The Intersection Between Affordable and Energy Efficiency in Housing

Creating sustainable, affordable homes is essential to providing healthy living for all

By SOPHIA ACEVEDO

With the final quarter of 2020 approaching, one thing still remains absolutely clear: healthy living is essential. The way in which our country is able to manage health will determine what the year ahead will look like as well as what our homes will need to have.

As people spend the majority of their time at home, these spaces will require even greater attention to detail and a higher standard of living. However, not only will it be important to create energy-efficient, health-focused homes, but there will be a greater priority in making sure that everyone can have access to living in a health-oriented home.

As it currently stands, affordable housing is an issue that continues to plague the United States. According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States has a shortage of 7 million rental homes that are affordable and available to low-income renters. The same report also states there is a shortage in every state and major metropolitan area, including the District of Columbia, for extremely low-income renters.

During this time, as the country continues to undergo the ramifications of COVID-19, sustainable homes can’t be viewed as a luxury or for only certain demographics. It has to be
an implemented measure throughout all homes regardless of income level to ensure that everyone is able to live well.

Green building is seeing greater trends in wellness and health, and since nature and one’s living environment often go hand in hand, it doesn’t become an extra step in the process, but rather, another appealing factor that is being checked off.

…not only will it be important to create energy-efficient, health-focused homes, but there will be a greater priority in making sure that everyone can have access to living in a health-oriented home.

With all of this in mind, green building is an ideal solution for the housing shortage. In particular, green-certified affordable homes can lead developers to construct higher quality homes at a lower cost and allow low-income residents to save on energy and on costs, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This nicks the idea that green buildings can be an inherently expensive process or that it would be a challenge to building affordable green homes.

USGBC can help be a source of guidance by ensuring that these factors are incorporated into their buildings. As stated by Alysson Blackwelder, project manager, advocacy and policy, of USGBC in the September/October issue of Green Home Builder Magazine, USGBC is an advocate for sustainable, efficient, resilient, and healthy homes that make a difference, particularly for equitable communities.

Having LEED certification ensures residents that the building process underwent a series of extra eyes and met certain criteria in order to fulfill its certification. Other certifications can also fill in that necessary step of credibility, such as the NGBS Green certification by the National Association of Home Builders, which has certified more than 216,00 homes as of April 2020.

Another way in which green building can be an ideal solution for affordable housing is that the process can foster innovative solutions to housing rather than settle for what’s expected. Julia Malisos, LEED AP, principal in planning/community design at WHA Architecture, Planning and Design mentions in her column for this issue a new building type that combines flats and townhouses and more easily lends itself to green building.

Innovative approaches such as these are ideal for affordable housing by are offering better, more impressive solutions for everyone. Rather than settle for an easy solution like detached housing, innovative green building approaches can cater to a variety of different people as the target buyer and also allow for a sense of pride among architects and designers by being able to be a part of a process that made something new and bold.

Overall, making energy-efficient, affordable housing will be something that will (and should) become a greater priority with time. Notably, the green building materials market is going to be seeing some significant growth, which should serve as the final push of encouragement to recognizing that post-pandemic life will require meeting a greener standard.

According to a recent Technavio report, the global green building materials market is expected to grow to $132.13 billion from 2020 to 2024, a positive sign for green building post-pandemic.

More importantly though, creating energy-efficient, affordable housing recognizes that the way that everyone lives is a priority. As 2020 begins to come to a close, it is important to begin thinking more about what steps need to be taken to make healthy, livable homes that are mindful of our current and future living environment.

Sophia Acevedo is an assistant editor at Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at sophia@builder.media.