Housing & Infrastructure Needs

Designers, policy makers and stakeholders involved in housing development must enable living conditions that are dignified and strive to plan and advocate for quality housing.

Providing access to housing means catering for a basic need. But it is not enough. In 2021, the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction joined forces with the Norman Foster Foundation to support a workshop dedicated to housing, the Re-materializing Housing Workshop.

Buoyant Housing in Brazil

Buoyant Housing in Brazil is a housing project inspired by indigenous vernacular architecture to empower riverside communities. The project provides housing for the low-income riverside population of Manaus currently living in precarious and risky conditions.

A global shortfall in affordable housing

UN Habitat is the United Nations program that works towards a better urban future and for the right to “safe, secure, habitable and affordable” housing. It aims to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. According to their data, by 2030 around 3 billion people, or 40% of the world population will require access to adequate housing.

100 million people

around the world are homeless, with disastrous impacts for their wellbeing and livelihoods.

Low-cost modular housing

An experimental low-cost modular housing scheme in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Incremental Construction, received the Holcim Awards Bronze 2014 for Middle East Africa. Countering the “placesness” of modular solutions, or the concept that affordable modular housing is a global standard to be applied equally to different realities, the design team of professionals and students worked on a solution that is country-specific, and embraces the aesthetic as well as technological and material specificities of the area. The units, built in the local and abundant eucalyptus wood, and called Sustainable Incremental Construction Units (SICU) were built by the students as a learning experiment. They are furthermore flexible and allow for personalization by the residents.

Housing Infill in Argentinad

A Housing Infill project in Cordoba, Argentina, received a Holcim Awards Acknowledgment prize 2020 for Latin America. The project was acknowledged for its ability to offer an appealing new opportunity to repopulate the city especially for families. The approach uses flexible and modular units that overcome high cost of land by reusing urban voids at their best, while also maintaining a low environmental footprint by means of a conscious bioclimatic design.

In densely populated areas, high costs of land often require creative solutions. Tiny houses built in developed neighbourhoods, urban voids, and unused lots, represent a strategy with the potential to both rejuvenate developments as well as provide affordable living solutions.

The importance of affordable heating and cooling

Affordable housing also means access to affordable utilities. According to the European Commission, in 2020, around 36 million people in Europe were unable to keep their homes adequately warm. This is the case not only in Europe. Growing proportions of the population are being affected by energy poverty worldwide, as much as by insufficient energy infrastructure for heating and cooling purposes.

Green building and regeneration design practices go to great lengths to ensure that households can provide for their own energy needs, through operational energy optimizations, renewables, and sustainable decentralized systems, without incurring into excessive expense. The same thing can be said about water, which already counts as a scarce resource.

Architecture must arouse, inspire and feed the human spirit. The need is for professional concern with the environment and an improved quality of human life for all people. Brinda Somaya

Creating new space in the air

An example that tackles both housing shortage as well as energy poverty can be seen in the project for Zero energy development units on parking lots in London, United Kingdom, which has been recognized with the Holcim Awards Bronze 2017 for Europe. The ZEDpods are modular, zero energy homes are conceived to be built “on elevated platforms on land outside the development plan including carparks, hard standings and difficult to develop land. Intended for young people and key municipal workers (firefighters, nurses, police personnel, etc.), the modular, low-energy homes are economically affordable, since land costs are replaced by the leasing of “air rights”.

Further reading on housing needs