Sustainable and Affordable Housing

Posted by:

Sustainable housing and sustainable development are linked to a better future and more efficient affordable housing around the world.   As a matter of fact the very real link between the two, as they relate to improving peoples lives today and into the following generations is in many cases self evident. After all the very notion that the world must become “sustainable” has to mean more than just the air we breathe becoming cleaner or that climate change is curtailed. Sustainable development by itself is a term that conjures up all types of images depending on your point of reference.  While consulting at the UN on the RIO+20 processes earlier this year I became immersed and very interested in what the world had to say about sustainable development, especially as it relates to peoples’ lives

There is a formal definition for sustainable development and there are many abbreviated definitions that help us understand what it is.  The most often quoted definition by the United Nations Sustainable Development says sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.   In it’s simplest form, sustainable development builds the notion that we must tend to our business and lives today in such a way that we leave a healthier condition for our children (the future) to live.  The healthier condition includes the economy, the environment, and society.  These are known as the “three pillars” of sustainable development.

Statements about sustainable development are easier to create than the actual implementations of policy or practice.  One of the main reasons this is, is because of the spectrum which sustainability tries to cover: from individuals, communities, local governments, state governments and international organizations.  Each is affected differently. So any one thing, like housing has many factors that make it sustainable at the different levels of the socio-economic/political spectrum.

Sustainable Housing

What then makes housing sustainable to the individual must also make it sustainable to a state government for example.  The conditions at each level may not be mutually in alignment and this is what makes progress so difficult. One thing we do know; the more affluent members of society enable change inasmuch as they are able to afford to have things developed for themselves.  If those developments are useful they will eventually permeate down into society as the useful things become more affordable.  

For example, much work is being done to perfect the LEED building methodology and the Zero Energy Home.  Very few are actually enjoying the benefits of these developments or can afford them yet.  Be assured though, governments are beginning to include these energy efficient mechanisms into their building codes.  By mandating the inclusion of these mechanisms which are expensive to develop (like the high seer air conditioner) the initial consumers are forced to make purchases they may not otherwise have chosen.   To aid this process the government and the manufacturers offer incentives for those purchases.  Eventually; everyones air conditioner will be more efficient.  

Sustainable Homes for Everyone

This model, as oversimplified but it is does apply to the USA, Canada, and Europe.  But how does this affect the rest of the world.  What about the billions living in poverty and the many more billions who do not have air conditioners let alone LEED Certified Homes? For starters, the design construction of sustainable homes for low-income families is able to be positively impacted as the developments of yesteryear are now mainstream enough that they are consumer products.  For IADDIC, this refers to the use of SIP Panels and structural construction foams which were developed over 65 years ago, have been tested extensively, are in general use in our neck of the woods, and are reaching the point where they are a commodity.    Most importantly, they fir the definition of sustainable housing in as much as they reduce the energy use of a home dramatically.  They are how energy efficient building is accomplished; they improve the likelihood of using renewable energy like that produced by solar panels, thus making sustainable living possible.

But Nobody Can Afford to Ship SIP Panels

Even if SIP panels could be cost effectively shipped, the energy and fuel needed to ship them would negate the benefits of the energy efficiency of the homes being built.  For this very reason we have produced the field build suit of tools, materials, and equipment used to build SIP panels on site, in the field; right where they are needed.    

So tell me again why this is sustainable

We take advantage of the highly condensed nature of the structural foam which is the most efficient building product to ship and do what nobody else is doing.  Making the building products right where the home is built.  Not only then do you have tremendous energy savings in shipping which also means less cost to ship, you also get the most energy efficient building product available.  All this translates to a lower cost building product.  In addition the energy to produce cement is many times higher, there is no deforestation, the speed to build is incredibly fast, the occupant has a much nicer indoor environment (cooler, warmer, quieter), the house is much stronger, more resistant to fire and insects, and best of all are available as commodities.

If you have the need to deliver a large number of affordable houses, built the best, build fast, and build to last!