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    Affordable Environments

    by David J. Brown

    In 2003, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art put out a challenge to architects and artists worldwide: Show by example how affordable housing can exhibit both outstanding design and environmental sensitivity. The many submissions they received showcase recent advances in sustainable design and have fostered new partnerships between professionals and communities in the creative approaches to housing. Editor

    Affordable housing in the United States is a noble cause with a sad history. As a people, Americans generously support the broad goal of helping our less fortunate acquire their own homes but we typically don't want those houses to be constructed in our own neighborhoods.

    We hardly ever consider the type of materials that are incorporated into these types of buildings, much less how they are designed. The unfortunate reality is that most affordable housing looks exactly like what it is and adds to boundaries that quietly separate race, culture, and class.

    But the social cost of bad design is only a part of its unfortunate effect. Equally problematic is the pernicious effect of bad design on the environment. When taken as a whole, poorly designed and inefficient buildings are among the worst polluters on the planet. They create massive amounts of waste and consume vast amounts of energy.

    According to the noted Columbian architect Simon Velez, "At one end of the chain is the misuse of nonrenewable resources (mineral, energy, and others) by processing them into building materials and marketable products, and then assembling them into built structures; at the other, the rates of energy consumption which these kinds of buildings and infrastructure require for their use and maintenance."   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from The HOME House Project: The Future of Affordable Housing edited by David J. Brown, with permission of the publisher, The MIT Press.



    ArchWeek Image

    A three-bedroom passive-solar house with a landscaped roof is one of 25 award winners in the "HOME House" competition organized by SECCA.
    Image: Rado Ivanov, Studio R22

    ArchWeek Image

    The "Gradient House," with polycarbonate sheathing and an embedded wall system, is one of 25 award winners in the "HOME House" competition organized by SECCA.
    Image: Beth Blostein, Blostein/ Overley Architects


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