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How Smart Construction Can Increase Affordable Housing

Affordable housing has become a national problem. When selecting housing appropriate for your budget, many will follow the 30% of total income rule of thumb. That balance allows for a comfortable and affordable lifestyle.

Metro-area housing markets are driving up these percentages. When that housing to lifestyle budgeting balance is lost, there is little room for emergency funds and entertainment. The renters’ lifestyle has been a growing trend, but even renting has become more burdensome.

Many households are spending over 50% of monthly income on the rent. According to Harvard Housing research, the following cities had high percentages of people with this constant financial burden:

  • Miami (35.7%)
  • New Orleans (35%)
  • New Haven, Conn. (32.9%)
  • Los Angeles (32.3%)
  • Fresno, Calif. (32%)
  • Rochester, N.Y. (31.7%)

Again, that’s the percentage of people who are spending over half of their income just to provide a roof over their heads. Clearly there are problems with the way we’re designing our housing. Expensive city rates are pushing people out of cities. Middle-income families especially are forced to move out into the suburbs, creating more suburban sprawl and unhappy traffic time.

Smart commercial construction is the solution. With more thoughtful design, city planners and architects can design great, affordable places for people to live.

Offsite construction, or prefabrication, presents one cheap and easy alternative. The process easily saves an average of 42% of building time and up to 30% of the typical construction cost. This innovative construction technique presents an attractive solution to provide many residents with affordable downtown housing.

Smart Construction Designs

Prefabrication is known as the process of building structures offsite and then transporting the complete products. It’s also referred to as “modular construction,” using “modules.” The Khaleej Times refers to it as a “win-win strategy.” All of the building components can be manufactured offsite into a complete piece. This includes columns, beams, core design, wall panels and slabs, staircases, windows, doors and entire bathrooms. All of this is done using a separate place, a controlled setting and the calm found away from noisy construction sites.

Away from the project sites, construction crews can more easily use an assembly line and other automated processes to streamline the build. Especially for mid-level buyers, this cost-effective alternative design process could help boost declining housing markets.

This process works great for ultra-compact apartment designs. Imagine building residential high-rises using modules like Lego blocks. At 32-stories, one of the tallest modular buildings has already been constructed in Brooklyn, NY. Each module was built with structural steel and composed offsite at a production facility. Pieces are then transported to the primary construction site for a smoother, cheaper and faster project completion.

KASITA Micro Design

 One notable developer in Austin, TX came up with a 208-square-foot apartment design after spending a year living in a dumpster. Widely known as the “Dumpster Professor,” Jeff Wilson won the innovation award for his micro-apartment. Aiming to solve the housing availability crises, Wilson co-founded KASITA housing, which produces small, affordable spaces. These modular designs are unusually energy-efficient and easy to maintain, which allows for more life.

KASITA micro homes include just over 300-square-feet and 10.5 foot ceilings. The design includes a bathroom, kitchenette, study, lounge a queen-sized bed that can be tucked away. Additionally, it has all the basic necessities for kitchen, showering and laundry. These designs are highly practical and can be utilized anywhere from your backyard to a central city location.

Making The Transition

Prefabricated housing provides an excellent solution for substantial energy, time and cost savings. Since the innovative design is still new to the industry, developers struggle with complex contracts and difficulty obtaining funding. Construction firms have to overcome the learning curve in order to discover new opportunities in commercial and residential designs.

The lack of familiarity leads to some loaning skepticism. However, with an enlarged perspective to the possibilities, innovative developers can work around obstacles while pushing for progress and a brighter housing future.

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