Circular Water Projects in Chile

Green social housing and green kindergartens

Social Cities is expanding internationally with circular water solutions and co-creation activities in Chile’s Atacama desert in collaboration with Chile’s Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), the National Kindergarten Administration (JUNJI), the Chilean Ministry of Housing (MINVU) and the mining company BHP.

It’s a place so dry that NASA uses it to simulate the surface of Mars. In the port city of Antofagasta in northern Chile, where it rains on average less than one centimetre a year, the city’s drinking water comes from the sea through desalination plants. Water is precious in Chile’s Atacama desert, so it’s the perfect place to test a solution that uses greywater to create green spaces.

The project is called PURI, which means ‘clean water’ in the indigenous language of Atacama, Kunza. It is a joint venture with the Chilean NGO AEiDH (Arquitectura Emergencia y Derechos Humanos) in close collaboration with the Swedish environmental research institute IVL and the local design studio ARGES. It is a 3-year project consisting of 2 pilots, which are financed by the mining company BHP. The first pilot is a new residential block with 269 apartments. Greywater will be collected and reused to irrigate a community park. The second pilot is a renovation project in a kindergarten with around 100 children. The institution’s concrete floor will be removed and replaced with a natural substrate with, among other things, a green mini forest and other stimulating green outdoor spaces that both offer shade and protection from the strong sun, but also a unique green learning environment for small children. Contact with nature is important for children’s cognitive development. Scandinavian research around the concept of “forest kindergartens’ shows that children who stay in nature every day develop better motor skills, are more inventive, have fewer sick days, fewer conflicts with other children and achieve a present communication with the educator. These experiences are taken to Chile and tested in exchange with the existing practice.

Social Cities has designed and implemented a green learning program that goes hand in hand with the physical green transformation. This includes various exercises and co-creation activities for both children and parents with a focus on biodiversity, water as an important resource and world goal 6: clean water and sanitation. The goal is to make JUNJI’s kindergarten the region’s third centre for educational innovation, and the kindergarten will be the first in the country to implement a solution where the greywater is treated with Scandinavian technology and reused to transform the kindergarten into a green oasis in the desert city of Antofagasta.

Project financed by BHP
Duration: 2020-2024