“The most efficient house is the one that demands the least energy, not just the one that generates it through renewable energies,” says Fabián Garreta, our month’s guest on Natura Argentina´s Blog. Some tips to make a better use of the climate and energy in our homes.


There was a time when comfort needs were directly satisfied with architectonics resolutions. Those that could not be solved with construction was mitigated with clothing. If it was not enough either, a wider comfort range was tolerated. Since the middle of the last century, and in the framework of a sort of “world of cheap and abundant energy”, architecture has divorced from interaction with the environment and the heating and cooling systems that we know today began to multiply.

Currently, and beyond the final amount that we paid in the electricity, gas or network water bill, the cost of energy has been growing due to the constant increase in demand (growth of the world population and greater consumption) and the search for more environmentally sustainable solutions.

The construction and use or operation of buildings is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. The highest energy consumption is in air conditioning: cooling and heating of living spaces.

House-Roatan-Honduras. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

In Argentina, this percentage is repeated, even with the demographic distribution highly favored by the climate. Construction quality in the country is deficient, since the building envelope is unable to take advantage of favorable environmental conditions (solar gain in winter and ventilation on hot days) and avoid harmful ones (thermal insulation, use of eaves and sunshades).

The need to achieve comfort, to rest, work or study, is beneficial for our health and to improve our quality of life. It is now widely established that the best conditions are achieved with temperatures between 18 and 26°C. If the architecture achieves a very good interaction with the climate, and the building reaches these temperature values, the energy demand to improve its habitability drops significantly.



Many variables involve a home to be sustainable. From the most basic aspects related to architecture and its way of living it, to the recovery of water, landscape design, the incorporation of efficient equipment or the implementation of renewable energies.

House-Roatan-Honduras. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

Maintaining or improving the level of comfort by lowering energy consumption is the great challenge. The most important factor when it comes to achieving an efficient home is to reduce the exchange of heat between the interior and the exterior, given that more than 60% of the energy consumed in the home is used for thermal conditioning (hot and cold). The most efficient home is the one that demands the least energy, not only the one that generates it through renewable energies.


Here are some tips (or bioclimatic design criteria) to keep in mind:

-Verify and, if necessary, correct the level of thermal insulation of walls, roofs and windows. Depending on the type of roof, it is more or less easy to add thermal insulation, there are solutions that rest directly on flat roofs and reduce heat loss to less than 1/3.


-Working on the walls is usually more complex, but we can use thermal plasters, insulation plates or coatings that allow us to incorporate greater control of the thermal flow between the existing wall and the new finish.


-The openings (the most thermally permeable elements), can be replaced by new ones with hermetic double glazing technology (DVH) and profiles with less conductivity and infiltration. If the budget is tighter, weather stripping can be applied to all openings, reducing the entry and exit of air, which greatly reduces the demand for air conditioning.


-Friendly materials: select materials with sustainability certification, such as the Floor-score or FSC in wood. Look for those that have recycled content and those that are produced near the work site, to reduce the impact of transportation. Nowadays, thanks to consumer demand, most companies show these qualities in the technical sheets of their products. For electrical appliances, select those with efficiency A or higher and look for robust equipment that requires less replacement.



There is a growing and unsatisfied demand for housing in Argentina that could be addressed from bioclimatic design and efficiency. Bioclimatic design should not be associated with construction with rudimentary materials (mud, straw, industrial waste). On the contrary, project and technological decisions must respond to the climate and ensure stability over time with minimal maintenance and energy use.

The implementation of the Distributed Generation Law, in force for some years now, can be a strategic instrument to decarbonize the existing and future architecture. Its application on a scale depends on the will of each government, but it is already an available and proven tool.

There are companies that sell materials with certifications that ensure a lower impact on the use of inputs and their production. Unfortunately, the construction market evolves very slowly in the hands of an unstable economy, which makes it difficult to create companies with a “green spirit”.

An excessive and misleading use of the concept of sustainability for commercial purposes can often be observed, as well as not very successful associations of the use of solar energy in architecturally very inefficient buildings. For example, sometimes, a solar system for hot water or photovoltaics is simply installed, and with that we believe that we are sustainable.

But in the last decades there have been regulations and legislation, especially in central countries, that require professionals to reach certain minimum values of energy efficiency in projects. In some cases, these requirements result in higher construction quality and less impact on the environment, even complying with standards of architectural excellence, such as LEED, Passivhaus, Breeam, EDGE Certification or others.


Certificacion-LEED-YPF-Nordelta. Credits: Fabián Garreta.

In Europe, it is common to find buildings that have an energy balance equal to zero. That is, during an annual cycle they consume the same as they generate. That is not the most advanced, there are buildings that even have an energy surplus: they produce more than they consume.

In Argentina, cities such as Rosario and Buenos Aires have regulations aimed at carrying out architectural projects with lower energy demand. All have the legal framework; however, its application is not yet effective.

The challenge of the future is in the application of bioclimatic design criteria: consider orientations, use of thermal insulation, natural ventilation, sunlight of interior spaces in cold seasons and sun protection in summer, etc. If we add to this the choice of efficient systems and installations, the use of energy for air conditioning equipment will be greatly reduced. Just by taking advantage of the sun as a source of heating in homes, Argentina would be saving more than 10% of primary energy.


When someone names the province of Santiago del Estero, we usually think about a “chacarera”, the oppressive heat, the native forest with its quebrachos, and even sometimes, the famous Río Dulce. This river runs through the province from north to south and few know the secret that its waters hide when it joins the Mar Chiquita lagoon, in the extreme south of the province.

