How To Make Sustainable Housing Happen
In North America, the developers offer you monster houses on tract lots. If you want to buy small or green the pickings are thin, and you often have to do it yourself, in the middle of nowhere. Financing? Good luck. Young without an inheritance or a job as a hedge fund manager? Forget it.
Or, you could live in Britain, where there are development companies like Living Space 21 with mission statements like "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs" and offering "really affordable, contemporary new homes ideal for First Time Buyers" that are designed to fit on 400 square feet of land. Furthermore, unlike anything in North America, they come with a bank that will finance 95% of the project, including land purchase and will finance you even if you build it yourself. Don't have land? In Britain they have Plotsearch, set up specifically to help people find lots on which to self-build. Sophisticated stuff: "PlotAlert via email or SMS ensures you are instantly alerted if a plot or renovation opportunity matching your criteria becomes available."
According to Peter Shields at Natural Choices, "The eco benefits of these homes include timber frames, sourced from sustainable forests, rain water capture and recycling, plus sloped roofs which maximise solar efficiency. However, these features do not in any way comprise the quality or design of the build. The contemporary apartments have been designed by Living Space 21 and their pioneering building techniques enable them to be tailored to almost any location, leaving the lightest environmental footprint possible for the price."
Not to mention a 10 year NHBC/Zurich warranty on the house and a sixty year warranty on the frame. What do builders give in North America?
Of course, it helps to have governments that set goals like reducing property carbon emissions by 25% by 2010, seriously around the corner, and carbon neutral by 2016, and a Housing Minister who says things like "We need to build more homes across England. The housing shortage means first-time buyers and young families are finding it increasingly hard to get their first step onto the housing ladder unless they have financial help from parents or relatives - and that’s just not fair. "Unless we act now by 2026 first-time buyers will find average house prices are ten times their salary. That could lead to real social inequality and injustice. "We need more homes - but we need better designed, more sustainable homes."
One of the big failures in the Prefab movement in North America is that it is not just about a house, it is about a delivery system, that includes, land, financing, construction and regulation to ensure that the playing field is level. In the UK they have that; in the USA, the lenders are all going bankrupt because of subprime loans to unqualified buyers of monster homes in tract subdivisions. What a different world. ::Living Space 21 via ::Natural Choices