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Designing for Low Income Housing,
ZED Low-Income Housing

I am working with several organizations, as a part time volunteer, trying to design and develop a cost effective solution with minimal construction cost, and energy expense to operate such homes. The modules that are needed begin with only one bathroom, and 1 or 2 bedrooms – 624 sq.ft. for a 1-bedroom 1- bath, or a little bit more. We can use these modular construction techniques on larger homes, but the basic unit for individuals with disabilities do not require full sized 3-bedroom 2-bath homes (like those that Habitat for Humanity often builds). Our difficult-to-achieve goal is a challenging target of LESS THAN $80 PER SQUARE FOOT.

In lower-to-moderate cost-of-living locations, the price of new small-to-medium condominiums is currently over $160 per square foot, PLUS they typically have high monthly utility bills AND high monthly condominium dues for minimal amenities. The high density of these condos means that the cost of land per unit is minimized (but still high at today’s inflated prices). In many urban areas, prices for new inefficient condos are over $280 / sq.ft. with a strong upward trend in 2011-2012.
ZED speculates that in 2011:
(1) low interest rates will increase real estate demand,
(2) energy price increases will make building materials cost more, and
(3) higher minimum wage will have a general inflationary pattern on the economy.

Low Income Home with Solar PanelsOur ZED low-cost affordable home goal (for individuals with disabilities and other worthy low-income families) is roughly ONE HALF TO ONE FORTH of today’s market value of low-to-moderately-priced condominium housing. Meeting the $60 per square foot goal will become increasingly difficult to do in the future, as multiple inflationary pressures escalate the market value of materials and labor ever upward. However, if ZED can accomplish the goal of comfortable, beautiful, affordable, near-zero-energy housing that is roughly one half of the price of comparably-sized inefficient homes, we will be very pleased indeed to have made a valuable contribution to those who need and deserve cost-effective low-cost, affordable family or individual housing.

These smaller ZED housing modules (based on the ZED manufactured equipment cluster concept) can be standalone homes, placed next to each other in a zero-lot-line fashion, or stacked on top of each other, where a community elevator, or a terraced design would yield easy wheelchair access for people with disabilities. (We prefer the hillside terrace approach.)

These ZED low-income housing modules would meet the HUD requirements, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications for people with disabilities, who may need wheelchair access (36” doors, low counter tops, easy-access appliances, roll in showers, grab bars, visual and audible alarms, etc.). They would far exceed today’s energy efficient building codes and be structurally superior to conventional construction in windstorms.

Modular Low Income Home Being BuiltMODULAR HOUSING is an interesting, cost-effective, low-cost, rapid construction concept that has been creatively designed, and incrementally refined, far beyond the old-fashioned obsolete mobile homes and trailers (that are still being used unwisely by FEMA for modern disaster victims). One characteristic about mobile homes, and modular homes, is that they require transporting a lot of empty space (for living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, etc.) down the highway. They require expensive tractor trucks and permits (due to their width) to move on the highway under a variety of wide-and-long-load transportation restrictions.

The Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for a ZED home can optionally be made with fiber-reinforced concrete sheathing, and the entire home can be built in a very durable form without using one stick of wood (or needing toxic termite treatments, etc.) The entire system can be designed to be structurally superior in windstorms to mobile homes and even well-built stick-framed houses. The glued-and-screwed roof decking will not blow off in windstorms like nailed-down roof decks frequently do.

A simple foundation would be prepared for the entire home (one module, or many side-by-side, stacked, or terraced homes on a south facing hillside). The 8-foot wide factory-built core module / equipment cluster would be set in its place, and supply lines / sewer connected.

We are confident that the demand for low-cost affordable near-zero-energy homes will be high in many growth areas of our country, where low-income individuals with disabilities, and worthy families have housing needs that are being overlooked by the majority of builders (who obviously prefer to inefficiently build expensive low-quality homes at a high profit margin).

The demand for these rapid-production homes will also be temporarily high in areas of major disaster like hurricane Katrina, etc. as Global Warming increases the frequency of such problems. Portable core module manufacturing facilities can be responsive to the needs of disaster victims, IF we develop a plan and have willing, agile participants.


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