What Else Is Needed
Even with all of these readily available products and ideas, truly greening the nation’s affordable housing requires government intervention. In California, state and local regulations ensure a fairly high baseline of sustainable design compared to most other states. Affordable housing financing and incentives almost always come with requirements for some level of sustainable design attached, and these factors have made the state’s affordable housing stock some of the greenest in the country. Similar mandates should be adopted nationwide.
The lessons learned from affordable housing projects should encourage governments to enact legislation without fear that it will discourage development. The easy-to-implement, cost-effective green strategies that are used in affordable housing can be a catalyst for encouraging market-rate developers to employ similar strategies. In our practice, we find that if we can show benefit without added cost, we can sway even the most profit-driven developer. The biggest challenge is to raise awareness among developers, designers, builders, and policy-makers of the low-cost, practical solutions that are out there so that we can employ these solutions more widely—and to the benefit of all.
Daniel Simons, AIA, is a principal of San Francisco based David Baker + Partners Architects.