Whats Next

Innovation is constant in both housing and green building. Housing professionals are preparing for an aging U.S. population by incorporating aspects of universal design into their units. Financial models to provide housing for the extremely low-income, includ ing the formerly homeless, are being developed and implemented in San Francisco and other cities. And strategies to meet the need for affordable workforce housing are being tested in many high-cost urban areas.

On the environmental front, emerging concepts are stretching the definition of green building to include strategies that benefit the broader community by addressing climate change and identifying ways to ensure that economic benefits of green housing flow back to the low-income residents. These include: creating net-zero and carbonneutral buildings; installing green roof systems, involving communities and affordable housing developers in the trading of carbon reduction credits; developing programs to engage tenants in building operations, through incentive programs that share energy and water savings; and creating not just green housing but entire green communities.

Designers throughout the country are also revisiting the concept of modular housing. A number of approaches are being developed, all with the goal of using manufacturing efficiencies to reduce overall construction costs, improve construction quality, and reduce environmental impacts. Examples include the Eco-Mod home designed by students at the University of Virginia for the Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and a prototype constructed in Gulfport, Mississippi, by Unity Homes (a project of Healthy Building Network) in partnership with the North Gulfport Community Land Trust (NGCLT). If implemented on a large scale, there is the potential to provide factory-built homes for the affordable housing market that cost less than conventional site-built models, with the added benefits of energy efficiency, healthy building materials, and reduced waste.

By following the guidance of this book regarding the integrated design process, recommended practices, financing, and operations, and being inspired by the case studies, housing stakeholders can help build an even more robust portfolio of green developments. These projects, and the lessons learned and shared from them, will be instrumental in accelerating the trend that soon will result in all affordable housing being built to green building standards.

In the years ahead, as knowledge and experience grow in how to best integrate green building practices in affordable housing and as better data regarding the operations and health benefits become available, it is likely that most designers, developers, and policymakers will realize that green building is an essential component of affordable housing, and that, ultimately, we cannot afford to not build green.

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