Sunday, July 8, 2012


Architecture is complex world. Some architects are interested in scholarly theoretical ideas, others use technology and science in their work. Some architects seek suitable and environmentally appropriate buildings, and a few strive to make their buildings as different, surreal, or unusual as possible. Architecture can be approached through any scope of design and with an innumerable set of intents or ideas. Architecture school is very much the same way. One studies classical architecture, mathematics and structures, while learning representation, analytical, and theoretical methodologies. Scholarly architecture studio projects involve the design of whole buildings which carries many dialogs discussing the building’s being and the things that make it be. However there always remains the very clear discrepancy between theory and practice, the scholastic world of architecture and the built world of architecture.

In my opinion the best architects are those who know both design and construction. John Floan at Carnegi Mellon University School of Architecture in Pittsburgh has done several successful projects in the Southwestern US. He has created houses for economically deprived Native Americans that are stylish, functional with all modern amenities, and suited to the climate and available passive strategies. Furthermore the layouts of the homes cater to the values and family structure of its inhabitants while adding appraised economic wealth. With John’s work, students undertake both the drawing and construction of the projects. They learn hands on the value of architecture through the both aspects of the profession, design & construction.

In our thesis we would like to bring design build close to home for Cincinnati using another design/ build practitioner’s ideals. Bryan Bell and The SEED Network show the process to create Social, Economic, & Environmental Design in a community. We will partner with a non-profit as our operations umbrella and follow SEED’s guidelines. Our umbrella could be Habitat for Humanity or a Local Church, they will help us acquire a 1200-1500 sf home in need of restoration and find a deserving family to move into it when it is complete. They will be the name under which we can get skilled labor & fundraising an identity. Nathan and I will facilitate the project and contribute most of the labor, and lead the fundraising campaign, we just need an established, charitable organization to work under.

For the existing home we are looking for a good shell and plan on renovating most of the interior utilities. For electrical we are looking for relatively new service with an ample electrical panel. We can re wire convenience outlets and upgrade fixtures easily.  It is unknown how much plumbing will need to be modified, but pex and pvc lines are relatively cheap and inexpensive, we are prepared to redo everything for main supply to main drain. The HVAC will certainly be outdated, compared to todays ~95% efficient furnaces, so we will have to find an HVAC contractor as another major donor, or fundraise for its professional installation. Architecturally we will rework interior walls to create a living environment that accommodates the family. It is unknown what the family’s needs are, but it is possible we will have to create extra bedroom(s) in such a small house. We will also strive for flexible areas that can be adjusted at different times of the day by the residents as they need for the activity at hand. We can also model and analyze the house using advanced software and, implement passive strategies making the residence the a more economical and environmentally friendly building to operate. We will seek donations from Ikea, Home Depot, Lowes, Ace and all smaller retailers for building materials and fixtures. Under the non-profit operation umbrella we hope to be able to offer charitable donation tax write-offs to all material and monetary donors (the operation umbrella also eliminates the payment of sales tax on bought items and property exchanges). 

For assistance, the consultants and experts are already in place at UC and our previous employers; they can help answer technical questions and know the city and its businesses very well. During Mike’s upcoming Summer Co-Op he will be in Cincinnati, he can make connections, fundraise, and stockpile materials. For further fundraising and we will ask local ad and marketing companies to promote the project, perhaps they can ask businesses outside the construction industry to offer services in exchange for free advertising. At festivals & events we will inform the community of the project and find labor and financial help.  

Mike has worked on an ABC extreme home makeover house for the Dickinson Family with Court Atkins Architects in Beaufort South Carolina and The Joe Kaluza Project with Sam Pitzulo homes in Youngstown Ohio. He knows how to implement this work on site with a hammer and in an office with a telephone. Nate holds degrees in both architecture and construction systems management. He has worked for Turner construction, one of the largest construction management companies in the world and as well as a few local contractors in central Ohio. If this team starts now on the project we can find our operation umbrella, the family, and the house before the 9 month ‘thesis period’ even begins. While we work on the design and modeling in thesis studio, we can begin the demo and simple repairs to the house on site.

Together we know how to market the project, where to find the money, professional advice and material. We can Jump design build right into UC & Cincinnati Non-Profits with a local project. What we learn can be published as a how too manual for the school’s and community’s use. And when were done, we will have given the most gracious gift a community can give to a distressed family, a health new home.

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