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About this book

This book discusses the potential of a systemic and multidisciplinary design approach to improve urban quality, health, livability, and inclusiveness for people living in informal settlements. In most instances, attempts to address informal settlements lack an adequate assessment of their impact on the wider built environment and implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Integrated Modification Methodology (IMM), introduced here, offers a systematic, multidisciplinary design tool encompassing several of the aspects that define the environmental performance of urban systems. The book also demonstrates the application of the methodology to an informal settlement, proving its potential to guide systemicurban transformations, also in urban areas lacking formal planning. The case study investigated is in the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro, which ischaracterized by poor water quality, lack of drainage and sanitation systems, and very few green spaces. Based on a rigorous methodology, the process described here can also be applied in similar contexts around the world.

Table of Contents


The Rocinha Favela as a Paradigmatic Case Study of Informal Settlements in Large Cities: Current Situation and Past Slum-Upgrading Programmes

Located between two of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro, on a surface of less than 2 km2, the Rocinha favela is considered the largest single slum in Brazil, with an unofficial population between 150,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. Its privileged position, dimension and characteristics, compared to the other circa 1000 favelas of Rio, make Rocinha a paradigmatic case of the socio-economic and environmental contradictions of the Brazilian mega-city, but a significant case study for any slum-upgrading programme. The Brazilian experience with slums upgrading is globally recognized, but it is still fragmented and needs to be improved. An overview of the main slum-upgrading policies and programmes carried out in Rio shows that the lack of appropriate participatory programmes and systemic approaches can hinder successful solutions.
Pietro Ceppi, Gabriele Masera, Massimo Tadi, A. M. Gabriella Rossi

The Integrated Modification Methodology

As the environmental ramifications of urban development have become clear, it is fundamental to investigate what practical methods should be implemented to tackle urban growth and environmental issues simultaneously. How should one integrate urbanization and the issue of saving natural resources? How could design strategies contribute to climate change mitigation and the reduction of emissions? Is urban morphology correlated with these issues? And eventually, how can the urban transformation be performed, retrofitted, and monitored in order to achieve a more sustainable result? A strictly sectorial approach could result in neglecting the mutual dependencies of these demands. Conversely, an integrated approach can help to sharpen a better understanding of the different performances of different urban configurations. Although many studies have been carried out on how cities’ forms are structured, scarce efforts have been done for the systemic understanding and evaluation of the urban morphology through quantitative metrics. More research is required in this direction in order to better describe the urban form characteristics and their impact on the performance of cities. The integrated modification methodology (IMM) is a procedure encompassing an open set of scientific techniques for morphologically analysing the built environment in a multiscale manner and evaluating its performance in the actual state or under specific design scenarios. The methodology is structured around a nonlinear phasing process aiming at delivering a systemic understanding of any given urban settlement, formulating the modification set-ups for improving its performance, and examining the modification strategies to transform that system. The basic assumption in IMM is the recognition of the built environment as a complex adaptive system. IMM has been developed by IMMdesignlab, a research laboratory based at Politecnico di Milano at the Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering (DABC).
Massimo Tadi, Mohammad Hadi Zadeh, Carlo Andrea Biraghi

Analysis of the Systemic Arrangements of the Built Environment in the Rocinha Favela with the Integrated Modification Methodology’s Diagnostic Phase

With an extremely high level of complexity, urban structures and the built environment are ever-changing entities, in which transformation is a continuous process. Specific patterns of transformation characterize each specific context, and in different urban systems, similar transformation actions generate different reactions and transformation results. Consequently, to plan for any modification on a formal or informal urban system, it is fundamental to learn about that system’s structure. The IMM methodology focuses on the systemic arrangements of the built environment and proposes holistic procedures to understand the nature of the urban systems as entities based on the unique qualities that each context offers. This chapter presents the results of this specific diagnostic process. In the first phase, the built environment system is broken down into its subsystems, and the relationship between those parts is investigated (horizontal investigation). Later, the synergy between them is outlined and the structural attributes emerging from their symbiosis (vertical investigation) are examined. The synthesis of the subsystems results in structural attributes regarded in IMM as Key Categories. Key Categories are morphology-related emergents that shape and host the dynamic processes of the city. This chapter also provides some information on the challenging data gathering processes that PolimipaRarocinha faced to collect the necessary information to better understand the complex and dynamic nature of the favela from a systemic point of view, offering a comprehensive view of the structural attributes and their complex networks and targeting their measurable factors.
Mohammad Hadi Zadeh, Gabriele Masera, Massimo Tadi

