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Tiny house from UN Environment and Yale raises the bar for eco-living

Impressively sustainable

Facade of housing unit with plant wall
A demo unit of the Ecological Living Module is on display at the UN Plaza in New York City until July 18.
Photos courtesy of UN Environment

What does the future of living look like? Small, affordable, and entirely sustainable. Some proof: Yale University’s Center for Ecosystems in Architecture and UN Environment, in collaboration with UN Habitat and Gray Organschi Architecture, just unveiled the Ecological Living Module, an experimental tiny home that runs entirely on renewable energy.

The housing unit charts a path towards improving the housing industry’s notoriously bad environmental report card. It relies on a laundry list of sustainable systems to generate and save energy. There’s on-site water collection, plant-based air purification, passive cross-ventilation, and micro agriculture infrastructure. All of the systems work together to ensure the house creates more energy than it consumes.

Rendering of housing systems Courtesy UN Environment

The roof is designed as a photovoltaic system that captures sunlight and turns it into electricity for powering the module’s appliances and lighting as well as storage as passive heating. Its water system is able to capture rainwater and generate potable water from the humidity lingering in the air. Meanwhile, an interior green wall is designed to purify air and an exterior plant wall acts as a foundation for micro-farming. At only 237 square feet, that’s a lot of sustainable bang for your buck.

Yale’s Center for Ecosystems in Architecture worked directly with Gray Organschi Architecture on the design, fabrication, and installation of the Ecological Living Module.
Courtesy UN Environment
An exterior plant wall supports micro-farming.

For now, the Ecological Living Module lives at UN Plaza in New York City as a proof of concept, but the team has plans to build another iteration that’s designed to respond to different climatic conditions, like extreme temperatures in Kenya, home of UN Environment.