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Updated: Jan 19

In a rapidly changing and urbanising world, the provision of adequate and affordable housing remains a key priority for all governments. However, the actual concept of what ‘housing’ is requires a new understanding to effectively and synergistically address the pressing issues of slum prevention, the urban divide, economic and human development, and climate change. No longer regarded as simply a roof over one’s head, housing today plays a crucial role in achieving sustainable development – as envisaged by the idea of sustainable housing.

The depletion of environmental quality, especially in dense urban areas, has prompted people to find better ways to build their living space and minimise the damage to the natural environment. This effort has resulted in various forms of ecological housing and environmentally friendly buildings. The attempt to create sustainable domestic facilities has also led to the production of tools that support the practice of sustainable building and has triggered further research and development of alternative energy sources and efficient use of water and other natural resources.

Sustainable housing is, however, yet to gain its due prominence in developing countries, and that in this instance still includes Indonesia although its status as ‘developing’ is long past. It is rare that the social, cultural, environmental and economic facets of housing are addressed in those countries, in an integrated policy. In many developing contexts, the so-called pro-poor housing programmes often provide accommodation of poor standards, in remote locations, with little consideration to the residents’ lifestyle and livelihood strategies. In others, rapid housing developments create amplified carbon footprints and further negative impacts on the environment. Yet in most developing cities, decent and safe housing remains a dream for the majority of the population, while government considers affordable housing as merely a social burden.

The Sustainable Housing for Sustainable Cities Concept outlines key factors and considerations underpinning the idea of sustainable housing and provides a comprehensive framework for designing sustainable housing policies and practical actions.

Although sustainable housing is often considered from a predominantly “green” perspective (resource saving, greenhouse gas reduction), this concept advocates a more holistic approach, which recognises the multiple functions of housing – as both a physical and social system – and which seeks to enhance and harmonise the environmental, social, cultural, and economic dimensions of housing sustainability. Thus, along with the solutions for the built environment (resource and energy efficiency, environmental, ecological and health safety, resilience to natural disasters), sustainable housing policies should deal with the affordability, social justice, cultural and economic impacts of housing, and contribute to making healthy residential neighbourhoods and sustainable cities. It is only through sustainable solutions that the conflicts between urban growth, climate change, poverty alleviation, affordable housing provision, and access to quality residential services, clean energy and environmental conditions can be mitigated, while the potential of housing for improved economic prosperity and social development can be further unlocked.

‘Green buildings’ are becoming central to the global effort to tackle climate change. A new International Finance Corporation (IFC) report, estimates that green buildings account for more than 80 percent of the of $29.4 trillion in investment opportunities that will open up in emerging-market cities such as Jakarta by 2030. In Jakarta alone, there’s an estimated $16 billion market for green buildings—not only in new construction but also in retrofitting older buildings.

The city government aimed to build at least 1,000 low-cost residential towers by 2030 to house those who have been relocated from shantytowns in the low-lying, flood-prone riverbank areas. But with the onset of the pandemic , the government has shifted its focus to the healthcare sector instead.

However, IFC and the Green Building Council Indonesia aim to certify at least 20 percent of new construction projects by 2025. This will help cut greenhouse emissions by 1.2 million metric tons per year—the equivalent of taking almost 257,000 cars off the road—and save almost $200 million per year. It will bring the government closer to achieving its goal of slashing greenhouse emissions.

Amid smoggy freeways and sprawling skyscrapers with views of the Java Sea, green-certified commercial high-rise buildings in downtown Jakarta are going up fast. The first government-owned energy-saving building to be constructed under the green-building code was the 18-story flagship Ministry of Public Works and Housing complex in south Jakarta. It’s an attractive high-rise that features garden balconies and an energy-saving façade to maximize exposure to daylight. Although it is mostly only accessed by car and motorbike and the over-capacity street parking around the area shows that constructing sustainable buildings is only half the battle.


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