Lack of "affordable" housing seems to be in all the media right now. What that means in specific locations is different, but in this episode of an NPR report on Native American life I see the possibilities of many of YOU - experienced building scientists - working to come up with acceptable, affordable, low-energy use, multi-generational housing units whose pattern can then be used in a variety of places across the country. Maybe the world. A timely opportunity indeed.

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Affordable Housing has several definitions.  

NAHB champions 'affordable housing'.  A lot of their definition concerns keeping the price of building a house down, by lowering regulations, and through financing incentives such as the mortgage interest deduction, appraisals, and other home buyer financial assistance.

Habitat For Humanity talks about 'Affordable Housing'. Most on this list have worked with a near by Habitat affiliate. Their definition revolves around extremely low cost through community involvement.

There are various entities in all markets also have their own definition.  Primarily they are 'Community Housing and Economic Development Organizations' aka 'CHEDO's. This is from some of the FHA low income housing funding. The largest of these is the Section 8 housing.

The one Native American Tribal government, I've worked with has a office that is a FHA recognized CHEDO. The article is actually talking about funding for a different program.

It seems to me to not be up to building scientists.  I would look more to some entrepreneurs to try their had at the problem.  That answer may well revolve around the concept of how we build houses.  

Stick Built - happens on the house site.  Materials are stored outside, assembled in the daily weather by people that adjust to those challenges.

Manufactured - happens in a factory.  More enclosed, less weather prone problems. Design is a major concern because the whole house or the 2 halves must be transported and married at the house site.

Allison Bailes on his Energy Vangard Blog, just reported about a panelized PHIUS system for building a house. This might be a better solution.

I grew up in Henderson, Nevada.  The original homes were all built in a factory in the midwest and rail cars moved them to southern Nevada. The town grew up around plant to process manganese.  The mines were within 200 miles and the other raw material needed was lots of electric power available from Hoover Dam. Henderson is right on some major High Voltage Power Lines.

These homes had a single floor panel, set in place with a crane.  Walls, interior and exterior, were also single panels and the roof (desert climate) was a flat roof.  The time involved was crane work, connecting wires between panels and then installing the plumbing in the crawl space.  These were 2 and 3 bedroom homes - 900 - 1100 sf.  I don't remember any 4 bedrooms. Many are still occupied as homes today. They have been extensively remodeled since 1943.  The townsite was originally filled about 2 square miles and the homes went up in about a year.

Maybe this thread name could be changed to something more descriptive like "Affordable Multi Generational Housing for Native Americans"?  Anyway, it's a great topic. The U.S. Census Bureau pulled together some stats for the Native American population recently.  Number of people in the household averaged 2.85, but that might not tell the whole story.  There's good reason to study isolated rural communities' needs separately.  To some degree, multi-generational living is a resurgent issue throughout the country too since young adults are living at home with parents more overall than they have in decades.  Here's the U.S. Census link on stats on Native American population for Nov. 2016


I guess what I'd hoped for was for some of the "big guns" (like RMI, LBL, BSC) to start some dialog with the government agencies in the article to ultimately get a charrette going that would include architects and building scientists to come up with a multi-generational housing design that would be as affordable (to the government) as their current offerings. Lots of discussion on the boards about how we should be looking at multi-level vs separate construction so all sorts of better solutions could be generated. We'll end up paying for it one way or another, so why not with a game-changing design vs same old?


I decided not to title this discussion centered on Native Americans because they are not the only people groups within the USA that might prefer a multi-generational living arrangement. I can see this appealing to Hispanics, Asians and any other family that values the synergy (for child care, elder care, or just helping another family member get through tough times and start over) this type of housing could afford. If a great design emerges that is easy/affordable to construct, it will be attractive to many different people groups in many different locations.

Yes. I remember Avi Friedman's Next Home that was a townhouse that you could reconfigure as family needs changed

... And a New House Bends to a Family's Needs


I think it would be great of some of those groups picked up the ball and worked with the funding agencies to develop some new approaches.

I think given the next 4 years in DC -  Entrepreneurs will be front and center 'making deals'.  We should figure out how to tap into that.

In terms of building - think SIPS, with the whole floor package in a factory. Barbara says townhouse;  so I'm thinking 30 x 40.  Constructing a floor assembly 20x30 in a factory environment, set in place with a crane and then the subfloor, floor and drywall over the 1st floor SIPs wall in place, then the wall sections above that for 2nd floor.  Then do the ceiling - roof assembly the same as the floor/ceiling assembly.

John - agree that some form of modular or panelized system would be the way to go. Given the multi-generational family occupant goal I think that your sizing is way too small. Remember we're talking 10-13 family members per unit (as per initial referenced article). I was thinking something like a central great room/kitchen with 4 "spokes" radiating in 4 different directions - each "spoke" with 3 BRs, a full bath and laundry station. Would end up being a square, and all on 1 level. Then stack them as high as permissible/feasible, provide 2 access methods (stairs/elevator).

The sizes quoted were examples only.  The panelized concept is limited to sizes that can be transported. If you want to go bigger go 40 x 60.  It just increases the number of panels.  The size limit will be constrained by $$ and transport.

So far the factory built homes have been 100% built and married onsite.  I think the use of panels might work.  The issue is volume so the price drops.


It does not cost a lot to make it zero energy ready, and the utility bills are a lot less, and the home owner is ahead on day one. That should be promoted and used. Also use what is lifetime cost effective, like a white metal roof, and maybe put thin film solar panels on it for the tax credit, or use community solar, community laundry, kitchen, solar, socialize, garden, clotheslines..........Also maybe use recycled materials like bottles or tires or partly underground.

Are there any examples of cost effective low energy communities? Any power point presentations? I am talking with a developer and some builders.

Modular Lifestyles has developed proven Net Zero factory built as a modular or his HUD code building envelope. Small houses meet affordable criteria where two halves do not, on site Construction is expensive. Given Home operating future costs we believe a "Plug-N-Play makes sense


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