Boston saw an 8 percent population growth from 2010 to 2015 – with a daily average density of 14,000 people per square mile and just 48.28 square miles total to work with, it’s the second smallest major U.S. city behind San Francisco. All that can mean great things for pushing our civic, economic and innovation economies forward. But for housing, it presents a major, and increasingly pressurized, headache.
These stats come by way of a report from CBT Architects. Beginning today, as part of HUBweek, they’re showcasing an interactive exhibit on the Greenway called “Housing the Hub” – complete with a full VR experience, here.
The goal is this: “Anchored by the Housing the HUB Pavillion, this five-day, interactive exhibition will examine emerging development trends and daylight five thought-provoking ideas for the future of Boston housing.”
Those five ideas – build small, tall, modular, here and together – are all presented with one core theme in mind: supplying residents with higher quality housing and life in Boston by promoting responsible density and sustainable design.
The City of Boston estimates we’ll need 53,000 new housing units by 2030 to meet increasing demand. To figure out how we’ll get there, CBT Architects is hosting a number of events during HUBweek, including an opening conversation with the curators Monday, Sept. 26; a meet-and-greet with the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab Tuesday; and a modular “artist housing” discussion (rendering above) with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture on Thursday. Those events each run from 12:30 t0 1:30 p.m.
Here’s how CBT explains its five big ideas in greater detail:
What if we could do more with less?
“Building small is about efficiently using spaces and materials to reduce the cost of building, buying, and maintaining a home.” Right now, 39.6 percent of Boston households are occupied by just one person. What if we dropped the minimum unit size required by law in the city from 450 to 350 square feet – or roughly half the size of the average one-bedroom unit in Boston?
What if we build up instead of out?
“Strategically increasing height in a city makes good use of its land and encourages the sustainable growth of central and connected neighborhoods.” CBT Architects is a proponent of smart growth throughout Boston’s skyline. But it’s not all about giant skyscrapers. If you added one story to every single-family home in Boston, you’d add more than 51,000 housing units. You could achieve the same goal by strategically developing 120 high-rise blocks throughout the city.
What if we could build high-quality housing faster?
“Compared to conventional construction, modular construction conserves time, energy, money, and materials through faster and more efficient production.” Building modularly means 80 percent of construction activity could be completed in a factory offsite – a potential time savings of 40 to 50 percent compared to existing onsite building processes. A rendering of a modular artist work/live space on the Greenway is pictured above – the City is currently looking into something like this in Somerville.
What if we could build where we couldn’t build before?
“By looking at our city in a new light, we can find new places and spaces to build housing that we have not previously considered.” CBT estimates that 62 percent of Boston’s current land parcels that aren’t residential could be used to accommodate housing, like existing basements and attics, highway underpasses, parking lots and even places that are currently water. What’s more, there are 246 abandoned or distressed buildings in the city as we speak.
What if design, policy and finance worked together?
“Good design is just one part of the housing equation. As a city, we must work together to develop not just innovative design ideas but also creative housing policies and financing strategies.” Right now, there are 15 distinct neighborhoods in Boston comprising more than one million community members, policymakers and designers and the like. Design + policy + finance = the housing Boston desperately needs.
Check out some photos of the “Housing the Hub” pavilion, below, opening today at the Rowes Wharf Plaza: