Post-recession stimulus packages have opened our eyes to the yawning gulf that exists between the new home built to Americans' standards and the one that sells for what it costs to build. Designed to serve a self-consumed American middle class, these homes aren't built to U.S. requirements. As a result, the right designs for a new American home can add 10 to 20 percent to the value of the home and offer significant benefits over traditional houses. At least, that's what the folks at the Center for American Progress want. They recently teamed up with the Design Research Lab (known as Inclimed, formerly known as the Smart Design Lab) to release a set of eight design strategies.
They seem like reasonable suggestions, even if they might fall on deaf ears from Washington. After all, architects and designers have spent decades critiquing government influence in the property marketplace. Whether they can implement them within the current system remains to be seen.
Here are a few that have caught my eye.
>>PRICE-EQUALISATION: This is my favorite of the Strategies. It doesn't claim to be a reform of current design standards, but addresses the fairly obvious fact that most new construction falls short of Americans' expectations. The goal: Cost certainty while maintaining aesthetics, energy efficiency, and the efforts of the local community to make things safe and manageable.
>>PHASE ONE PRACTICE PROGRAMS: These three Strategies are focused on increasing the number of new building materials, finishes, and construction practices in communities with higher price-per-performance requirements. It's likely that, as American governments start to hold their officials to higher building performance standards, American builders will be expected to join them, also making it easier to "spend less and build better."
>>LOCAL SUPPORT: Like other strategies, this could lead to better engagement from local jurisdictions. However, this one goes one step further: It gives government incentives to pursue local design goals while still allowing potential builders to obtain loans.
>>INVESTING IN TALLER BUILDINGS: Another strategy breaks out into two parts: First, incentivizing taller residential buildings, which tend to get more added value per square foot than are built today. Two-thirds of Americans want the country to build more single-family houses, but there aren't enough of them to satisfy demand. Meanwhile, the new homes being built today tend to be much shorter than most Americans expect.
>>LIGHTENING THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Finally, this would involve building a wide array of "solar homes" in underserved communities. Although they may have higher cost per square foot, solar homes have the potential to improve energy security, affordability, and the quality of the surrounding neighborhood, while giving homeowners better security against the hazards of indoor and outdoor air.
Where do I sign up?
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