A new 22sqm eco-housing module has been unveiled in New York City, designed to spark public discussion and new ideas on the provision of sustainable and affordable housing, while limiting the overuse of natural resources and climate change.
Delivered by UN Environment and Yale University, in conjunction with UN Habitat, the Ecological Living Module is constructed with locally sourced, bio-based renewable materials, and fully powered by renewable energy.
The demonstration unit—designed, fabricated and installed by Gray Organschi Architecture with the Yale Centre for Ecosystems in Architecture—accommodates up to four people, and can be used for residential and commercial purposes. It is engineered to operate independently, and features sustainable built-in systems, including:
- Solar energy generation using less than 1 percent of toxic semi-conductor materials
- On-site water collection
- Natural daylighting
- Passive cross ventilation
- Interior plant-based air purification
- Exterior microfarming wall
“We clearly need more housing, but the key thing is that we also need smarter housing,” says Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
“The housing sector uses 40 percent of the planet’s total resources and represents more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Making them more efficient will benefit everyone, and it will mean lower bills, too. Innovations like the Ecological Living Module are what we need more of.”
The imperative to design and develop eco-friendly building systems and infrastructure is even more important in light of the fact that approximately one billion people across the world currently live in informal settlements. Still millions more live in buildings that are not environmentally friendly.
On the back off rapid urbanisation and growth, communities must find ways to expand their capacities sustainably.
“Architecture must address the global housing challenge by integrating critically needed scientific and technical advances in energy, water, and material systems while remaining sensitive to the cultural and aesthetic aspirations of different regions,” says Deborah Berke, dean of the Yale School of Architecture.
The Ecological Living Module was unveiled at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and is designed specifically to the local climate and context of New York, but future iterations of the module—including one in Kenya, the home of UN Environment—will respond specifically to local climatic and cultural contexts.