Wealth-generating, flat-pack solar houses and a profit-sharing scheme that incentivizes retrofitting are bringing sustainable living to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
“One of the biggest problems that we see right now is (the creation of) a big gap between the lower and the middle classes. Everyone is talking about this growing inequality gap,” said Bart Glowacki, co-founder of SOLACE, a start-up based in Warsaw, Poland, set up with the aim of making sustainable housing widely affordable.
Tighter mortgage controls, job insecurity and high student debts in Europe have meant that it is increasingly difficult for young people to buy their own homes.
“Ordinary people are no longer able to afford their basic needs. Millennials, who are the future leaders, can’t even afford an apartment or a house,” said Glowacki.
Yet, as inequality grows, public awareness about the environment, climate change, energy efficiency, and sustainability are on the rise. According to a 2017 Eurobarometer climate change report, about three-quarters of Europeans believe climate change is a serious problem while 90% have taken actions to combat it.
With these issues in mind, SOLACE has developed an energy-neutral flat-pack house targeted at people aged between 28 to 38.
SOLACE makes, sells and ships the house parts. Right now, they have built one house that will serve as an exhibition model for potential clients, but Glowacki says that small-scale production will start soon and they hope to secure more funding to scale up.
SOLACE’s house costs €25,000 and is delivered in a package of about 6m long. It can be assembled by four people using a crane, but the start-up supplies assembly teams if required. The house consists of a small kitchen, a 20m2 living-dining room and a small bathroom on the ground floor, and a mezzanine level bedroom.
While other flat-pack houses exist, SOLACE’s innovation is a roof of solar panels which powers the home but also earns income for the homeowner by producing surplus energy which in certain countries can then be sold to the local power grid.
“We believe that SOLACE house is the first house in Europe that actually can produce more energy than the average family consumes,” said Głowacki, although he admits that customers in countries with less sun exposure during the winter months would only benefit from reduced environmental impact and energy bills.
Read more: Flat-pack homes and profit-sharing retrofits are making sustainable housing affordable
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