CASSA: Sustainable Social Housing. Empowering people, protecting the environment.

Guatemala, Guatemalawhole country, Guatemala
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

CASSA is a company that designs and builds sustainable social housing. CASSA homes use natural materials and appropriate technologies to provide their users with clean water, clean energy and sanitation, at an affordable price. We empower people, save money and preserve the environment.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if social housing, rather than being a drag on development, provided the world’s masses with vital resources in a clean and renewable way?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The lack of adequate social housing is the single largest barrier to human development. In Guatemala, the housing deficit exceeds 1.5mm homes –8 million people (57%) lack a home entirely or live in inadequate housing that lacks 1 or all services. Regionally and globally, the problem is enormous. These people suffer from insecurity, insalubrious conditions (smoke, no running water or sanitation, dirt floors, etc) and a dearth of opportunity.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

CASSA builds affordable social housing that utilizes a suite of 7 appropriate technologies to provide our users with clean water, clean energy and sanitation. We use natural and local building materials (bamboo, adobe, stone). Our homes capture all rainwater from the roof, store it and pump it into the house, where a filter purifies the water intended for human consumption. Greywater is recycled into a family garden. A solar power system provides renewable electrical energy, while efficient smokeless stoves provide users with a low-cost and clean way to cook meals. Finally, full-service sanitation is provided by a flush toilet and black water treatment. All, at the same price as traditional cement and tin roof housing with no services.


Winner IDEAS V, sponsored by Interamerican Development Bank (2015) --- Winner “Gratitude Award”, SOCAP Conference, San Francisco (2015) --- Named one of MIT Technology Review Innovators under 35 Central America (2015)
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

CASSA provides customers with a platform in which to grow and prosper for a lifetime. Like our first client, Amilcar, a 28yr old Mayan teacher, was soon to be married, and lived with his parents. Amilcar and his wife had moderate life savings they were eager to apply towards their first home. We co-designed the house with them, and built Guatemala’s first self-sufficient social house. They have the nicest house in his community, and his young family (they’ve since had a baby girl) has enjoyed living in a clean and organic home and has not spent a dime on services or utilities. They are saving money, preserving health, and protecting the environment. Like them, we aim to help hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan families and replicate abroad

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

CASSA has been operating for 2 years. In that time we have built 3 self-sufficient social homes. For each of the families, the impact is truly transformational – they have a dignified space of their own and access to clean and free energy, water and sanitation – saving money and eliminating most vectors of disease, for decades to come. We have a dozen projects in the pipeline right now. Having proof of concept and key partnerships now, we plan to scale to 120 new houses over the next 2 years. Over the next 5 years, we can build 2,000 houses, directly and strongly transforming the lives of over 10,000 humans – and indirectly impacting tens/hundreds of thousands more. Long-term, 15yr we aim to build at least 50,000 homes. Through our efforts in setting a new standard for social housing, we aim to impact millions of people in Latin America and the world.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We want to transform the way social housing is built. We tackle this enormous market through our direct business efforts at building tens of thousands of social houses, all over Guatemala and Central America. We are also establishing alliances with different sectors to promote policy changes that incentivize social housing as an engine of regional growth. We Open-Source our designs and train a network of local practitioners. In 5-10 years, these tripartite efforts will ignite a market, impacting the quality of living spaces for millions of people in Guatemala, Latin America and the world.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

CASSA is a for-profit construction company. So the houses we build and sell provide us with revenue and profits from which to grow. We expect to reach our breakeven point in 2017, after which time we’ll be able to sustain ourselves purely through direct revenues. We’ve been funded through capital contributions from partners, grants and awards, to establish proof of concept and are now entering the growth stage of our business model.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

A common comparison is Habitat for Humanity (HfH), which builds affordable housing for the BoP. The main difference between CASSA and HfH (and others) is we are the first company to offer a holistic and integrated housing solution that automatically includes the vital services. Ours is the only house that will eventually “pay for itself”. We also offer full personalization services for BoP housing, which no one else does, so the customer can co-create their home. More than simply 4 walls and a roof, we offer an attractive, affordable and productive home and clean and healthy lifestyle.

Founding Story

The founder, Antonio Aguilar, previously co-founded a social enterprise called Quetsol, which distributed solar power systems for the Base of the Pyramid (BoP). Quetsol was successful since its founding in 2009 and was sold in 2012, and it taught Antonio a lot about working with BoP families and their needs, having spent quality time in the homes of hundreds of them. He realized how water, energy and sanitation are interdependent variables that have to be tackled simultaneously to give people a legitimate chance at leapfrogging basic scarcities. From this realization, he created CASSA to provide a working model for an integral housing solution that provides water, energy and sanitation.


Antonio Aguilar, President, social entrepreneur, has years of success working with the BoP and a graduate of Harvard University (2006). Ana Lucía Gadala, Head Architect, is LEED certified and a graduate of Georgia Tech (2012). A full-time core of 2 people manages a team of 9 part-time collaborators who include architects, engineers and graphic designers. In 2016-2017 CASSA will grow to 11 full-time and 15 part-time staff and dozens of local contractors.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Received an email from Candela Justribó of Ashoka

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder, President

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

In 2009, I co-founded Quetsol, now Kingo Energy, to sell distributed solar power systems to BoP families in Guatemala. The company has been successful, has sold thousands of kits, we sold the company at a good valuation, and has now moved to a pay-as-you-model and selling systems internationally. That experience was a phenomenal educational experience for me. It validated my belief that it’s possible to solve a social problem while making attractive financial returns. I received much local and international press, awards, and spoke at international conferences, and learnt a lot about the process of ideating, launching and growing a social enterprise. Perhaps most importantly, I also spent countless nights with hundreds of BoP families in their homes, installing systems, and learning about their hardships. I realized energy was only one of several interdependent variables (water, energy and sanitation) which all related back to housing quality.

So I used my exit from Quetsol to work on a sustainable housing solution that integrated a suite of appropriate techs to provide clean water, energy and sanitation, at an affordable price. A lot of the mechanisms, from everything from customer interaction and long-term relationship development, to product R&D, to capital raising, to media management – were tried, largely successful with Quetsol (now Kingo), and produced many great lessons, all of which we are building upon in CASSA as we continue to evolve and grow.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

A bit tenet of our strategy for scale is built on collaboration, so partners are very important, at all scales, and across sectors. These include, but are not limited to: the largest construction material providers in Guatemala, one of the big national banks to provide housing loans to our customers, multinational second-tier banks that want to facilitate green micro mortgages, local governments and municipalities, multilateral organizations like the Interamerican Development Bank, the government of Taiwan and USAID, the Guatemalan Green Building Council, appropriate technology suppliers, visual media producers, universities, among others. We believe that such a large problem as social housing needs a system-wide effort and we hope to catalyze this by creating broad and in-depth partnerships with all sorts of partners that would benefit from this development.

As for mentors and advisors, we are privileged to be supported by amazing people. Pomona Impact Fund, are a group of impact investors in Central America who have supported CASSA from the beginning and were our first and so far only investor, and close advisors. We are also participating in the I3 Latam accelerator, sponsored also by Ashoka, Swiss Development Agency, Hystra and New Ventures.

We’ve also recently won a “Gratitude Award” at the SOCAP15 conference in SF, USA. Only 4, out of 550 entrepreneur applicants, received this, which rewards us with a year of mentorship with Silicon Valley executives, industry leaders, investors, donors, and mentors in different strategic areas, as needed for our particular business needs.

We would greatly value the opportunity to augment this process with the Unilever Awards Program and network of coaches and support.