It is precisely in this sector where the Río Dulce forms an incredible delta that, together with the lagoon, forms an enormous wetland of one million hectares, the largest saline wetland in South America. What stands out most about this ecosystem is its great biodiversity, which gives the Rio Dulce marshes top environmental importance.

Thousands of colonial and migratory birds are concentrated in its diverse aquatic environments, sustaining more than 1% of its populations globally, which is the same as saying that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals. In the associated terrestrial environments there are also endangered mammal species such as the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), the chaco tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis), the neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and numerous species of amphibians, reptiles and fish.

Although the Rio Dulce wetlands are not well known or visited, this ecosystem is recognized worldwide as a RAMSAR site and is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Despite these important calling cards, these wetlands are seriously threatened by lack of management and human modification of water regimes.

A part of this wetland is located in the province of Córdoba and another in the province of Santiago del Estero. The area corresponding to Córdoba has been designated as a Provincial Multiple Use Reserve, a relatively weak category that is not enough to guarantee the conservation of its natural and cultural values.This has led to a provincial, national and global campaign to convert this area into a National Park. All levels of government worked on this strategy – led from the third sector by Aves Argentinas and supported by us and numerous organizations and institutions. 


In Córdoba, since 2017, fundamental work has been carried out to achieve the declaration, and the creation of the Ansenuza National Park, approved by the Córdoba legislature, is very close. Now it is the turn of the national government, since the law has to be dealt with in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the Senate. Despite all these very important advances, the area corresponding to Santiago del Estero lacks of legal protection or international designation, and until very recently there was little information about what species were present in the place and about the inhabitants who live in close relationship with the wetland.

The Natura Argentina team has been working since 2019 in the Río Dulce wetland area, in the province of Santiago del Estero. One of the main activities that we are carrying out together with the local inhabitants is to update the information on the knowledge and local use of the ecosystems and the different species that can be found in the different environments of the marshes.

By working with local people, we strengthen the collective creation of knowledge, one of the pillars of our conservation work. Thanks to these dialogues, we discover how they perceive their territory, how they relate to the rest of the species and their environments, how they believe that the uses and activities they carry out influence the health of the territory and how they are affected by their daily work dynamics.

The knowledge of the local inhabitants is the key in a process of building strategies to conserve the cultural and environmental values of a place, and the local communities must participate in the decisions made in this regard, because they are part of the territory and the main beneficiaries.



Thanks to work and social information, we were able to identify which vulnerable species are usually seen, and in which environments. With this knowledge, we went out into the field to look for species classified as endangered or vulnerable according to the IUCN list, due to the support of the Rain Forest Trust. The technical work consisted of placing camera traps at different points. In this way we were able to carry out tests to observe footprints, spot fauna and any other type of evidence about the presence of the species.

These efforts were paid off, and the team managed to record a total of 152 bird species, which represents 39.3% of the total number of bird species cited for the province of Santiago del Estero. Of these species, 35 are migratory and use the wetlands during the summer to feed and/or nest. In addition, the presence of 16 species of mammals, six reptiles, six amphibians and three species of fish was confirmed. Of all these species, the presence of the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) stands out, which is usually seen during the winter and when the river rises and forms wetlands. 

Through interviews, local residents confirmed the presence of the crowned solitary eagle (Buteogallus coronatus), the chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri) and the chaco tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis), species classified as vulnerable or in danger of extinction by the IUCN. These species are associated with the highlands-native forest, on the margin of the depression of the Rio Dulce marshes.



Area of interest. Santiago del Estero province, Argentina. Credits: Natura Argentina Team.


Creating a protected area (PA) in the delta of the Río Dulce would be a great step for the conservation of these important wetlands. It is a way to safeguard the goods and services that local people use to live, and a resource to protect the ecosystems where all the species that we managed to identify in the Rio Dulce marshes live. For this reason, we will continue working in the area, to advance with the necessary biological studies, to increase and update the information on the presence of species in threatened or endangered categories.

We are also going to continue in contact with local people, not only to hear their opinions, but also to provide them with all the necessary information so that they can be part of the different stages of creating a PA.

By Claudio Bertonatti

Traditionally, heritage is divided into natural and cultural. It is an intellectual exercise that seeks to classify welfares, spaces, species… only for the purpose of simplifying their understanding, as taxonomy does with zoology or botany. But this classification conditions our perception, to the point of observing nature, on the one hand, and culture, on the other. At this point we are facing a problem.

The fact is that even when we walk through the most urban landscape, it is easy to verify that wild species are present, as well as the soil, water and air. In the same way, when we walk through a wild ecosystem, cultural aspects are present: sometimes, in an invisible way, such as toponyms, myths, legends, songs, history, popular names of animals, medicinal uses of the plants… Sometimes their presence is obvious if there are paths, roads and other human structures.

However, the dissociation between “the natural” and “the cultural” is usually reinforced by the diffusion provided in the emblematic places on both sides. For example, in protected natural areas, brochures and posters shows the flora or fauna, but rarely the cultural components (historical, anthropological, archaeological and folkloric). Something similar happens when we visit a historical, archaeological or art museum: all very nice, but nature does not appear, as if it were a metaphor for the gaze of a one-eyed man. But if we were able to see with both eyes, the visual field would expand to reveal an integrated panorama.

From that view, heritage appears. That is, the integral legacy (natural and cultural) of the generations that preceded us. They selected objects, places, characters, species and events with which they identified in their time. We not only receive them: we resignify them, ratify them, discard them or renew them. Therefore, heritage is a social construction, based on the valuation, feeling and knowledge of the present. For this reason, different societies identify themselves with a patrimonial inventory that varies over time, although always, with the same purpose: to string them together to weave a story about their identity.