Vilma Autio with a measuring tape and a constructor in the stairs of a dry toilet

Sustainable building expert Vilma Autio introduces herself

Vilma Autio tells of her background and interests in WASH and Grow!

Vilma is inspired by the holistic approach of WASH and Grow!project

I am an architect and urban planner interested in the social and cultural sustainability of built environments. I work as a second associate in the design firm TREA Team for Resilient Architecture on design and development projects related to sustainable living environments. I also teach urban planning at Aalto University.

In addition to my design and teaching work, I am active in the Ukumbi and Mifuko Trust NGOs. Ukumbi ry is a Finnish organisation founded in 2007 by three architects to provide architectural design services to low-income communities. Much of Ukumbi's work has been carried out in the Global South. The organisation's projects have focused on supporting disadvantaged community members, including women and girls. Ukumbi's work emphasises cultural sustainability of the built environment and the use of local building methods and materials. Ukumbi is a partner of Mifuko Trust in the WASH & Grow! project.


Toilet concept development and monitoring as areas of responsibility

As an environment, Kenya was already somewhat familiar to me when I joined the Mifuko Trust board, as I worked as an architectural intern on the UN-Habitat International Green and Sustainable Housing project in Nairobi in 2015-2016. In addition to my work on the board, I am an expert on sustainable construction in the monthly steering group of the Wash & Grow! project and am involved in project monitoring and design both in Kenya and Finland. In September 2021, I went on a joint project monitoring mission with the Finnish project coordinator. 

I am responsible for the development and application of the ecological latrine concept, drafting and implementation drawings, identifying and budgeting for suitable construction materials and monitoring the quality of construction. I work in collaboration with Peter, the project coordinator in Kenya, who also supervises construction activities on site in Makueni. As part of the steering group, I also support other project activities and contribute to communication and fundraising as needed.

Motivated by a good team and learning new things

I am particularly inspired by the holistic approach of the WASH & Grow! project, which aims to both ensure the basic right of local communities to health-promoting and safe sanitation and to strengthen household livelihoods in an ecologically sustainable way. The project team is multidisciplinary, international and shares a common set of values, and is easy to work with. 

I am a generalist with a broad interest in various phenomena related to the built environment and social change, as well as design and research methodologies. Currently, I would like to learn more about the use of ethnographic qualitative methods to collect data and feedback from our beneficiary communities. I am also interested in learning more about permaculture, which is a new area for me.

Sustaining life by Vilma

The theme of the Mifuko Trust blog for 2022 is Sustaining Life. It is a motto I can subscribe to in my professional endeavours as well as in my daily life. In the WASH & Grow! project we aim to protect both human life with dignity and nature. In my everyday life, I see the continuum of life in my little daughter. I hope that we as a human race will succeed in making choices that will make her future world more equal and at least as rich in nature as I have experienced.


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