Providing decent housing for Europe’s ageing population is one of the key challenges for the future. According to demographic projections, the proportion of elderly people aged 65 and over will increase steadily, accounting for more than 60 % of the global population increase over the next 25 years. (UN World Social Report 2023)
Society faces challenges in reconciling effective care for the elderly and the provision of decent housing. On average, around 15 % of the elderly around Europe rely on long-term care outside of hospital. (OECD Health Statistics) In Central and Eastern Europe, this care is implemented through the concentration of the elderly in institutions. Unlike most healthcare costs in the EU that are covered by social protection systems, financing long-term institutional social care often falls upon the elderly or their relatives. (Eurostat)
Large buildings are built or old and expensive buildings, such as castles, are used where large numbers of elderly people are concentrated. This significantly reduces their wellbeing and further involvement in social life. This situation is also unsatisfactory for public budgets. Investment in large buildings is costly and operation is inefficient. Old buildings are often energetically inefficient, resulting in a significantly larger carbon footprint. Also, the economics of such building are dependent on the price of fossil fuels.
Our solution is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between engineers and social scientists. We have designed a new type of sustainable housing that is low-cost, low-carbon, self-sufficient (equipped with photovoltaics, water recycling and aquaponics). This solution significantly reduces investment and operating costs. Compared to conventional buildings, investment costs are about 1/3 and operating costs about 1/2 depending on the price of wood, which is our key raw material. At the same time, we believe that technological innovations cannot work effectively without evaluating the wellbeing impact of the target groups. That is why we combine technical solutions with research on the impact on the elderly. Using living labs and real-life cases, we want to deliver a comprehensive solution that will address building utilization monitoring, optimization of supportive care and integration into daily life.
We want to set the solution in the institutional and cultural context of the CEE countries, which is our primary market.
Our solution fulfils the following SDG objectives:
1.Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – we focus on solutions for the elderly who are at risk of various types of poverty after retirement, not only income poverty but also energy poverty, which shows to be more likely for older people living alone. Over 10 % of senior households composed of a single adult face some aspect of energy poverty. (Eurostat)
2. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation – our solution has a transformative potential for the construction industry, CEE countries are characterized by a very low share of green public procurement, this expenditure accounts for about 15% of GDP, the construction sector also generates about 40% of the carbon footprint as non-eco-friendly materials such as concrete and bricks are used, our solution based on innovative wood-based construction can help transform the whole sector
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – our houses are low energy (photovoltaic, water filtration), safe and inclusive (will be designed, sited to meet the requirement of target groups)
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns – the vast majority of materials used for construction are fully recyclable
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development – partnership is a key part of our projects, in our case it has several dimensions: partnership between STEM and social sciences, partnership between private sector, public sector and universities.