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Rafael Salas

Rafael Salas is a Mexico-based entrepreneur who was struck by the lack of adequate housing for millions across Mexico. Rafael began researching ways to remedy the housing insufficiencies facing his country and became inspired by the possibility of converting soda and water bottles into unique, durable homes.


“Inadequate” housing in Mexico

To Rafael, two major issues face Mexico. First, 55% of the total population does not live in what Rafael terms as “adequate housing.” A host of issues stem from this statistic including sanitation concerns, disease, and myriad social problems including illiteracy and drug addition. On the environmental front, the recycling infrastructure of the country is still extremely skeletal, resulting in the widespread accumulation of landfills throughout the country.  ”We knew we had to do something,” Rafael recalls. He wanted to build a company that would address both the housing and recycling deficits in Mexico – enter Cilforsa.

Business Model

Bottles used to build the houses

“We decided to take bottles, recycle them, and use them to build houses for poor people in Mexico,” Rafael explains. More specifically, the company uses PET and glass bottles and secures them with wire and mortar to construct the walls of the structures. “We wanted to start in a poor part of Mexico where people really needed better housing.  So we began building houses in the state of Tlaxcala,” a mostly rural, agrarian state south of Mexico City. For some perspective, of Tlaxcala’s 60 municipalities, ten have a poverty index rating of “very low,” 29 have a rating of “low,” 17 have a ranking of “medium” and only four have a ranking of “high.”


A house constructed by Cilforsa

“Our most important impact is to provide the opportunity for poor people to have a house,” Rafael states. Since he is using recycled materials, Rafael is able to construct the homes at a much lower cost than traditional building companies which use expensive woods and cement. As a result, Cilforsa is able to extend valuable housing options to the poor. The main objectives of Cilforsa include:

  • Providing low-cost housing for marginalized communities in Mexico
  • Creating sustainable housing options for all classes of Mexican society


Rafael hopes to continue building his “bottle homes” throughout Mexico and even aspires to organize communities of these homes where eco-consciousness is a top priority.  ”I dream of an eco-community,” Rafael explains. “where many people will live in communities of these houses. This will be a community where people live in bottle houses, use solar energy, and live sustainability. That is my dream.”