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The DESIGNhabitat Program Continues to Evolve

Photo Collage of DESIGNhabitat houses

The DESIGNhabitat program is an ongoing collaboration between the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture and the Alabama Association of Habitat Affiliates (AAHA). Initiated in 2001 by Professor David Hinson, the program has provided a venue for the active engagement of Auburn University students and faculty in the many challenges presented in the design and construction of affordable housing. Working with AAHA and Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state and region, the DESIGNhabitat program has involved students in a  series of courses and studios designed to investigate a range of specific design and construction challenges faced by Habitat Affiliates and Habitat homeowners. These initiatives have provided AAHA with design exploration and construction technology research that the organization is not positioned to answer on its own. Additionally the teaching methodologies used in these initiatives have been designed to provide a valuable educational venue for cultivating community engagement and service, communication and leadership skills, and design research skills for students involved in these collaborations.

The DESIGNhabitat program has cycled through four rounds of design-based research. DESIGNhabitat 1 (Hinson) and DESIGNhabitat 2.0 & 2.1 (led by Hinson and Stacy Norman) conducted valuable research into the means and methods of construction employed by Habitat affiliates throughout the state. This research led to the construction of the first Energy Star Home in the state of Alabama (DESIGNhabitat 1) and investigated the implications of prefabrication upon the construction process of Habitat homes through the design and construction of two (DESIGNhabitat 2.0 & 2.1) modular Habitat homes. The most recent phase of the partnership,  DESIGNhabitat 3, led by Justin Miller, has incorporated the findings of the first two rounds of design research into the development of a new set of prototype home designs focused upon advanced energy conservation strategies and the incorporation of a range of partial prefabrication strategies for the construction of the prototypes.

In 2010, Hinson, Norman, and Miller received a national AIA/ACSA Housing Design Education Award for the cumulative impact of the DESIGNhabitat program (2001-2009). This national award, granted jointly by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) recognizes programs that “exemplify best practice in housing design education.”

 

DESIGNhabitat 3

The DESIGNhabitat 3 Studio (Spring 2009) was developed in response to an incentive grant program funded by the Home Depot Foundation and administered through Habitat for Humanity International via its state support organizations. The grants are designed to provide an incentive for affiliates to construct more energy efficient homes. Students in the DESIGNhabitat 3 Studio developed a set of prototypes aimed at providing affiliates with a design that would exceed the requirements of the incentive grant. Additionally the DESIGNhabitat 3 program sought to continue research into prefabrication strategies for Habitat homes, specifically focusing on issues questions posed by previous DESIGN habitat programs. The DESIGN habitat student team was comprised of fifteen (Third and Fourth year) architecture students and was led by Justin Miller, along with Karen McCauley, AAHA Executive Director,  and Alexander Bell, AAHA’s  Green Building Specialist.

The DESIGNhabitat 3 Studio was designed with three primary objectives:

1.  Integrate the energy performance expertise developed in the prior phases of the DESIGNhabitat program into the DESIGN habitat 3 prototypes.

2.  Exceed the energy efficiency requirements of the HFHI and Home Depot Foundation incentive funding (Energy Star baseline).

3.  Expand upon prior research into the mix of site and prefabrication delivery methods that were viable Habitat affiliates in the state and region and provide strategies for their incorporation in the DESIGNhabitat 3 prototypes.



The students began the project with a re-design of the DESIGNhabitat 1 prototype as an applied research project, which immersed the team into the design strategies and solutions of the prior students' work and served as an introduction to the DESIGN habitat program. Concurrently the students conducted research into energy performance metrics and prefabrication techniques in an effort to understand the performance characteristics of site and prefab construction systems.  The students continued their research while working in teams of three on a set of design prototypes for two-, three-, and four-bedroom homes. Collaborating closely with the AAHA State Sustainable Building Specialist, the students ran their designs through several simulation and design cycles that allowed the design work to be informed by performance data and to achieve the energy rating required to receive incentive grant funding. The students presented their prototypes to state affiliates at the AAHA state conference.  To date, three of the prototype designs developed in the DESIGNhabitat 3 studio have been constructed around the state. An additional two versionsof  prototypes developed in the studio  are being adapted for construction by  Habitat affiliates beginning in the late summer of 2012.

