KB Home (Homebuilding Company based in the US) has introduced a new 881 square foot eco-home in the Houston area. These homes are energy star certified and have features such as “eco-friendly carpet”, “energy-efficient appliances”, and “low-e windows”. While all these features are nice and are much more sustainable than most of the wasteful behemoths being built today, these tiny houses are still not addressing the real problem at hand. That problem is the continued trend of suburban sprawl. Suburban sprawl as defined on Wikipedia is “the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into previously remote and rural areas, often resulting in communities reliant upon heavy automobile usage.” This type of growth is not sustainable at all no matter how green a house you build. These houses will certainly take up much less space than the common small family houses (especially in Houston), but they still allow for people to continue their wasteful and unsustainable lifestyles. They still have two-bay tandem garages which in the article say can be used to park your hybrid or electric car, which is another form of greenwashing. Life in a car-reliant suburbia is a place nobody should have to live. They lead to insanely long commutes, one of the biggest reasons we are so reliant on fossil fuels, and are also a huge reason why Americans are in the top three fattest countries in the world.
In order to halt the sprawl of suburbia and our dependency on fossil fuels, we need to look at new housing developments in a completely different way. First, we need to set a growth cap on the metropolitan areas to limit where developers could place new housing communities. If you want to build a home outside of this cap it will have to for farming purposes only. Land near the furthest extent of the cap should also be made more expensive so developers will have incentive to stay closer to the urban center. Developers that want to make communities that adhere to “New Urbanism” (High density, public transit, walkable) principles will be given subsidies so that smart, sustainable growth will more profitable. The only way this could become a reality is public awareness. In the US especially, people are fairly uniformed about urban planning and how our communities could be improved. Now if this all came together most people would not have to own a car, people would become more familiar with their neighbors and build a friendly community, and we also would be on a great track to eliminating our dependency on fossil fuels.
By: Sam Fitzner