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Architects’ new eco-housing module demonstrates sustainable living


Yale Centre for Ecosystems in Architecture ecological living module

A new eco-housing module has been released by UN Environment and Yale University in collaboration with UN Habitat, to spark public discussion and fresh ideas on how sustainable design can provide decent, affordable housing while limiting the overuse of natural resources and climate change.

The 22-square-metre “tiny house” is fully powered by renewable energy and designed to test the potential for minimizing the use of natural resources such as water.Around one billion people worldwide currently live in informal settlements, while millions more live in buildings that are not environmentally friendly. Rapid urbanization and economic growth challenge communities to sustainably expand capacity, heightening the need for innovation in building systems and infrastructure.

The housing sector uses 40 per cent of the planet’s total resources and represents more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.Constructed primarily from locally-sourced, bio-based renewable materials, the module is efficient, multi-functional and engineered to operate independently.


Engineered to operate independently, the module’s built-in systems include solar energy generation using less than 1 per cent of toxic semiconductor materials, on-site water collection, micro agricultural infrastructure, natural daylighting, plant-based air purification, passive cross-ventilation, and a range of flexible, adaptable components for living and working.

The Ecological Living Module – unveiled during the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development – is constructed primarily from locally-sourced, bio-based renewable materials.

UN Environment’s collaborator, the Yale Centre for Ecosystems in Architecture, worked with Gray   Organschi Architecture to design, fabricate and install the Ecological Living Module. The unit is efficient and multi-functional, accommodating up to four people, serving both domestic and commercial purposes.

“We clearly need more housing, but the key thing is that we also need smarter housing” said UN Environment Head, Erik Solheim.“The housing sector uses 40 per cent of the planet’s total resources and represents more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. So making them more efficient will benefit everyone, and it’ll mean lower bills too. Innovations like the Ecological Living Module are what we need more of.”

Adequate housing is at the heart of sustainable urbanisation” said UN-Habitat Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif. “The use of proper building materials, better planning and improved construction techniques can make energy use in buildings more efficient. If adopted widely, this practice can create jobs and prosperity with lower greenhouse gas emissions.”


Centre for Ecosystems in Architecture (CEA), founded by Anna Dyson, is a multidisciplinary research venture led by the Yale Schools of Architecture, Forestry and Environmental Studies, to develop transformative systems for the built environment.

Alongside our partners in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Industry, CEA seeks to address the complexity of transitioning global construction patterns by bringing together deep expertise of current practices with radically new socio-economic and technical approaches.

“We prioritize the requirements of living ecosystems towards buildings and cities that support biodiversity with an integrated approach to clean energy, water, air and material life cycles.“Architecture must address the global housing challenge by integrating critically needed scientific and technical advances in energy, water, and material systems while remaining sensitive to the cultural and aesthetic aspirations of different regions,” said Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture.

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