Incremental Design to Address Housing Inequality

Basically every nation has basic housing problems that need to be addressed. Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize because of his work on community housing. It wasn’t just the buildings that got him the prize, it’s the fact that he and his team worked with locals to bring change to the community in a new way. Instead of centralized planning, they went with talking to the the people who lived in the community housing and brought positive change to the structures incrementally.

Thailand’s Baan Mankong Program also offers lessons in incremental housing through a decentralized, community-led process. Launched in 2003 by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), the program directs small but flexible government subsidies and loans to community-level lending and savings groups, with a strong emphasis on an inclusive, collective process. Receiving input from all members of the community, these resident-led groups decide how they’d like to invest the money—from reconstructing or upgrading individual homes to reblocking or relocating entire neighborhoods. Additionally, the Baan Mankong Program provides technical and financial support from government staff, community architects and planners where needed, enabling residents to address complex tenure security needs, land redistribution, housing improvements, service delivery and more.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Berlin’s New Rent Laws Helping People Faster than Predicted

In cities all over the world housing people is an issue and some cities have it worse than others. In Berlin, where things weren’t awful they decided they waned to stop a downward trend that cropped up in the rental market. Renters were confronted with a market that was inhumane and the city took action.

Barely a month after the German capital introduced a new set of rules that limits rent increases within a given area, figures collected by ImmobilienScout24 show that the average cost of new Berlin rental contracts has dropped 3.1 percent within a month. This can’t be written off as an example of a general countrywide downward trend. In other German cities where such laws haven’t yet been introduced, rents have remained more or less static. This is good news for the legislators of Berlin’s Senate as their new law is doing exactly what they promised the electorate that it would.

The new law introduced on June 1st—called the mietpreisbremse or “rental price brake” in German—works like this. An overseeing body fixes a standard median rent per square meter for each city district, using figures based a biennial state census of rents. No new rental contract within the district is then permitted to charge over 10 percent more than this amount. This still means that price increases for new rentals are possible, but if they come, they happen far more slowly.

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Active Praise for Passive House

We spend lots of money heating and cooling buildings when we can be designing buildings to naturally regulate their temperatures. This form of heating is known as passive heating (or cooling) because it requires no outside input to work.

Old buildings generally do this and were designed with environmental regulation in mind, today we are seeing a resurgence of smart building.

The Passive House concept, which is well established in Europe, is now getting a foothold in the U.S. with a method that promises overall energy savings of about 70 percent overall and a 90 percent lower heating load without on-site solar power.
While the U.S. Green Building’s Council’s LEED certification touches on energy, water, materials, and location, Passive House, which started in Germany as Passivhaus, brings rigorous requirements focused entirely on building energy efficiency. Because of that focus on lowering building energy demand, some say it yields better performance than LEED on efficiency.

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ECObitat is Green Disaster Relief Housing

ECObitat is a proposed modular housing design that looks good and is green. What’s even better is that it is easily deployable in the event of a disaster like a flood or earthquake. These sustainable shelters can be a good relief for the environment and people affected by natural disasters.

ECObitat is made of standard oriented strand boards (OSB) sheets with everything scaled using 1.22 m x 2.44 m dimensions. The structure of the house is made of a steel frame while structural insulated panels (SIP) panels are used for the walls and floor to define the rooms and provide support and insulation. The modular system has dimensions of 2.44 m x 3.10 m x 12.20, which is about the size of a standard 40′ shipping container. The vertical walls and floors are sheathed in OSB with thermo-acoustic insulation.

The whole house stands on telescoping legs, which makes it easier to place it on any type of ground without the need to search for a flat area. The metallic roof of the house features a series of solar panels and a small-scale wind turbine to produce enough power for the entire home. Modular plant boxes are mounted on the exterior and are planted with vegetation, which provides extra insulation. Depending on the types of plants used, the walls of the house can even produce food.

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Retrofitting Suburbia

The suburbs are infamous for being inefficient, sprawling, violent, and a great place for growing marijuana. So what to do with all this wasted land? Well, here’s a TED talk on how to convert suburbia into a liveable and more urban space. This video gives me hope for a more sustainable North America.

Thanks to Craig!