These Unconventional Homes In Asia Are Sustainable AND Affordable
Unconventional homes have been popping up all over Asia to promote sustainability and affordability.
Do you remember that silent hope you had when you were younger that you would be married and settled down in your own home by 25?
Are you laughing right now because you realise how ridiculous that hope was?
That is, unfortunately the sad truth. Unless you’re some kind of heir or heiress to a huge fortune, you’re not going to be able to afford a house at that age.
And as for our Prince Charming, well, let’s just say, we have all grown up and realised that finding the right one is a lot harder than fairytales make it out to be.
So for those of us who may not have found The One and who want to own our first property ANYWAY, we’ve looked at the bleak options out there.
The average housing cost
The average BTO HDB (built-to-order, Housing Development Board) flat in Singapore costs S$150,000 to S$300,000.
If you’re aiming for a condo, you’re looking at forking out close to S$1,000,000.
In Malaysia, densely populated areas like Damansara will see property prices range from RM800,000 – RM1,000,000 for a resale condo unit.
Newer condo units outside mature neighbourhoods will set you back anywhere from RM350,000 to RM700,000. And a quick search will tell you that the units at such neighbourhoods are built MUCH smaller than the older units in mature neighbourhoods.
Apartment sizes used to be at least 1,000 sq ft. Nowadays, you will find many units as small as 500 sq ft. The same is happening in Singapore.
“World’s least affordable housing market” spurs unconventional homes
In other parts of Asia, the situation is similar. Hong Kong is the world’s least affordable housing market and has been named as such for the past decade.
Tiny apartments in less desirable parts of town go for more than US$380,000 (S$497,344).
The result of this is that many millennials are forced to live with their parents. Some are forced to continue living with their parents after marriage and even after kids!
BUT! There is good news.
This situation has forced governments and think tanks to come up with more creative housing solutions. Enter unconventional homes.
Here are some of these unconventional homes:
1. Unconventional homes: Drainpipe Housing
Architect James Law in Hong Kong got his Eureka moment while at a construction site in town and he noticed some concrete pipes left over from an infrastructure project.
With that idea in mind, he spent about a month designing and building the OPod. His idea is to combine two sections of concrete drainpipe to create a living space of about 100 square feet (9 sq m). This includes a couch and foldout bed, a desk, shelving, a tiny kitchenette, a hanging closet and a shower.
The perfect bachelor pad!
These pods can be stacked up to five high, or placed in small, unused spaces between buildings and under bridges.
Though this might seem like a distant dream for the architect in Hong Kong, this has already been made into reality in Malaysia.
On the island of Langkawi sits Tubotel, a hotel with drainpipes as its hotel rooms. Though the owner, Alex Mark, only uses one drainpipe per room, the rooms are spacious enough to fit a queen sized bed and it is the perfect material to keep the room cool in the hot, tropical climate.
The dining and living area as well as the bathrooms are shared.
2. Unconventional homes: Dormitory living
Didn’t get the chance to experience dormitory living while in college? Or perhaps you did and you enjoyed the communal-styled living that you want more of it?
Well, Hong Kong’s Bibliotheque affords its residents the experience plus somewhere to call home, as unconventional as it may sound.
The Bibliotheque buildings feature dormitory-like living spaces with shared kitchens and bathrooms. The rooms are tiny, with about 50 square feet (5 sq m) per single unit, and cost from about US$450 (S$589) to US$750 (S$981) a month.
3. Unconventional homes: Micro-housing
Micro-housing, typically also known as a microapartment is defined as a one-room, self-contained living space, usually purpose built, designed to accommodate a sitting space, sleeping space, bathroom and kitchenette with 14–32 square metres (50–350 sq ft).
It is a trend that is growing throughout the world and has picked up traction in Asia. In Kuala Lumpur, for instance, microhousing has recently been introduced in the heart of the city.
The reason for it is that very few people actually live in the heart of the city. Many choose to live outside the city, as it is more affordable. But they make the long commute to work daily and often end up in a traffic jam.
At night, the heart of Kuala Lumpur is deserted and quiet, save for the tourist spots.
“We need to try and bring young people back into the inner city, and to do that we need to make housing affordable,” said technical advisor for ThinkCity, architect Ng Sek San, in an interview with The Star’s R.Age section.
One way to bring the urban millennials into the city to populate it is to make housing small. Very very small. Like, 250 square feet small.
Ng’s concept is a microapartment measuring five metres by five metres, which is the size of two car parking spaces. But because of his expertise in design, that seemingly small space can accommodate a large porch, living space, a pantry, a bathroom and even a second floor bedroom.
A prototype has already been set up in the heart of Kuala Lumpur for people to experience.
Currently, no prices have been mentioned for renting or buying such a unit. However, the overall goal of the project is to create these homes at a price that is affordable for young professionals who want to live in the city.
This concept is also one that encourages communal living.
Unconventional homes support communal living
As the overall sharing economy gains more mainstream adoption (think ride-sharing, home-sharing like Airbnb co-working spaces, peer-to-peer lending platforms), the idea of communal living is less “hippie” and more sustainable.
The idea of more sustainable living is definitely not new. Sue Riddlestone, a woman in London, co-founded a pioneering community of 82 low-energy, water-efficient homes called BedZED in the south of London more than a decade ago in 2003.
Her co-housing idea had residents living in separate bedrooms but shared kitchen and dining facilities.
By 2006, Riddlestone and her partner launched a property company, BioRegional. The company build an 8,000-home eco-village in the Chinese city of Guangzhou for more sustainable living.
Four years later, BioRegional had completed an eco-community in Brighton on England’s south coast and one in Middlesbrough in Yorkshire. Now, construction of a 6,000-home eco-town featuring both solar panel and a biomass plant, and even an eco-pub, is underway in Bicester, a small town near Oxford.
The trend is also present in America. In Mountain View (home to Google), a co-housing community exists, consisting of 19 apartments and townhouses.
To take co-housing to a whole new level, a development in St Petersburg, Florida, boasts a new community for families with special-needs children. And in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one city block now features three co-housing communities, including Touchstone Co-Housing.
“Although the sudden visibility of the sharing economy over the last five years was induced primarily by digital factors, many sharing behaviours will be sustained over time by ethical and social rather than technological considerations”, says Arun Sundararajan, a professor at NYU.
Would you live in one of these unconventional homes? Let us know in the comments!
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