Yenerim, Duygu (2014-12). A Process Using Building Information Modelling (BIM) for Improving Self-Help Housing in Texas Colonias. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Colonias, as an example of informal settlement development along north of U.S. - Mexico Border, are comprised of low-cost, self-built and -managed houses with lack of access to basic services. These settlements often have four particular problems as a result of self-help construction of homes without expert consultation: (1) substandard and unsafe constructions that do not meet building standards, (2) higher than average cost for energy per unit area due to poor housing conditions and poor building performance, (3) poor access to capital due to incorrect valuation of their properties, and (4) inattention to best practices for sustainable community development. This research identifies a process for designing additions and improvements to the existing self-help structures in the colonias by utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and building simulation tools to reduce energy consumption and improve sustainability. This study employs a mixed-method research by combining survey research (qualitative), quasi-experimental research, and model-based research strategies (quantitative). This research comprises (1) survey of the literature review to build a logical framework and constitute a theoretical foundation for the research, (2) data collection including (a) interviews with residents in colonias and field survey of their houses to document existing architectural patterns in the colonias, and (b) focus groups with experts to identify best practices and low-cost, sustainable strategies that are appropriate for colonias residents, (3) development of a Colonias BIM Toolkit (CBT) to aid in creation of BIM models and calculation of their building performance, and (4) testing the strategies suggested by experts on designing an addition to two test cases by utilizing CBT. This study is limited to 30 self-help homes selected from three colonias located north of Highway 359 in Laredo, Texas which are referred to as Green Colonia, Red I and Red II. Documentation of existing architectural design and construction patterns were used to develop a toolkit, CBT, to model existing colonias homes. The findings from the focus group comprise best practices and sustainable design strategies specific to colonias residents in Laredo, Texas. These are embedded in the CBT for best practices. CBT enables rapid modeling of the homes, and simulation of their building performance, to provide insights on energy use and cost while designing an addition to existing homes. Findings also show that the BIM models and simulation results of the 30 homes can be used to estimate the aggregate energy use of the three colonias. The most cost effective and energy efficient practices for two homes are identified. Based on these findings, the study confirms the benefits of utilizing BIM technology to model an informal settlement context to address sustainability and affordability.

publication date

  • December 2014