impact construction system reduces environmental damage by aggregate extraction in cabo verde

impact construction system reduces environmental damage by aggregate extraction in cabo verde


introducing the impact construction system


the impact project is an eco-friendly construction system, tailored to the context of cabo verde. the project proposes replacing part of the aggregates which are typically used in construction, with ground-up solid urban waste like crushed glass and plastic. in this way, the environmental impact generated by the aggregate extraction process will be reduced. waste treatment and recycling mechanisms are limited in cabo verde, so the impact system is also a means to channel and reuse waste that would otherwise become a landfill.

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all images courtesy of impact



the process of SAND EXTRACTION in cabo verde


for several decades, ribeira da barca has provided the aggregates needed for the construction of a large part of the island of santiago. over the past few years, the extraction process has become more regulated and restricted to charco beach, to the south, or the riverbed, to the east and inland. the extraction is physically demanding, leading to a split of labour by age group in each of the locales. on charco beach, for example, younger women who are more resilient and physically fit will work, often in groups.


the process consists of wading into the sea to where the sand is, filling up the container and carrying it on their heads along a winding path to where it is unloaded, far from the reach of the sea. on the riverbed, the extraction is a more solitary activity and is typically where older women carry out individual tasks. here the ground is dug up, the rocks and stones are separated out and the sand is sieved away, leaving the aggregates. although conditions seem less demanding than on the beach, working on the riverbed means constant exposure to dust and rubbish.

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the physical and financial impact of sand extraction


it is not uncommon for the aforementioned sand extraction process to cause respiratory pathologies to the individuals involved. in both locales, the wear and tear are noticeable in the women carrying out the work. in addition to the physical impact, the welfare of a number of families is becoming precarious with the gradual decrease in demand for natural aggregate products.


‘gone are the times when a team of four women could sell a ‘galucho’ of sand at the end of one week of work (on charco beach this equates to 5 thousand escudos, less than 50 euros, and on the riverbed to 3 thousand, less than 30 euros)’ share the creators of impact (find more here). ‘today, months can go by without a family receiving any income from a sale.’







taking all this into consideration, impact proposes to develop a construction component and a process for its production, with the women of ribeira da barca, which will have some permanence. that component is a paving block, based on the cabo-verdean panudi terra heritage, an element that is both historic and current on the island of santiago.


the first phase of impact consists of prototyping and testing different consistencies of mortar, different quantities of aggregates and crushed plastic, as well as different pigments available locally. the objective is to develop a ‘product’ with a commercial value, which can be produced by the local women and that, long-term, can become a process they have ownership of. in this way, the women will now have a new goal, to provide them with the tools to allow them to produce the product, eventually distribute it and manage the process. 

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the gradual demise of aggregate extraction will, to some extent, eventually help protect and safeguard cape verde’s coastline. 99% of cape verde’s territory is made up of water and 20% of its GDP comes from tourism, making conservation of its natural heritage a fundamental concern. however, the decline of the aggregate extraction industry will also inevitably highlight and exacerbate the economic fragility of numerous families, whose family budgets rely on income from the aggregate extraction process.



the project is an opportunity to create a local paving system that could become widely used on the island and a more sustainable alternative by: reducing the use of aggregates, the need for their extraction and damage to the coastline; reusing plastic, a material otherwise relegated to landfill on the island; creating a local product, made with local materials and labour; creating a more dignified labour process; improving the lives of the local women involved in the process, and of the wider community as result. 

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project info:


name: impact
creators: inês alves + lara plácido



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom

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