Mass-customization of affordable and sustainable housing

School of Technology and Architecture, University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE), Portugal

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Dr. Alexandra Paio


Dr. Carla Sentieri, School of Architecture, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain

Dr. Núria Martí, School of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain


CASAIS, Braga, Portugal

School of Architecture, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain

School of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain

Research project

Many of today's approaches to housing delivery still use inappropriate construction methods and implementation procedures that are often inefficient and unsustainable. Mass customization can help make housing sustainable and affordable by integrating social, economic and environmental criteria, particularly in the early stages of the design process. Computerized design methods combined with digital manufacturing processes are the backbone of the mass customization paradigm. In fact, file-to-factory process can help maximize the efficiency and speed of construction without reducing scope or increasing costs, thus contributing to a more sustainable home building sector.

However, despite the widespread use of digital technology in other areas of building manufacturing, the application of mass customization in housing design and construction remains slow. In order to accelerate this process, it is necessary to understand how mass customization could make housing more affordable and sustainable, and how the involvement of all stakeholders in this process could impact current design and construction practices.

The research work includes secondments in the School of Architecture La Salle, Barcelona, and the School of Architecture in Valencia to study construction systems; and at CASAIS construction company, Braga, to study industrialized construction systems and get access to data related to construction sector in Portugal.

->To conduct an individual research project, interlinked with the other ESRs projects, focusing on:
  • Analysis of current building methods for customized affordable and sustainable housing design industrial applications;
  • Definition of sustainable criteria for constructive solutions;
  • Testing methodologies and tools for mass-customization through advanced digital fabrication technologies;
  • Develop a framework Involving construction companies and architects to test policy approaches for alternative housing solutions;
  • Develop and implement a workflow for modular adaptable building method for mass-customization of affordable and sustainable housing.
->To participate in the network-wide activities (workshops, summer schools, conferences)
->To carry out the training required by the PhD programme of the host university.

As part of the individual research project, ESRs will carry out three secondments, each of 2 months, in the partner organisations.

ESRs are expected to have completed a doctoral thesis that can be defended at the host institution within or shortly thereafter the project lifetime.

Host university

ISCTE is a high-quality public research-oriented university being among the 150 best young universities in the world (The Young University Rankings 2017), has about 9,000 students, half of them in doctoral and master programs. With a multidisciplinary approach, it is one of the most dynamic and innovative institutions in Portugal, running more than one hundred international projects with several research, public and private organizations. Researchers at ISCTE fulfil the mission of producing scientific knowledge and participating in international agendas and networks for the advancement of knowledge in the Institute’s areas of expertise.

DINÂMIA’CET, Centre for the Study of Socioeconomic Change and the Territory is an ISCTE-IUL research unit which combines fundamental and applied research on economic, social and cultural topics. It carries out advanced international research systematically grounded on interdisciplinarity. With the aim of framing a new approach to sustainable development, our research seeks to contribute to the understanding of the contemporary world through the analysis of the contexts, the actors and the consequences of change, with a focus on institutional frameworks, and through extensive recourse to comparative approaches.


Prof. Alexandra Paio (

More information

PhD programme at ISTA – School of Technology and Architecture, ISCTE-IUL

Working at ISCTE- IUL

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