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DESIGNhabitat Project — Group

Auburn University, Auburn, AL

Photo of David Hinson accepted the award on behalf of all the faculty, students, and community members involved with DESIGNhabitat.

David Hinson accepted the award on behalf of all the faculty, students, and community members involved with DESIGNhabitat.

The DESIGNhabitat program is an ongoing collaboration between the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (APLA) and the Alabama Association of Habitat Affiliates (AAHA). From its inception in 2001, this collaboration has applied the energy and talents of APLA’s faculty and students to the challenge of designing and constructing high-quality, affordable housing.

Embedding sustainable design best-practice into the homes built by Habitat for Humanity (HFH) affiliates has been a primary objective of the program since its inception. The program shows affiliates how to conserve energy via design strategies tailored to the region’s climate, and how to use sustainability principles, like passive solar, to reduce the use of energy-consuming heating and cooling systems.

The DESIGNhabitat program has advanced this objective using three strategies:

  1. Designing and constructing DESIGNhabitat homes in semester-long design-build studios,
  2. working with HFH affiliates to construct DESIGNhabitat homes chosen from a portfolio of prototypes developed by students, and
  3. serving as an expert consultant to affiliates working to achieve green building certification for their constructed homes.

DESIGNhabitat 1 produced the first Energy Star certified home built by HFH in Alabama in 2002, and subsequent rounds of collaboration have pushed sustainable construction values deeper into HFH culture.

From 2009 to 2011, Alabama affiliates constructed 75 Energy Star certified homes, raising the overall percentage of Energy Star homes from just a few in 2008 to almost 35% of homes by 2011.  Since then, APLA and AAHA have partnered to create the Green Home program, supporting construction of another thirty Energy Star homes. The latest round of collaboration (DESIGNhabitat 9) will develop a “”net zero”” home in partnership with Lee County HFH.

The DESIGNhabitat program has had a tremendous impact on HFH affiliates across Alabama. As a direct result, green building programs (Energy Star, LEED, Green Key, etc.) have become normal practice in home construction within the majority of HFH affiliates in Alabama. Hundreds of HFH homeowner families are enjoying these benefits, and hundreds of HFH volunteers have become more aware of the positive impacts of more sustainable construction methods.

The DESIGNhabitat program has provided over 65 Auburn architecture students with a high-impact learning experience. In addition to deep immersion in the details of energy-conscious design, students learn how to work effectively with each other and with a community client. The experience also cultivates an ethic of service and community engagement in their professional lives.

The DESIGNhabitat Program has earned significant external recognition. Examples include: An American Institute of Architects (AIA) / Associate of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Housing Education Award (2010), the AIA Education Honor Award (2008), two ACSA Collaborative Practice Awards (2002 & 2007), a national AIA Housing Design Award (2007), an AIA Alabama Honor Award (2006), and a HUD Secretary’s Silver Award for Excellence in Affordable Housing (2002).