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Eco-housing- The demand of the day

Eco-housing

The building  and construction sector is a  major source of  environmental degradation. Its geographical spread, rapid growth rate and the long lives of the structures being built, leads to widespread impacts affecting several generations. This makes this sector  a  hot   spot requiring careful analysis and  begin intervention. The dynamics of  current socio-economic systems ensure that the sector will continue to grow at a rapid rate. The development pathways of most Asian countries are symptomatic of these trends.

The application of eco-housing has the potential to reverse these trends. A central goal   of   this evolving concept   is   to   achieve comfortable and healthy habitats  at affordable costs, through low impact  methods,consuming less resource than a standard habitat   and using environmental friendly  materials  and  products.

It   also sets out to be a net producer of environmental and social goods by imitating the self-sustaining,   cyclic   processes   of   nature.   In practice,   this   will   involve   minimizing resource intensity leading to “dematerialization” and to “rematerialize” by using the bio-climatic features of the site to create environmental and social goods. Bio- climatic   design   principles   and   life   cycle   approaches   aids   in   this   process.Eco- housing re-visits   sustainable traditional  architectural  practices, explores the possibilities of modern technology and advocates the use of renewable resources.

This   wide   spectrum   of   objectives   needs   to   be   integrated   across   several   mature disciplines and design objectives. Environment friendly site planning, appropriate choices of materials and products, sustainable use of energy and water, provision of clean water, indoor environment quality and sanitation, waste water and solid waste management,and   proper operation   and     maintenance,are  key   areas   of application of the concept. This calls for an effective inter-disciplinary team with good project    management skills. Integrated  design and project  management software’s could help in this process.

The need for Eco-Housing

Eco-housing has caught the attention of decision makers in Asia, but a lack of real   examples   has   prevented   its   adoption   on   a   larger   scale.  To   meet   this   need, UNEP and UN-HABITAT joined hands in 2004, to promote and demonstrate eco- housing as a key preventive measure in the Asia-Pacific region. They facilitated the    establishment   of   a    Regional  Expert Group on eco-housing,  which recommended that the concept be taken forward through a project addressing four key  areas: knowledge building,     educational initiatives,and networking and demonstration projects. Design     Guidelines  were    prepared  to   facilitate   the demonstration projects and for dissemination. This publication is a compilation of these guidelines and the experience in implementing it.

The guidelines are expected to build awareness and capacity in the Asia Pacific region.   It   also   would   challenge   practitioners   to   take   up   more   ambitious   targets. Apart   from   the   guidelines,   this   publication   also   introduces   the   readers   to   key concepts, technologies and other useful resources.

need for Eco-Housing

The need for eco-housing Civilizations   is   often   known   by   their   architectural   legacy.   We   discover in  them  the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years, based on a deep understanding of sustainable patterns  of  living.  These  priceless  legacies   are vanishing  under the assault of the technologies and fashions let loose by the Industrial Revolution.

The rapid growth of the global economy and the rising trends in population and urbanization has raised concrete jungles   over   once   verdant   landscapes,   threatening   flora   and   fauna.  Social   changes   that accompany affluence  such  as  the splitting up of the extended     families   into nuclear families   and   the   demand   for   larger   houses, have  added  momentum  to  the   increasing demand for housing. Built up land increased from 0.23 billion global ha in 1961 to 0.44 billion   global  in   2001; an   increase   of   91.3%.   (WWF,   2004)

The   informal   sector   is playing a major part in supplying the huge demand for housing. This often includes self-built houses, many of them illegal and mostly lacking infrastructure (UNEP DTIE, 2003. p.5)   a   combination   of   increasing   quantities and   decreasing   qualities   is   straining   the carrying   capacity   of   the   global   ecosystem.   Taking   into account its   entire   lifespan,  the built environment worldwide is currently responsible for up to 25 to 40% of energy use, 30 to 40% of solid waste generation, and 30 to 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

On  the  positive  side, the building  and  construction  sector  have   become   the   engines   of economic   growth   in   the   modern   era.   On   an average,   the   sector   provides   5   to   10%   of employment, mostly to unskilled workers, and accounts for 5 to 15% of the national GDP.

Guidelines for Eco-housing

Select an effective, multi-disciplinary design team. The team could include the owner, architects, engineers and subject-specific experts.

Make  an   assessment  of the   existing   socio-cultural,   environmental  and   economic condition of the locality. The project needs to use and maximize the existing potential.

Develop   a   vision   statement.  The   vision   statement   should   clearly   set   out   the   goals, objectives,     and   processes.    It should    be based  on   the site assessment, resource availability, available   best practices  and  technologies, and   cost-effectiveness.     The project must also identify if the design goals intend to achieve improvements over the conventional   standards,   e.g.,   better   envelope   standards   than   minimum energy   codes, better water efficiency than the national codes. The goals needs to be prioritized based on   the   needs   and   project   constraints,   e.g., water   quality   and   conservation   may   be   a priority in tsunami-affected regions.

Guidelines for Eco-housing

• Develop an action plan, budget and time schedule.

• Finalize appropriate procedures for contracting and contractor selection. Appropriate guidelines, specifications and procedures should be laid within the contract document to meet eco-design objectives.

• Try   to   ensure   that   all   stakeholders   are   involved   in   different   aspects   of   the   project planning and implementation, to ensure that all factors are considered and to increase the acceptability of the project.

• Develop simple   indicators   for    regular   monitoring     and evaluation      of the project progress and for social and environmental impacts of the project.

• Develop a strategy to mitigate risks due to any possible disruptions to the achievement of the project goals. Sustainable      site planning     involves    proper    site selection,   site   assessment     and    site development.

• Avoid using sites having special value like agricultural land, cultural sites, wetlands, habitats of endangered species etc.

• Reuse   land   that   has   already been   developed or   a   more   ambitious target   could   be   to reuse land that is polluted.

• Give special considerations for disaster prone areas. For example in a tsunami prone area, the site should be out of the safety buffer zone, at an elevated place, preferably not on slopes or near other steep slopes and should avoid different floor levels.

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