John Quale: The European Housing Industry: Searching for Synergies in Sustainability, Affordability and Prefabrication
This research is focused on the intersection of sustainable, affordable and prefabricated housing in United Kingdom and Northern Europe. Though my direction of the ecoMOD Project, I have been integrating these three strategies, because I believe by doing so designers can more effectively address the challenges we face in the U.S. from climate change, the significant environmental impact of buildings, and the widening gap between high and low-income Americans.
During a recent fellowship at Cambridge University, I researched the overlap of these issues in recent history and contemporary practice in the housing industry of the UK, Austria, and other parts of Northern Europe. I interviewed prefab housing manufacturers, architects and engineers, as well as government and academic experts, and I also made numerous visits to factories and completed buildings to contextualize the information I have gathered. The linkage of sustainable design and affordable housing is expanding in Europe, and there are many examples that provide useful lessons for affordable housing in the U.S. There are also important examples of companies that explore the overlap between sustainability and prefabrication. So far, I have only been able to find a handful of examples that employ rigorous sustainable design and modular prefabrication for subsidized affordable housing.