Often affordable housing schemes lack stable, social support channels, are poorly maintained and residents have little say in the matter – by nature these environments drawback the opportunities of their residents. When these developments should be about fostering professional and personal growth of their residents. Developments must be positioned as homes for entry level professionals, teachers, engineers, public sector workers, economy drivers. To improve the standards of those who rely on affordable housing, the community as a whole must pivot its manner of thinking. To truly change the vicious cycle of affordable housing solutions, an approach which focuses on the development of the resident’s social and financial gains, promotes circular economies of knowledge, skills and opportunities and is viably able to provide for higher standards of living is required.
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a good example of this new economic model. Here, the community are the stewards and owners of the assets on-site; they play a key role in managing resource distribution throughout the site, and in-turn, are re-instated with full ownership of profits harvested by the site. Such initiatives permit for optimal community participation and fulfil the highest rung on Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation – Citizen Control. To achieve this rung, citizens must have full control over policies and plans affecting the site and hold leadership over the conditions of which amendments may be made by aliens to the site. CLTs significantly supersede typical government-backed schemes, which stand within the Nonparticipation and Tokenism ranks (rungs 1 and 2 respectively).
Combined with ownership of the assets and upward mobility options, regenerative design is the next overlay to this framework for affordable housing. Beyond sustainability, regenerative design is net positive impact and operates on the abundance model recently elucidated in The Upcycle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. This model, an example is the cherry tree and its leaf and fruit dispersal systems, is characterized by entities that produce nutrients beyond their own needs in order to foster ecosystem health. Allocating their own resources to provide for other species rather than their own optimization, they are critical regenerators of their regions. Furthermore, by strengthening their host ecosystem, they imbue resilience into the system that can ensure their own survival later on. This creates a positive feedback loop that mutually benefits the tree and the ecosystem. We apply this method to the eco-house by Instead of building materials transported across great distances to the site, they are grown in situ. The architecture wraps and frames these groves of supplies.
Sim Van der Ryn emphasized the importance of living systems in regards to the health and wellness of humans. Living in reference to biomaterials and architectural surfaces becoming a vessel for life. Hospital designs provide empirical evidence via patient recovery times of the benefits of greenery integrated into buildings. Practices that have been thoroughly immersed in Singapore across several typologies. He advocates for ecomorphic buildings which “copy the processes in nature and incorporate those into design” versus direct imitation of the forms of nature.
Regenerative design originates with a hyperfocused examination of the site in order to extract a an ecological mechanism to replicate in the architecture. This correlates closely to Ken Yeang’s position that eco-architecture goes beyond simply climate appropriate design interventions but also touches upon cultural cues from that area. Advocating for architects to think about how this drives the form of buildings, again not in a biomorphic manner but in Van der Ryn’s ecomorphic concept, although Yeang proposes it as eco-mimetics. However, both ideologies boil down to flows over aesthetics with the building steering and harvesting its site embedded qualities.