One could argue that the first tiny home was that of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond. Thoreau built this home as an “experiment in simplicity,” that is, to live by the most basic means and take in all that life has to offer. This sentiment reappeared in the 80’s through the mid-2000’s as literature and, as a result, design-build companies began to pop up. Tiny homes as a viable alternative to the “traditional home” officially became cemented as a trend in late 2008-2009, coinciding with the housing crisis. But if they’re meant to be affordable alternatives for builders and prospective homeowners alike, why are they so expensive?
Shipping container homes have been a point of contention among architects, builders, and patrons alike since their popularity began to boom in 2008. Individuals on both sides have debated the economics, health, and sustainability of these homes. Both sides have valid points. But while shipping container homes are in theory a unique and resourceful approach to economic and sustainable housing, these containers actually pose more harm than good – here’s why:
Photo courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust
Shakari McGill is an intern at Verdical Group who is currently pursuing his Master of Building Science at the University of Southern California. The USC Masters of Building Science program requires that all students develop a building-science-related topic that will ultimately cumulate in a published thesis. Shakari decided to focus on the urban heat island effect and its impact on disadvantaged communities. Using simulations from programs like HEED, his ultimate goal is to develop a repository of Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) that will be coined the “Kit of Parts.” This Kit is intended to give patrons of these communities more equity in knowledge and more leverage in adequate housing. During his time at Verdical Group, Shakari gathered additional information on sustainable construction methods for this very purpose. Because the nature of this “Kit of Parts” aims to improve quality discrepancies in housing, it is important to understand how these discrepancies arise.
Sustainability is best defined as creating and maintaining the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. As the population continues to grow, so does our need for new places to live, work, and play. Finding a balance between economic expansion and protecting our natural resources has breathed new life into many industries and their respective markets.
As the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) implements the California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategy Plan, a foundational goal is ensuring all new residential buildings be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020, and all new commercial buildings be ZNE by 2030. Additionally, 50% of existing commercial buildings will need to be retrofitted to ZNE by 2030.
Photo credit: Perkins+Will
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth after water. Now, that statement may not come as a surprise to you if you work in design, construction, or real estate. After the Industrial Revolution, the majority of the Western world’s buildings have been erected with concrete and steel. And, as urban populations grow over the next 30 years (L.A. is projected to gain an additional 1.5 million people by the year 2050), the use of concrete is expected to increase rapidly to meet the demands of urbanization. But at what cost to our environment?
Cement, the primary ingredient in concrete, accounts for around 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, which are associated with climate change. As we build out our cities, making room for future populations, that percentage will only continue to grow. Cement production increases 2.5% annually, and is expected to rise from 2.55 billion tons in 2006 to 3.7-4.4 billion tons by 2050. In order to moderate the enormous greenhouse gas emissions associated with these urbanization projections , more efficient, economical and sustainable building construction materials must be developed.
Is there a superior alternative?