Singapore lacks land and this causes interesting land use problems. In the city state they ran into issues around housing their citizens ranging from land to cost. Instead of letting “market forces” dictate their housing plan (like in Toronto) the politicians of Singapore decided to act. They built housing and funded even more to ensure that in Singapore everyone will be able to afford a home.
Singapore had a severe housing shortage decades ago. But it developed one of the world’s best public housing programs, which has also allowed a huge number of its citizens to buy their own homes.
In the capital of France, the new Clichy-Batignolles development demonstrates how a city can have a carbon-neutral footprint while providing modern living. The development itself is built on old industrial lands and includes community housing, a theatre, and many other important features of a city including a massive park. The neighbourhood focusses on sustainable buildings and sustainable transit; the developer specifically designed the spaces to be walkable and ensuring that there is no need for a car.
All buildings are being constructed to the demanding Passivhaus standard, meaning that the energy consumption required for heating is just 15 kilowatt-hours a square metre of floor space per year, and the overall energy consumption is under 50kWh asqm of floor space per year.
The buildings are south-facing and super insulated, capturing and retaining the sun’s heat and warmth given off by their occupants and technology. Buildings are composed of renewable materials while other materials such as PVC are banned.
The area will contain 40,000 sq m of solar photovoltaic roofs that will eventually generate around 4500-megawatt-hours a year to supply 85 per cent of the remaining energy needs, while deep geothermal energy will provide 83 per cent of the space heating and domestic hot water, so that the entire site will have a carbon neutral footprint.
Popular building low density developments like then pictured above are really bad for the environment. To truly understand how disastrous low density housing is one needs to consider the physical space taken for one household, the need for a car for mobility, the building materials, and obviously the energy used to maintain the house.
The wastefulness of suburban living led to the Net Zero movement with set out to build living and work spaces that had didn’t negatively impact the environment. The first generation of those buildings have been around for years and we’ve learned a lot from them. The first generation might not have been perfect but they have set out a better way to build the future.
Also mentioned: One Brighton in the UK, built in 2009, was the first major development built using the One Planet Living framework. While the development reduced carbon emissions by 70 percent in comparison with the average neighborhood development, that’s not 100 percent. Still, homes there sell for a 10 percent premium over comparable real estate because of their inherent sustainability and resale value. There are also other benefits: residents who move there sell their cars as they can walk and bike everywhere. No cars means much less spent on transportation and fewer carbon emissions.
As for the future of net-zero communities, Downey sees developers now dictating hard energy performance requirements. For example, in a recent RFP for a new building, Hunter College put in a 100 kwh per square meter performance target.
Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.
What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?
Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.
“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.
“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.
“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”
A few years ago we looked at a TED talk on how to grow fresh air inside. The information was based largely on NASA’s research done in the 1980s called Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, which looked into which plants are best for cleaning interior working spaces. They first looked at what is in the air in an average office then set out to find plants that remove chemicals that harm humans.
Here’s the list from NASA and the TED talk:
- Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
- Weeping Fig
- Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)
- Kimberley Queen Fern
- Moter-in-law’s Tongue (sansveria trifascata)
- Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
- Barberton Daisy
- Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
- Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)
- Flamingo Lilly
- Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
- Spider Plant
- Chinese Evergreen
- Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
More information can be found here.