Many countries are experiencing a housing crisis in two different ways. Their existing infrastructure is harming the environment, but they also don’t have enough space to accommodate everyone. Building new housing that is both sustainable and affordable might seem too good to be true, but it is more realistic than you think.

New building strategies

A handful of new building strategies have made creating eco-friendly and cost-effective homes much easier. Perhaps the most effective way to prioritise sustainability and affordability simultaneously is modular building. This strategy involves building parts of a house off-site, in a controlled setting – typically a warehouse – and shipping them to the site later.

Modular building helps the environment by significantly reducing material waste through improved inventory control, promoting the use of recycled materials and deploying sustainable transportation methods. It can also be up to 50% faster than conventional residential construction and save up to 14% of the project’s overall costs.

The development of 3D printing has also enabled contractors to print sustainable materials and appliances cheaply, which can go toward affordable housing initiatives. Smart home devices like self-monitoring thermostats and air quality sensors are typically expensive, but 3D printing makes them available to a wider range of income levels.

Biophilic design has played another key role in developing sustainable and affordable housing. Green buildings report an average of 12% lower maintenance costs than their conventional counterparts. Lower maintenance expenses lead to long-term savings for homeowners and allow landlords to offer more flexible leasing options.

Here are some biophilic design features making an impact:

  • Mixed-use areas: Instead of filling an environment with artificial structures, mixed-use areas allow humans and nature to coexist. These areas leave a smaller environmental footprint and minimise building costs.
  • Natural materials: Houses that emulate their surrounding environments with natural materials such as stone, bamboo, cork and reclaimed wood are more durable than buildings with cheap and artificial materials. Long-lasting, durable housing is more affordable in the long run.
  • Eco-friendly features: Cool roofs, low-emitting windows, low-flow toilets and other eco-friendly features are integral parts of biophilic design. These are the main parts responsible for lowering maintenance costs.

Implementing more eco-friendly equipment will also help lower construction emissions and spending. The market for electric machines is projected to grow by 22% every year up to 2027. This equipment is quieter, more efficient and helps lower operational costs. As these examples show, sustainability and affordability often walk hand-in-hand.

“Green buildings report an average of 12% lower maintenance costs than their conventional counterparts.”

Rise of renewable energy

Renewable energy sources also make sustainable and affordable housing more practical. Solar, wind and geothermal power are the three most effective alternatives for minimising energy expenditure and making housing more cost-effective. They also directly improve the quality of life for the surrounding community.

For example, implementing solar energy on a national scale could save 25,000 lives every year by eliminating fossil fuel emissions and improving air quality. It would also make homes more affordable by cutting utility costs and making everyday appliances more efficient, but the direct impact on people’s well-being is the most important benefit.

Many urban centres are refitting their existing homes with solar panels, smart appliances and other upgrades to make their communities more affordable. Low-income households typically spend the most on energy expenses, therefore, renewable energy can significantly reduce the cost of living in impoverished areas.

Misconceptions about sustainable housing

A handful of misconceptions have led people to believe sustainability and affordability are incompatible. The biggest one is the idea that sustainable buildings are more difficult and costly to maintain than traditional ones. In reality, sustainable buildings promote a minimalist lifestyle that helps reduce wasteful habits and use resources more efficiently.

Another misconception is that sustainable housing is not attractive and therefore is not in high demand. On the contrary, these structures can have the same architectural styles as contemporary buildings. Plus, the increasing investments in sustainable housing speak for themselves. Today’s homeowner views the environment as a high priority.

Sustainable housing is not a fad that will fade out in the near future. Buyers and builders alike have embraced this new direction in construction. The more people that invest in sustainable housing, the more affordable it will become.

Future challenges

Although the market for sustainable housing is gaining momentum fast, some challenges still lie ahead. Construction professionals are still struggling with unclear cost analyses as they adopt new building strategies. Sustainable housing does not always follow the traditional design and construction template, making estimating the project’s costs more difficult.

Another challenge is the remaining ambiguity surrounding sustainable construction. Organisations such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the U.S. Green Building Council are still establishing the rules and regulations for this growing industry. Once the standards become clear, government bodies will be able to enforce sustainable practices more effectively.

Sustainable and affordable housing is happening

Sustainable and affordable housing is not just possible – it is already happening. New construction practices, emerging technologies and renewable energy sources can make communities more eco-friendly and cost effective at the same time.