A number of the prototype homes developed in the DESIGNhabitat 3 Studio have been built by Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the period since the studio was concluded. Examples include:

DESIGNhabitat 3.1 (February 2010 – August 2011)

Coordinated the revision of a DESIGNhabitat 3.0 prototype design to meet the program brief of the Habitat homeowner and goals of the Habitat Affiliate (Escambia County Habitat for Humanity).  The house, located in Atmore, Alabama, is a two- bedroom one bathroom, 900 square foot home.  The prototype was selected due to its emphasis on energy conservation strategies as well as the design’s use of prefabrication methods (prefabricated wall panels and roof trusses), which the affiliate had not attempted on prior building efforts. Affiliate funded $56,000.

Project Partners: Alecia Glaize, Executive Director ECHFH,

Rusty Miller, Chair, Construction Committee, ECHFH.



DESIGNhabitat 3.2 (Feb 2011 - Oct 2011)

Coordinated the revision of prototype house drawings for Hale County Habitat for Humanity (HCHFH). The house (located in Greensboro, Alabama) is a two-bedroom, 930 square foot home built to replace the owner’s dilapidated existing house. The prototype was selected due to its emphasis on cooling strategies (primarily cross ventilation, day/night porches, radiant barrier roof, and light color) that appealed to the homeowner. Affiliate funded $55,000.

Project Partners: Pam Door, Executive Director HCHFH.



DESIGNhabitat 3.3 (August 2011 - January 2012)

At the request of the Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates and the Escambia County Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Executive Director a DESIGNhabitat 3 prototype house was revised to include a FEMA Safe Room. This inclusion of this family safety element necessitated the redrafting of the drawings of the house for the Escambia County Affiliate to incorporate the FEMA engineered Safe Room. The house (located in Atmore, Alabama) is a three bedroom, 1135 square foot house.  The prototype was selected due to its emphasis on prefabricated construction assemblies (the affiliate has adopted this approach following their construction of the DESIGNhabitat 3.1 house).

Affiliate funded $62,000.

Project Partners: Alecia Glaize, Executive Director ECHFH,

Rusty Miller, Chair, Construction Committee, ECHFH.



DESIGNhabitat 3.4 Escambia County (April 2012 - present)

The Escambia County Habitat for Humanity Affiliate was one of the recipients of the AAHA Sustainable Home Ownership Incentive grants, included as part of this grant is the technical and design assistance of the DESIGNhabitat faculty. The affiliate chose to use a DESIGNhabitat 3 prototype for this project, the house design was revised to exceed Energy Star standards. The house (located in Atmore, Alabama) is a three- bedroom, 1120 square foot house. The prototype was selected due to its emphasis on prefabricated construction assemblies and its ability to fit into the existing context.

Affiliate funded $65,000, est.

Project Partners: Alecia Glaize, Executive Director ECHFH,

Rusty Miller, Chair, Construction Committee, ECHFH,

Andy Bell, Sustainable Building Specialist, AAHA,

Page Ledbetter, Sustainable Building Specialist, AAHA



DESIGNhabitat 3.5 Lee County (June 2012 - present)

Coordinated the revision of a DESIGNhabitat 3.0 prototype design to meet the program brief of the Habitat homeowner and goals of the Lee County Habitat affiliate. The house, located in Auburn, Alabama, is a three-bedroom, one bathroom, 1,000 square foot home. The homeowner and executive director selected the prototype due to its emphasis on energy conservation strategies as well as its ability to address the single mother’s concerns regarding the home’s relationship with the site. Affiliate funded $60,000, est.

Project Partners: Mark Grantham, Executive Director ECHFH,

Andy Bell, Sustainable Building Specialist, AAHA,

Page Ledbetter, Sustainable Building Specialist, AAHA