A look at just a few of the many recent university design-build projects that are giving architecture students across the country real-world lessons on how buildings get made.
Texas Tech University
Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond and Le Corbusier’s Cabanon in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in Southern France, the Sustainable Cabin, a prefab dwelling created to test and quantify sustainable architectural concepts, is Texas Tech’s first built project for the school’s design-build program, which began in 2008. The project is a study of minimal spatial needs for living, as well as a laboratory for testing and measuring the performance of green systems, such as photovoltaics, compost toilets, and rainwater harvesting. Texas Tech’s College of Visual and Performing Arts contributed the cabin’s art.
Montana State University
Montana State University’s School of Architecture students, though not yet with a formal design-build program, have been involved in hands-on projects locally, statewide, and internationally for the past eight to 10 years, as part of the university’s outreach mission. Projects have included a park shelter at a campground north of Yellowstone National Park, the Khumbu Climbing School, a sustainable building where Sherpas can learn safe climbing skills, in Phortse, Nepal, and a renovation of the Igherm (or Casbah) in Zawiya Ahansal, Morocco. The school’s latest project, completed this fall, is the Hyalite Pavilion, a 1,000-square-foot pavilion structure designed to facilitate activities at its location along the Hyalite Reservoir in the Gallatin National Forest, south of Bozeman. The project won a 2010 AIA Montana Honor Award.
University of Virginia
Since 1999, architecture students at the University of Virginia have been designing and building real-world projects, first as campus improvement initiatives at the university itself and then through ecoMOD, a design-build-evaluate partnership of the UVA School of Architecture and School of Engineering and Applied Science that creates prefab, environmentally sound modular houses for affordable housing organizations. Six ecoMOD houses have been built for Piedmont Housing Alliance and Habitat for Humanity since the program’s inception in 2004. Recently completed is ecoMOD4, the Thru House, built for an Afghan refugee family in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture’s Urban Design Build Studio’s mission since 2008 has been to develop regionally specific, climate appropriate building technologies for neighborhoods in Allegheny County. So far, the program has produced one completed project, the Hamnett Homestead Sustainable Living Center, a community center and urban farm. Another project, CAFÉ 524, a net-zero adaptive reuse project that will house a nonprofit business incubator and a for-profit café, is currently under construction. A third, the Leslie Park Pool, an adaptive reuse project, is in the design phase.
University of Arkansas
Little Rock Prefab, a 1,260-square-foot house addressing issues of sustainable design and affordability in the context of inner-city America, and the Outdoor Classroom, a project that provides a new outdoor teaching space at an urban elementary school, are the latest of 16 built projects created by students participating in the school’s design-build program since it began in 1999. All projects serve the community as part of the program’s Tectonic Landscapes initiative, which focuses on creating inspiring built projects in small, unremarkable, and often forgotten places.
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