Solar Technologies as a Driver to Limit Energy Poverty in the Rocinha Favela

In developing countries, the constant conditions of economic and social crises resulted in a continuous expansion of non-regulated solutions to access energy services, especially in low-income settlements of urban areas such as Brazilian favelas, where people rely on illegal connections to the power grid, called gato, to fulfil their energy needs. An appropriate exploitation of renewable energy could reduce these energy thefts, contributing to urban sustainability and creating employment opportunities for locals. This section presents the results of a study developed for a pilot area within the favela of Rocinha, meant to establish ways to limit energy poverty, by spreading access to renewable energy. Both the favela’s energy uses, the potential of local climate and of photovoltaic (PV) panel’s production, have been assessed, leading to the proposal of a solar district based on the use of PV and of battery storage systems. In addition to it, the deployment of an urban management system (UMS), able to manage data coming from different urban facilities, will contribute to outline a new sustainable culture on the use of energy and urban services through the active participation of consumers.
Francesco Causone, Anita Tatti

Improving the Environmental Performances of Informal Settlements Using an Ecosystem Services-Based Approach

This chapter presents the results concerning the activity of Ecosystem Services (ES) mapping and assessment in the favela of Rocinha conducted during the PolimiParaRocinha project. The analyses aim to evaluate the state of ES in terms of regulating services, highlighting areas potentially subjected to disaster risks that could threaten the safety of inhabitants and their houses. The adoption of an ES-based approach allowed to define strategies, inspired or supported by nature, that can have a significant impact on the current urban development practices, increasing local resilience. The strategies identified are Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) specifically selected considering the socio-economic context, the environmental fragilities and the implementation feasibility. A review of existing experiences conducted in informal contexts was functional to select successful NBS, ensuring their operability.
Andrea Arcidiacono, Silvia Ronchi

Challenges and Proposals to Improve Waste Management in the Rocinha Favela

Solid waste management (SWM) is recognized worldwide as an important issue to deal with in pursuing liveability. In Rocinha, services coverage is lacking and unsatisfying in many sectors, including SWM, influenced by many challenges: high population density, lack of space and narrow streets, residents struggling with low incomes. In this part of the research, we investigate the reasons for this inadequacy. Waste flows have been analysed, the SWM system in Rocinha described, and an assessment on stakeholders and initiatives done. These steps help in defining properly the context, which gave us the tools to elaborate and suggest a new proposal for waste management, providing also a strategy for its implementation.
Francesca Villa, Mario Grosso

Water and Wastewater Management in Informal Settlements: A Case Study

In the awareness of the need for an integrated and holistic approach, which aims to consider all the different aspects in order to improve the life of the inhabitants of the area, this chapter deals specifically with water and wastewater management, to show more deeply the applied methodology. The chapter shows that this approach has requested, in some cases, to propose solutions that textbooks would not consider theoretically “the best”, but that are more suitable for the actual situation of a slum, like Favela Rocinha, definitively to make the development of those systems more inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Design of both blackwater and stormwater management is carried out, highlighting the reasons for the choices made and considering also, even if briefly, the social aspects of the intervention.
Gianfranco Becciu, Stefano Mambretti

Food as Strategic Driver in the Sustainable Regeneration Process of the Rocinha Favela

The chapter focuses on the “food” thematic asset, presenting in the first parts the main urgencies deriving and connected to the food system emerging in the Rocinha context and the outcomes from the critical and comparative analysis of existing food policies and practices. These highlight both the main barriers to implementation and stabilisation of food policies/measures and the opportunities (and inspirations) from existing experiences. The final parts are dedicated to the “food projects” integrated in the PolimiparaRocinha urban regeneration process, with a specific focus on the synergies and connection with the whole framework of the PolimiparaRocinha vision and on the “food initiatives” proposed and shared with the local communities. Food is one of the main drivers for the regeneration process of the Rocinha favela: its strong correlations with water management sector (water drainage) and with waste management (reuse of organic waste) made food policies and related interventions a crucial tool in the design/implementation process of synergic strategies towards a new circular metabolism of Rocinha.
Angela Colucci, Lorenza Maria Sganzetta

From Local Modifications in Selected Pilot Areas to System-Wide Improvements: Transformation Strategies and Retrofitting Procedures According to the Integrated Modification Methodology

In a complex adaptive system (CAS), minor changes can have a big, nonlinear impact on its performance. Based on that, the PolimiparaRocinha project is used to demonstrate how systemic local actions, integrated with the whole, can produce controlled chain reactions to improve performance at a wider scale. In fact, the presented local transformation actions not only change structurally the intervention zones, but also make tangible improvements in the performance of the whole Rocinha favela, seen as a CAS, even in parts that are not directly touched by the project. After explaining how the transformation strategy is defined on the basis of the Diagnostic phase of the IMM, the improvement actions are applied to some selected pilot areas of the favela. The Retrofitting phase is then presented, showing how it is possible, thanks to numeric indicators, to assess the advancement in the quality of life and environmental performances. The proposed modification reveals indeed the hidden links between the structure and performances of the system thanks to the use of a set of appropriate indicators. The local-based strategic plan adopted by the PolimiparaRocinha project, coordinating minimal and systemic modifications to improve the performances of the whole system, can then be replicated to other parts of the Rocinha favela and in other informal contexts, with the final goal of integrating them with the rest of their cities.
Gabriele Masera, Massimo Tadi, Mohammad Hadi Zadeh
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