By Amy Ress
Habitat for Humanity believes that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. In 2009, the organization reached out to Public Architecture with an interest in exploring how they could better engage the design community to improve the design and construction process for their 1400 affiliates across the country.
Public Architecture saw their request as an opportunity to advocate that quality design could further Habitat’s mission. We used The 1% program to match a select group of architecture firms, recognized for their residential design excellence and commitment to public service, to work with Habitat affiliates vetted for their building track record and enthusiasm to partner with designers to bring innovation to their plans. Through the generous support of Formica and their commitment to advance the dialogue of sustainable affordable housing, the teams have been challenged to design and build a home that exceeds Habitat’s typical design and sustainability standards.
Five highly regarded architecture firms have been selected to participate in The 1% Habitat Initiative. They include:
To date, several of the firms are matched and in different phases of designing a new residential plan with affiliates:
el dorado is paired with Heartland Habitat for Humanity in Kansas City, Kansas to create a plan that gives the affiliate options to achieve new goals in sustainability and accessibility using low-tech strategies.
VJAA is partnering with Habitat for Humanity Detroit to attract families back to a neighborhood dating back to the early 20th century manufacturing boom that has long suffered from vacancies and blight.
MSME Architects is working with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where homes need to meet 150 mph wind and flood conditions, and still be accessible.
Min | Day has developed a concept for a modern patio house with a private courtyard. The loft-like interior opens to the courtyard to south and a roof overhang helps with solar performance in both summer and winter.
As partners in this process, Public Architecture, firms, and affiliates share three objectives:
- Projects must be aesthetically successful, durable and low maintenance in addition to being a valuable addition to their local context.
- The plans should provide affiliates with a sustainability knowledge base and use strategies such as documentation of specifications and installation details to demonstrate how to maximize features and systems appropriate for volunteer-builder skill levels.
- Each home must exhibit innovation and design excellence to inspire the design community to become more engaged in working with Habitat and the broader affordable housing community.
All projects are responding to the need for flexible and accessible space as family sizes grow and more generations live under the same roof. In the end, each project brings different social and contextual challenges as well as the affiliate’s own design and building standards. At the completion of each project, Public Architecture hopes to have answers to the following questions: How can The 1% sustainably serve Habitat to meet their need for scalability? How do we inspire the design community to get involved? What challenges and opportunities exist in bringing together design firms and Habitat affiliates, two communities that historically have a spotty record of playing together?
Public Architecture is excited to share the outcome of The 1% Habitat Initiative, the partners’ unique experiences, and the built projects that will undoubtedly raise the bar of sustainable and affordable housing. Please stay tuned to The Public Dialogue for updates on the projects.