November 24, 2020

Creating Healthy, Efficient and Climate-Ready Affordable Homes

climate-ready affordable homes with picture of houses in background and playground

This blog post is part of a series exploring themes critical to affordable housing development and central to the 2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria: integrative designpath to zero energyhealthy housing, resilience and water

As affordable housing developers, we have the opportunity to create homes that are affordable – as well as healthy, efficient and ready for the challenges of our changing climate. The 2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria – the latest version of the standards – provide a viable course of action.

Over the past two months, we’ve delved into each of the 2020 Criteria’s five themes:

  • Integrative Design: The 2020 Criteria provide critical knowledge-sharing opportunities, making space for future residents and community members to convey their needs and priorities to the development team. These practices can advance racial equity by upending top-down structures and empowering residents and their community.
  • Path to Zero Energy: Green Communities-certified projects always meet a minimum energy-efficiency standard. The 2020 Criteria adopt a focus on emissions and lays out a path of action: reducing energy use, considering renewables and electrification, and moving to zero emissions.
  • Healthy Living: The 2020 Criteria address indoor air quality to reduce hazards like lead and radon, and encourage health and well-being through design. Automatic dual certification with WELL, a global framework for health and well-being, recognizes that projects certified to the 2020 Criteria promote resident health.
  • Water: Recent water crises highlight importance of actively monitoring and improving water systems to protect the health and well-being of residents. Even in 2016, nearly a third of U.S. water systems still contained lead service lines. The 2020 Criteria tackle that issue along with conservation and other water-quality issues.
  • Resilience: Now more than ever, our homes must provide a safe, healthy and stable place to live no matter what’s happening or changing in the world around us. Housing that incorporates resilient features helps ensure that we can thrive in the face of what’s happening outside our walls.

Enterprise Green Communities, the standard for sustainable futures, emerged in 2004 and remains the nation’s only national green building program designed with and for the affordable housing sector. So many of you have adopted the criteria as your standard practice for years, and we look forward to working with you as you integrate this updated standard into your processes and explore opportunities to grow through new optional measures in the 2020 version. If you’re exploring green affordable housing for the first time, you’ll find that the program offers a holistic approach. 

Today, 29 states and Washington D.C. encourage or require affordable housing developments receiving public funds to comply with the Green Communities Criteria. This year alone, housing leaders will use the criteria to create or preserve more than 200 green affordable housing developments – making home a place of pride, power and belonging for the people who live there.

Learn about the benefits of joining The First 20 – a cohort of the first 20 project teams to plan and design their developments to the 2020 Green Communities Criteria.

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