LTU Students Design New House For Habitat for Humanity

SOUTHFIELD — Graduate architecture students in an advanced design studio at Lawrence Technological University are in the middle of a two-year project to create a new approach to housing design and construction for Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County that could become a future standard.

Work on this project will be on display at the “Hall House Full Scale” exhibition running Dec. 8-18 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Architecture building gallery (A210). The opening reception will be on Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 6-8 p.m.

The project began in the fall of 2014, and construction will finish soon after the prototype house’s foundation is poured in Commerce Township in the spring.

The task of designing a house to meet the needs of Habitat for Humanity clients has been embedded into the curriculum of this studio within the architecture master’s degree program at LTU. Associate Professor Scott Shall and Associate Professor Jim Stevens are leading the advanced design studio and coordinating the project with Habitat for Humanity managers.

The graduate students have met with owners of Habitat for Humanity houses and will continue to seek feedback throughout the design process. They’ve also met with appraisers and others involved in the real estate market.

“The students are learning the value of listening by talking to more constituents than architects usually do, and they’re doing it at an earlier stage in the design process,” Shall said.

Habitat has asked the students to come up with a house design that reduces the environmental footprint and cost yet increases the functionality and appraisal value of a three-bedroom house with one and a half bathrooms.

The students are attempting to save time and money on the construction site by utilizing the digital fabrication equipment and approaches of the makeLab in LTU’s College of Architecture and Design. They are designing and constructing some of the more expensive elements of the house in advance such as walls where the
utilities are located, kitchen and bathroom walls, and walls that have closets with built-in storage space.

Having those elements of the house built off-site and in advance should improve the efficiency of Habitat volunteer crews, especially during the winter months.

In the photo above, architecture graduate students Wei Jiang and Josh Thornton prepare to fabricate a cabinet door for Habitat for Humanity with a CNC milling tool in the makeLab of
LTU’s College of Architecture and Design. Photo courtesy LTU.

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