Why make the change to healthy
Why make the change to healthy eco-living today
Adapting our lifestyles to be more eco-friendly has increasingly become the norm as we bring everything from stainless steel straws to electric cars into our homes. But what about our actual homes – the structures wherein we live, whether a suburban house or a flat in a city building? Can we build these in a way that meets eco-friendly and sustainable requirements? The answer is not only yes, but that it’s already being done.
The need to rethink homes and buildings has arisen for many reasons. Housing shortages, exacerbated by continued urbanisation, increase the need and demand for living spaces. This has led the building industry to seek innovative solutions to meet these demands; and solutions have emerged that are sustainable and eco-friendly, as well as being smart and affordable. Enter the prefab home.
What are prefab homes?
Prefabricated, or prefab, homes are homes constructed off-site in a factory. However, they are not mobile homes. They are distinguished from the latter by the need to still be assembled once the prefabricated pieces reach their ultimate destination.
The separate, prefabricated units are often called modules. They are constructed off-site, transported, and then put together on-site, forming what is typically called modular homes. Individual modules usually have the basics such as plumbing, windows, and insulation. They come in a variety of styles and sizes, allowing for versatility, flexibility, and customisation: your entire home can be a modular construction or it can be utilised for an add-on such as a garden shed, garage, or at-home office.
Benefits of prefab homes
The benefits of prefab homes start in the factory. Since materials are mass-produced on an assembly line, factories can buy in bulk, saving money. And the savings can continue once your home is completed as installations like rainwater harvesting and solar panels can cut down on energy bills.
Cutting down on energy bills has a two-fold advantage, as the environment benefits too. Like the financial benefits, environmental benefits can be found throughout the whole process, from sourcing materials for construction to the day you customise all the trimmings.
Prefab homes are often built with sustainability in mind. Eco-friendly materials may be used and factories constructing modules can cut down on waste by recycling or reusing these. There is also less need to drive around, as waste does not need to be transported away from the home, cutting down on carbon emissions. The advantages of prefab homes can be maximised even further by creating a smart prefab home.
What are smart homes?
The “smart” in “smart home” can refer to design or technology. A smart home in the latter sense is one that manages the demands of daily living through technology. Energy and water can be conserved through the automatic or remote control of lighting, temperature, irrigation, window shades, and water flow in toilets and showers. This can be done through a device such as your mobile phone or through a stationary control panel like a touchscreen, which means no more leaving the lights on or wondering whether you switched off the oven.
Since this kind of technology can be added at any time, it also means you can retrofit your existing home, without resorting to the wasteful and expensive experience of tearing your whole house down and starting from scratch.
Smart design provides many of the same benefits (such as energy efficiency and temperature control), but does so in a way that works with the surrounding environment to give you a comfortable and eco-friendly home. This can be done by installing wide windows and doors with lots of glass to let in natural light, as well as taking advantage of shade from trees to naturally cool your home.
Benefits of smart homes
The environmental benefits of a smart home – whether through design or technology – are already abundant. But the benefits to be reaped can be traced right back to the starting process, all the way to individual modules.
If materials are sourced locally, shipping can be minimised, reducing both the financial cost and the carbon footprint of the construction process. Incorporating the natural environment into your living space can also benefit you more directly, as green spaces can have a positive effect on mental health. By merging what prefab homes have to offer with creative and efficient solutions inherent in the design and technology of smart homes, future housing can lead to the best in healthy eco-friendly living.
A growing trend
As we adapt to the current and future challenges of a changing climate that will see an increase in extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and continued urbanisation, the building industry will be tasked to take on these challenges not only due to demand but also out of necessity. In the EU,almost 75% of buildings are energy inefficient. But from the growing trend of prefab and modular housing in the EU, it’s clear that there’s a shift towards sustainability on many people’s minds as they seek to literally build a better and safer future.
With millennials increasingly entering the housing market, the trend comes into force even stronger as future homeowners seek options that will be comfortable, safe, smart, and green. Smart prefab homes offer such a solution and the demand for this kind of housing is evidenced by increased attention from the European building industry in modular construction technology.
The attention is also due to the need for increased urban housing and can be addressed through solutions provided by smart design. In Utrecht, for example, the lofty aspirations of the Mark are to provide healthy eco-friendly living in the near future, envisaged as three carbon-neutral towers powered by renewable energy. With its three towers consisting of 1 000 units incorporating greenhouses and community gardens, the Mark will aim to provide safe, comfortable, and affordable housing for everyone including low-income residents and the elderly.
Whether building a prefab home, a smart home, a combination of the two, or incorporating these elements into city planning, they can all contribute towards finding financial, environmental, and logistical solutions in the housing sector that allow us to adapt to the future. By continuing to make smart and sustainable choices through creative and collective thinking, we can build a world that safeguards our future and that of the planet.