Housing and Supply Crisis Lead to Sustainable Solutions

Builders and manufacturers are getting creative in order to supply new homes

By Camille Manaloto

In 2022, building and owning green homes is becoming the norm for homebuilders and homeowners alike. Sustainability and wellness trends continue to be at the top of the list of ‘must haves’ for new homes. For the past two years, conditions were ideal for many people to buy new homes. With market prices low and work-from-home opportunities on the rise, it truly was a buyers market.

Since people were spending more time at home than ever before, buyers wanted to make sure they got exactly what they wanted out of the design, and with COVID on the forefront of everyone’s minds, healthy homes became more than a trend, but a necessity. 

People were willing to pay more for what they wanted for their ideal homes, but now that the market is finally starting to cool again, it seems that the late buyers may not be able to afford the same features. New houses have been in high demand for the past two years, being sold before they are even built and low supply is slowing down production even more.

With such limited supply, builders had to make a choice; find alternatives and keep building, or pause production until supply gets better. Most builders chose the first option and are turning to alternatives. 

A Prefabricated Solution

Prefabricated modular homes have been getting a lot of attention recently for their sustainable qualities, lower costs and the ability to be built faster than traditional homes, which is important when homes are not being built fast enough.

Modular homes are built in factories, eliminating the problem of bad weather conditions. This also means better quality control, as all pieces are made exactly the same, in turn reducing waste as well. Waste reduction and lower wholesale costs both contribute to lower prices for buyers.

Many states including Colorado, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island are looking towards prefabricated homes as potential solutions to not only the housing crisis due to supply, but faster and more permanent solutions after natural disasters and emergencies. 

Sustainable Alternatives

The supply crisis is making it difficult for builders to receive essential materials such as lumber, windows and garage doors. Shipping times can be anywhere between 6 and 16 weeks. Builders are finding themselves having to order supplies months in advance to be able to receive them on time or delay production further.

According to an article from Maison Global, some architects and designers have begun turning to alternatives ranging from materials easily found on-site—like rammed earth and adobe brick, in the southwest—to 3-D printing with recycled materials to create sustainable homes. 

More unconventional methods are on the rise, such as using recycled materials from demolitions on-site and making concrete from local rocks and cement. These methods help builders save money on material as well as shipping costs and time.

Using natural materials that are abundant in the region makes sense and can thrive in that area. Using rammed earth can help save on energy costs by naturally heating and cooling homes. 

But, as we all know, sustainability comes with a price. Although homebuilders may be saving money by using locally sourced materials, many of them are not materials that are commonly worked with and often require highly skilled laborers as well as multiple inspectors and energy consultants to quantify pricing. 

The green building sector is growing faster now than ever before. Homebuyers are asking for it and builders are trying to provide it. As familiarity grows, costs will lower, but for now these are the costs of sustainability and owning a new home. As the housing market continues to cool, we will hopefully start to see more sustainable solutions in homebuilding.

Camille Manaloto is the Editor of Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at camille@builder.media.

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