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Yale University has collaborated with both UN Environment and UN Habitat to create a brand-new eco-housing module, which was unveiled in early July 2018. The “tiny house” measures 22 square metres and is powered entirely by renewable energy. The driving idea behind the project was to demonstrate how affordable, decent housing can be developed with a sustainable design, in a way that limits practices leading to climate change and the overuse of natural resources. GRRE Capital – of which Brian Weal is co-owner and co-founder – specialises in investment in eco-housing and clean energy technologies. You can learn more about the GRRE Group in the PDF attachment to this post.

Environmental Impact of the Housing Sector

On a global scale, the housing sector represents over a third of total emissions of greenhouse gases. On top of this, housing uses 40% of the total resources of the planet. Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim pointed out that developing a way of building houses that is more efficient will provide advantages for everyone, including lower energy bills for residents. An overview of UN Environment can be found in the short video attachment.

The executive director of UN Habitat stated that sustainable urbanisation has adequate housing at its heart. Maimunah Mohd Sharif further commented that the practice of building sustainable housing would not only lower emissions of greenhouse gases, but also engender improvements in prosperity and the employment market if widely adopted.

Construction

The eco-house module has been primarily constructed from materials that are renewable, bio-based and locally sourced. The module is engineered for independent operation, with a number of key features to support this. These include micro agricultural infrastructure, water collection on-site, passive cross-ventilation, plant-based air purification, and natural daylighting. The module utilises an energy generation system derived from solar power, of which less than a single percent is comprised of materials deemed to be toxic semiconductors. There are also a range of adaptable, flexible components designed to assist in both working and living. The definition of an eco-house is outlined in the attached infographic.

Global Housing Challenges

The development of the eco-house is designed to help meet the challenges facing the global housing market. At present, there are over a billion people across the globe housed in informal settlements rather than permanent residences. Millions more reside in non-environmentally friendly properties. International economic growth and rapid urbanisation mean that there is more pressure than ever before on the housing market to innovate and expand capacity in ways that are sustainable for future generations. Architecture must begin to address issues such as how to integrate technical and scientific advances in areas such as material systems, water and energy supply into the housing market, while remaining respectful of unique regional aesthetic and cultural aspirations. Innovation is needed for infrastructure as well as building systems.

Un Habitat

Un Habitat, one of the global organisations that collaborated with Yale University on the eco-housing project, is the programme of the United Nations designed to work towards a better urban future. The focus of UN Habitat is securing the provision of sustainable development for human settlements both environmentally and socially, and ensuring every human has access to adequate housing or shelter. Unprecedented challenges are being faced by today’s cities as the shift of human lives moves inexorably towards these urban areas. By 2030 it is expected that at least 60% of all people in the world will live in cities. This therefore presents demographic, social, economic, spatial and environmental challenges that UN Habitat is helping the world to address.