The United States is currently struggling with an affordable housing crisis where millions of people can’t find homes to live in because they cannot afford the rent.  The burden falls onto the construction industry to find ways to cut costs and create housing options that people can actually afford.

 Click on the image above to learn more about the Prospect Plaza project.

The Affordable Housing Crisis

The two main things that affect cost during construction is the cost of labor and materials.  Traditional building materials and methods create more cost for owners which end up being passed on to the renters making affordable housing options not so affordable.

To avoid this, contractors and designers can create affordable housing using cost-efficient construction which consists of several areas.  You need the right planning which helps avoid errors in advance, saving time and money, and trying to find the balance between low cost materials that feature long-term solutions.

Precast helps reduce schedule times by arriving fully ready to be erected.  Modular components, which can be a combination of precast components, electrical elements, and insulation, also save valuable time as they combine various parts of the structure into one completed component before it is ever shipped to the job site. Components are produced off site which reduces the expense of shipping and storing equipment and materials on job sites and ensures the quality of the materials as they reach the site. Once on site, they require less personnel to erect than traditional methods.

How Can Precast Help Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis?

Precast offers benefits to every member of the design process as well as eventual occupants of affordable housing structures including:

Benefits to Designers/Architects

  • Architectural Versatility: Precast has a wide range of options to help designers and architects work with clients to provide them with a design that matches the new structure’s surroundings.
  • Structural Versatility: Precast systems are adaptable and can be used to provide flexible floorplans and maximize open areas.
  • Formliners/Colors: Precast comes in many different colors, textures, and forms and can be created with additional details as requested.
  • Sustainability:  The flexibility and longevity of precast buildings means they can be used and reused for decades, providing excellent performance for generations and spreading material impact over a long life cycle.
  • Historic Elements: Precast can be created to match existing historical elements of buildings for a seamless facade.
  • Total System: Precast can be used for all parts of a housing structure from the walls to the stairs.

Benefits to Contractors

  • Weather Resistance: Precast can be erected in any type of weather conditions during any season
  • Quality Materials: PCI certified plants go through an extensive QC/QA process to ensure all precast products have been made to project specifications.
  • Built Off Site: Precast components are built off site therefore reducing the number of personnel and equipment needed on site.    
  • Shorter Construction Schedules: Once ready, precast components can be shipped to the job site and be quickly erected reducing schedule times. 
  • Competitive Costs:  Precast can provide a fast, cost effective solution that is competitive against other building materials
  • Tight Spaces: Precast can easily be erected in tight spaces while avoiding issues for neighboring structures.

Benefits to Occupants/Owners

  • Mold Resistance: Precast is inherently mold resistant which is perfect for high humidity areas.
  • Acoustics: Precast provides some acoustic mitigation which can provide families living in apartments privacy from neighbors.
  • Energy Efficiency: Precast can be combined with insulation to provide energy efficiency and help families save on energy costs throughout the year.
  • Weather Resistance:  Precast homes and buildings are made to withstand extreme weather events ranging from tornadoes to hurricanes.
  • Fire Resistance: Precast provides passive fire resistance and can be combined with compartmental design to minimize fire risks to occupants.
  • Low Maintenance: Once in place, precast structures can last a lifetime.  Precast is built to be low maintenance while maintaining the integrity of the structure.

Although the end goal of creating affordable housing seems like an easy thing to achieve, the reality is that the gap between what renters can afford and the cost to build affordable housing doesn’t match up.  Contractors and designers are then forced to find ways to get creative and cut costs throughout the process. Precast can help with this by providing a quality product that can be quickly built without the added expense in both the short and long term.

Case Studies

The NY Forest Apartments  is a green, affordable housing development that is able to provide housing to 500,000 occupants in the South Bronx, New York. The precast was erected in four months, ensuring quick entry for interior trades to begin work so the project could meet its tight occupancy dates.

During Hurricane Sandy, the apartments at Redfern House  were flooded and without power and heat for weeks. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), as part of its Recovery and Resiliency Department is completing upgrades to infrastructure and building a new community center and daycare facility to replace the one severely damaged. They turned to precast for the new structures since a hardened envelope was desirable.

The Nelson Mandela  apartments consist of 72 residential units in 13 three-story buildings.  The combination of three- and six-unit structures is part of a scattered-site, infill, affordable housing development. The use of precast provided sound mitigation, minimized disruption to surrounding neighbors, and provided a cohesive appearance to the surrounding area through natural textured finishes.

Every  member of the affordable housing design process from the architects and engineers to the eventual occupants can benefit from the use of precast.  With numerous benefits including reducing schedule times and cost during the construction process, the precast industry can help solve the looming housing crisis the nation is currently facing.