Housing exists in a dynamic environment. It has to embrace the changes around it while also offering shelter and maintaining the sustainable features that were originally incorporated into its design.

In the overall scheme of housing structures, sustainabilty has gone through a steep adoption curve, becoming a larger part of the housing that we envision for the future. Yet, there are still a number of aspects that need to be defined before they can have practical application in housing design.

Here, we take a look at traditional and new areas that will play into the future design of sustainabilty in housing.

Traditional Areas

In the evolution of thinking green while building, housing providers commonly use three best practices that focus on the manufacturing and delivering of materials and the construction choices of the builder.

  1. Build with products made from sustainable resources. Traditionally, this means materials that regrow or replace themselves naturally and within a reasonable time period. A preference is often given to recycled or fast-growing products that do not require a lot of energy to produce and deliver a final product.
  2. Use products that have long service lives and require low maintenance. Traditionally, these are technologies that have been proved in the market over a period of time and still perform their original function with little upkeep or repairs.
  3. Design to optimize material usage and naturally occurring energy sources. Iconic examples include passive house design, advanced framing concepts, solar energy systems, geothermal systems, and reduction of conditioned floor space.

New Areas

With the assumption that the traditional areas of sustainability have largely been addressed and incorporated, the discussion trends toward how humans live in these structures, the modifications they will make, and the impact to the sustainability of the structure, which may vary greatly from the original design. This area tends to focus on minimizing the need for occupants to be compelled to make changes that impact the design intent of the structure.

First, indoor air quality (IAQ) has recently taken the stage as one of the most important areas of wellness in housing. Several factors that contribute to the indoor air quality include cooking, cleaning, hobbies, and other activities that occur in a home. Designs can provide better areas or ventilation for the activities that impact IAQ. The issue is compounded when multiple activities happen at the same time, such as:

  • the use of air fresheners, incense, candles, etc.;
  • cooking, frying, etc.;
  • and storage and usage of chemicals (i.e., refinishing/painting furniture and walls).

The future of these activities is absolute. Homeowners are not going to stop cooking or cleaning any time soon. So, how can design react to that and minimize the impact on a home's IAQ?

Second, a healthy environment acts similarly to indoor air quality but has a slightly different set of activities with a dynamic set of environmental considerations:

  • Pests: encroachment and defenses against them
  • Pets: impact and modifications to accommodate
  • Proliferation of electronic devices
  • Entryway wear and tear
  • Human traffic in/out of the home
  • Commercial activities in homes (i.e., studios, fabrications, etc.)
  • Commercial activities outside the home (noise, pollutants, etc.)
  • Landscaping
  • Tree/shrub growth
  • Water runoff/flooding

These issues present challenges to the way that we approach design, the way we think about incorporating safety, health, and wellness into the design, and the priority given to these elements. The conversation becomes increasingly urgent as the list of activities affecting indoor air quality and the list of environmental considerations continues to grow.

Be part of the discussion. Attend HIVE, www.hwhive.com, Dec. 6 to 7 in Los Angeles.

This article appears as it was originally published on our sister site www.hiveforhousing.com.