How smart houses can make affordable homes
21 October 2019

How smart houses can make affordable homes

Among developers, officials, academics and architects, there is universal recognition of the challenges posed by the global housing demand.

The United Nations highlights that approximately 1.6 billion people currently live in inadequate, unsafe and overcrowded housing. From Milan to London to Brazil, we see the lack of quality affordable housing driving a cycle of poverty, fuelling inequality and destabilising communities.

When I discuss Planet Smart City’s commitment to addressing this issue through smart affordable housing, there is always interest coupled with variants on the same question: how can you make housing both smarter and more affordable? Surely smart solutions lead to more expensive homes?

There is no silver bullet or technological magic that suddenly makes everything cheaper; however, through intelligent planning, attention to detail in worker training and on-site processes and a shift towards increased digitalisation, this apparent paradox can be solved.

Efficiency savings

To make savings during the construction phase, developers must make efficiency a core tenet of their plans. Each home in Smart City Laguna was designed to be constructed using replicable processes.

When we developed the world’s first affordable smart city, Laguna, in northeast Brazil, we analysed every element of the supply chain to ensure we were sourcing, transporting and using materials in the most efficient way possible. We even built a factory on-site to cost-effectively produce the paving blocks we need for high-quality road surfaces throughout the smart city.

Although efficient planning is the foundation of an affordable project, the best plans in the world cannot overcome inefficient execution. This requires an investment in worker training.

For Laguna, we provided rigorous training to local workers, so they fully understood how the building site should operate, the processes involved in construction, and the timings for each stage of the project. The replicable processes used to build the houses meant that, for each home, workers could follow the same construction routine – saving both time and money.

Workers in blue overalls lay smart solutions pavement at a construction site.


In many ways, the efficiency savings for Smart City Laguna were limited by local requirements to use traditional materials and specific processes; however, in the future, increased digitalisation of the development process provides great potential for efficiency savings.

The increasing sophistication of business information management (BIM) systems will allow developers to create digital visualisations of their projects, down to every brick, screw and pipe. These systems will enable companies to plan the exact quantity of materials needed for each development, delivering both a financial benefit and conserving valuable environmental resources.

Digital transformation

What’s more, digitalisation will allow developers to better map every hill and valley of the landmarked for development, minimising earth-moving operations (i.e. costs and time) and working in greater harmony with the environment. The design and layout of houses, businesses and social spaces will be optimised thanks to data-enhanced planning, which factors in everything from orographical to geological details.

Once construction begins, developers can look to off-site construction methods as opportunities for additional cost and quality control. With these methods, parts of houses are built in specialised factories then transported to the site, giving businesses greater certainty over costs, timings and quality.

Moreover, the potential to deploy future smart solutions such as 3D printing in these factories further enhances efficiency benefits. As Planet Smart City looks to expand quickly, we are looking at all these solutions – from BIM to off-site construction – as we strive for improvements in every area of the smart real estate value chain.

Smart solutions

Finding solutions to the affordable housing global demand is a continuous learning process. At every stage of planning, construction, and maintenance, developers can find lessons about how to drive down costs, both through greater efficiency and the latest smart solutions.

Just look closely at the bustle of a construction site in full flow and you’ll see a thousand small changes that add up to a huge difference: a difference not only for businesses, which increase their margin on projects, but also future residents.

It is incumbent on developers to push ceaselessly for these efficiencies, not just because they present a better way to build houses, but because they can deliver affordability for the millions of people worldwide who want a place to call home.

Eugenio Montissori
Head of Construction

Laguna’s Innovation Hub wins architecture award
17 October 2019

Laguna’s Innovation Hub wins architecture award

The German Design Council has awarded its Iconic Awards 2019: Innovative Architecture prize to the Smart City Laguna Innovation Hub. Laguna is the world’s first inclusive smart city and is designed and built by Planet Smart City.

The international competition is held on an annual basis and recognises the most innovative architectural and design projects, with the awards ceremony taking place on 7th October at the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery in Munich.

The Innovation Hub has a floor area of 1,000 square metres and is the social heart of Smart City Laguna, as well as a showroom for our technology and social innovation practices. It is a place where citizens, whether residents of Laguna or living in the wider region, can experiment with and learn about the smart solutions available in the city.

It is also home to Planet Institute’s library, cinema and free activities such as technology, English, entrepreneurship and craft courses. It has free WiFi and shared spaces that can be used for coworking, as well as being available for group events.

German Design Council

Founded in 1953 by the Bundestag, the German Design Council is one of the world’s leading centres for communication, design and brand knowledge. The organization currently has over 300 member companies with the mission to support and enhance the design experience in Germany’s economic sector.

Smart City Laguna

Designed to be home for 25,000 people, Smart City Laguna epitomises a new way of life: connected, sustainable and collaborative, with a focus on community relationships and resident wellbeing.

Built on a ​​330-hectare site and situated 20 minutes from the most beautiful beaches in Ceará state, the smart city is located in one of the fastest-growing regions in Brazil: the municipality of São Gonçalo do Amarante, 55 km from Fortaleza.

Due to its proximity to the world-class Pecém Port Complex, the region is experiencing a  significant economic upswing, as well as being a popular destination for tourists.