21-0309 Communal Combustion-based Kitchen


The word best describing Mexican cuisine is without a doubt diversity. There is not a single Mexican dish that could define Mexican food, the variety exists in every region, in every state and in every household. That is where the richness and cultural identity lies, in a proximity to specific ingredients by location where ecological practices occur on a daily basis.

Mauricio Avila Serratos, a gastronomic researcher, claims that traditional dishes from every region are possible thanks to the ingredients, the utensils, the technics and preparations methods the cooks learn as part of a daily routine in a community and cultural context.

Being declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 occurred because Michoac6n's traditional cuisine was declared communitarian, ancestral and alive. Contemporary cooking, food being prepared in Mexican restaurants around the city, was not included. The decision was taken because of how meaningful the representation of Mexican cuisine is, based on its permanence, its endurance of time and the importance of collective preparation.

In the book, Conquest and Food: Consequences of entwining two worlds (Conquista y Comida: Consecuencias def encuentro de dos mundos) the researcher Janet Long writes "The pre-Hispanic culinary techniques are still valid. Food is still being cooked with fire, ashes, on a comal, in a barbecue oven, with vapor or boiled and within the heating utensils,  ceramic  still  dominates pewter".

Furthermore, Mexican cuisine is also prepared in wood ovens, with coal,  tatemado,  meaning directly on fire and smoked, all techniques being used to this day and their use is ancestral. It is important to leave urban centers to realize these techniques are still being used, even though people have modified their recipes. Without these techniques and their utensils, the cooking cycle to accomplish not only the taste but the processes, would be incomplete.

Currently, cooks use fire stoves, simulating the cooking on wood ovens, continuing a millennial tradition. This is the case for thicker tortillas from Tabasco or Tlayuda tortillas from Oaxaca that require the use of comales made from clay which are later heated over fire.

Limiting the use of fire would diminish  local customs  and would render  some of the dishes unable of being prepared. Reserva Santa Fe considers the health and environmental impact above all factors. However, we can't suppress culture and tradition. Instead, we would like to propose a way  in which these techniques and culinary dishes remain whilst also considering the environmental impact.

We  took as a case study the use of plastic  bags in London. Governmental  policies were installed  to place a tax on the use of plastic bags. What did the supermarkets do? They began charging a small fee for every plastic bag used. People began to understand that it made greater economic sense to buy reusable bags than to keep paying for bags every time they went for groceries. After a couple of months, everyone was using reusable bags and supermarkets would stop offering plastic bags at the supermarkets. This was a transitional process, form offering a product at a cost to completely removing the product. Many people were not happy at first, since they had to pay for the plastic bags. However, they would have been angry if from day one they were asked to buy a reusable bag because the supermarket didn't have any bags to take the groceries home.

In our case we would like to introduce gas stoves in community kitchens. This would allow for the cooking of traditional dishes on the gas stove while allowing residents to experiment with electric or induction stove cooking. It would provide a space for people to share traditionally cooked dishes with the rest of the community.

We are, for all the reasons stated above, requesting an exception towards gas stoves in community kitchens which means in the Pavilion project and Community Center, both projects aiming towards achieving LBC certification. This will allow to maintain traditional and customary values while also considering the environmental impact. 


The project may use the LBC Exception EC-003 Combustion in Commercial Kitchens pathway, as the project team has demonstrated that a) the community places a high priority on conserving the region’s cultural cooking heritage, which cannot be accommodated with electric equipment and b) the strategy for combustion cooking is limited to two communal locations in a community of 2500 residents with high-efficiency electric appliances installed in all individual residences.

Documentation requirements have been modified according to LCC submittals as below:

At Master Plan submittal:

  1. Narrative explanation including all elements specified in the exception
  2. Estimates of the weekly energy that will be used for combustion-based cooking in the (2) communal kitchens (BTU/kWh.
  3. Plans and calculations for offsetting the energy used in combustion-based equipment through on-site renewable energy production.

At Certification submittal:

  1. Actual total energy used for combustion-based cooking during the community’s performance period.
  2. Documentation demonstrating that the energy used in combustion-based cooking was offset by on-site renewable energy production.
  3. If the community is not connected to a utility, receipts showing quantities of fuel purchased.

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