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Cities around the world are becoming increasingly overcrowded, and the upward trend is only expected to get worse in the coming decades. Since it’s nearly impossible to stop the global population from growing (a shrinking population is just as problematic), many organizations are looking into affordable, long-term solutions.

In the past few years, several sustainable housing concepts have come to light, ranging from spacious pods to recycled shipping containers. Now there’s a new model that seems to be a step in the right direction for the nascent movement.

Hailing from UCLA’s cityLAB, the Backyard BI(h)OME is the latest idea that could propel sustainable shelters to mainstream markets.

“Today, we don’t have enough affordable housing, and, given the hotter, drier climate, we’re losing environment to support all kinds of species. So there’s an environmental crisis that corresponds to a housing crisis,” said Professor Dana Cuff.

“These imperatives are something we can begin to solve — and where better to do that than at UCLA where we have an incredible trove of expertise, creativity and unbelievable students. What’s completely unique about this house is that it will add to the environment — the biome —rather than detract from it.”

cityLAB affordable house concept

Renting out Your Backyard

At 350-square feet, the concept home is for backyard living on private land. The project was designed to take on Los Angeles’ housing problem. Mayor Eric Garcetti highlighted that a whopping 100,000 homes need to be built by 2021 to meet the overwhelming demands of the city’s rapidly fluctuating population.

“We face a housing shortage unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II,” mentioned Garcetti. “The high cost of housing affects everything in this city.”

By building a sustainable home in someone’s backyard, the local government would not need to purchase land- another scarce resource that is driving up the cost of living in urban areas.

Eco-friendly Housing 

In sustainable shelter concepts, tradeoffs are normal. For the BI(h)OME, it’s the awkward living situation. But once you get past living in a backyard, it’s not all that bad.

The wall is made out of photovoltaic cell-studded skin around steel frames. For a sturdy foundation, the team picked rock-based gabion. With outdoor living in mind, the flooring is composed of natural wood. LED lighting can be found in various parts of the makeshift home. The shelter is ideal for one or two individuals. If you maximize the area and apply a list of space-saving techniques, you could stretch it to three.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the eco-friendly bungalow is its lifespan of 10-15 years. Almost all of the parts can be recycled after it has lost its ability to sustain adequate living conditions.

layout of cityLAB concept home

It’s Not Hooked up to Anything

For those who are considering going off the grid, the BI(h)OME serves as a viable option. Its core features are not connected to the city, from the composting toilet to the grey-water system. The cost of the affordable shelter is $580 per month, which is the same pricing level as a Tesla Model S.

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