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Building affordable housing is fraught with obstacles. Let’s start with the most obvious one: budget constraints. Communities also worry that the often-ugly buildings will lower the value of surrounding properties. A lot of times, they wouldn’t be wrong.
There are strategies around this, thus enabling more people to live in safe, affordable housing that supports a productive lifestyle.
1. Put Your Best Facade Forward
One of the biggest reasons affordable housing gets such a bad reputation is because they look like affordable housing: boxy, forbidding structures that seem designed to accommodate as many people as possible, for as low a cost as possible. The materials look cheap, and the workmanship is mediocre at best.
By extension, its residents are also ostracized by the community at large, and the structure becomes the furthest thing from home-like.
Fortunately, low-cost housing development has evolved into much more than simply providing a roof over people’s heads. Today, much more thought is put into integrating residents with the broader community and empowering them.
For example, Parkview Terrace for senior housing in San Francisco features undulating glass windows that echoed “the traditional bay window rhythm” of the city.
Not only does this design create visual interest at no added cost, it also increases floor space.
On the other hand, BONDY in Paris presents a “soothing” facade of wood, with sliding shutters that “animate the four sides of the building, depending on the weather and the time of the day.”
The architects have successfully conveyed the sense that the building is a living group of residences, and not just a “pile of boxes.” Additionally, it allows for lots of sunlight, improving energy efficiency and well-being.
2. Utilize Off-Site Construction and Pre-Fabrication
This technique has been successfully used in affordable housing projects like Carmel Place in New York City (formerly My Micro NY).
In Los Angeles, Brooks + Scarpa has collaborated with Plant Prefab to create the Nest LivingHomes “toolkit.” It’s a set of modules that can be put together into different configurations that are scalable and can adjust to specific locations’ needs and conditions.
The team has even created a few models to showcase the system’s range and flexibility, from a temporary shelter in which rooms hold multiple beds, to permanent housing that offers studio up to two-bedroom apartments,
3. Integrate Missing Services
As mentioned earlier, affordable housing development has gone on to not just provide places to sleep, but also empower its residents. Low-income neighborhoods often lack services and utilities that developers have successfully addressed in several different ways.
The Jonathan Rose Companies, for example, has integrated Paseo Verde in North Philadelphia with numerous healthcare facilities such as a clinic and a pharmacy. It’s also situated right next to the Temple University Station (a major transit hub) and has resident gardening beds that help supplement the food supply.
Arbor House in the Bronx also maintains a hydroponic rooftop garden to grow produce, and so does 60 Richmond Street’s sixth floor terrace in Toronto. In addition, the latter has a resident-owned and operated restaurant and training kitchen that offers both food and skills.
4. Standardize Design and Workflows
One way to cut down on low-income housing costs is by reducing labor. Efficient project management practices are key.
Clearly laid out, step-by-step processes that dictate exactly what needs to be done when and what comes after is one example. You can build workflow templates that can be reproduced and adjusted to every new project.
Creating a standard catalogue of material selections is another way to make your project more efficient. Not only does it shave off product specification hours, it also helps you maintain and improve relationships with your trusted suppliers.
Additionally, cutting down on time and costs leaves you more room to be creative with design, so you can build something that’s not only profitable, but also something that you’ll be proud to have in your portfolio.
5. Integrate Your Workflows and Collaborators
Just like it’s important to integrate an affordable housing project and its residents into the neighborhood, it also behooves your firm to integrate all its workflows.
For example, the ability to both specify products and procure them from one platform saves you a lot of time and drastically reduces errors.
Having all your stakeholders in one place — including not just your design and procurement teams but also your contractors and clients — ensures that everyone is on the same page and always updated. No more asking for the latest, most updated spec sheets, or asking whether floor installations are finished, or whether all the necessary wall finishes have been arrived — not when all changes are tracked in one place.
Fohlio helps you deliver projects faster, with fewer errors. Collaborate better, specify more quickly, and create design standards. Schedule a demo with us or explore different features with one of our account managers.
Learn how to:
- Save days of work with faster specification
- Create firm-wide design standards
- Automate and centralize procurement
- Keep your whole team on the same Page
- Manage product data
- Track budget against cost in real time.
- Prepare for asset valuation
Published Aug 3, 2020
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