A 22-square-metre “Tiny House” erected last week on the grounds of the United Nations in New York starting a conversation among delegates about how modular, sustainable housing designs can be accomplished in cities with a minimal environmental footprint.
The house, featured during a meeting of the United Nations High-Level Panel for Global Sustainability, was designed by The Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture and UN Environment, in collaboration with UN-Habitat.
The “Tiny House” is designed to demonstrate strategies for residential construction that provide high-quality, efficient and flexible housing while supporting sustainable development.
This first prototype can house up to four people, and is designed to be adaptable, efficient, and multi-functional, providing fresh air and reducing indoor air pollutants through a purification system and a wall with edible plants.
“We can use a lot less energy if we produce fresh air from within the module, and then we don’t have to exchange as much air with the outside, which can also help us if the air outside– as it is in most big cities– is very compromised,” said Founding Director of the Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, Anna Dyson.
Solar energy meets the power needs of the four occupants. Potable water is harvested from humid air. A purification system provides good indoor air quality and increases the microbiome diversity within the home. A micro-farming wall grows fruit and vegetables. The overall performance of the “Tiny House” is monitored via a sensor network and an interactive platform that displays real-time air quality data.
The focus on air quality is crucial to human health: airborne pollutants are responsible for about one third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer around the world, as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attacks. Air pollution is also fundamentally altering our climate, with profound impacts on the health of the planet.
“We needed to show something that’s real, that’s concrete, and that brings home the message that affordable and adequate housing can be done with all the environmental features being respected as well,” said Head of Cities and Lifestyles at UN Environment, Martina Otto.
“People think that environmental features add to the costs and therefore cannot be affordable, and that’s not true; this is proof of it,” she said.
Celebrity chef Massimo Bottura, founder of Food for Soul, a non-profit fighting food waste through social inclusion, was one of the Tiny House’s admirers after the exhibit went on display last week.
“It’s an amazing evolution…how you think about the future in a sustainable and beautiful way. It’s not just the beauty of the architecture, it’s the beauty of the ethic of the project. Through beauty, you can rebuild the dignity of the people,” he said, touring the unit.
It takes four weeks to pre-fabricate this house off site and two days to install on site. The “Tiny House” is constructed with materials that are renewable, locally sourced, and readily assembled on site.
This house was designed for the Northeast United States with sourced bio-based products that are renewable and sequester carbon that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere.
However, architects and urban planners in many parts of the world are experimenting with inexpensive designs to sustainably house a growing global population, including the almost 1 billion people– or 32 per cent of the world’s urban population– who currently live in slums.
At a global scale, bio-based building products can answer the housing demands of the world’s population while reducing the carbon footprint of cities and infrastructure, and curve the demand for cooling appliances, air conditioners and refrigerators. It brings solutions to reduce demand for energy, heating, and cooling.
To keep the dialogue going, Tiny House will be moving soon, and other Tiny Houses created for San Francisco and Nairobi.
This story was written based on video by Mutha, presented by Kim Taylor Bennett. Watch the whole video here:
The Tiny House design was created by Gray Organschi Architecture and The Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, in partnership with UN-Environment and UN-Habitat. It is meant to get people thinking about decent, affordable housing that limits the overuse of natural resources and helps the battle against destructive climate change.