the transformation of even one house per year is impressive enough, Critical Concrete hopes to convert even more homes through additional projects in the future and have a more positive influence on similar communities throughout Portugal.

+ Critical Concrete

Images via Critical Concrete