2019

Affordable Housing Studio

My Role

Design Research

Credits

Timmy Aziz, Architectural Design Chair and Professor, Passive

House Consultant

About the Project

The role of housing in West Baltimore is complicated. While many agencies working to remediate the vacancies have different theories of change, our studio focused on extending the work of Prof. Timmy Aziz in scoping what the intersection of sustainability and rehabilitation using Passive House standards.

Research

Over the course of two months, myself and the four other student researchers conducted site visits across West Baltimore and with anchor institutions. Particular was the relationship with Bon Secour, a hospital which branched into building affordable housing for people in West Baltimore.

Additionally, it was important to understand the role of sustainability, and so, other content experts and architects were brought in to consult.

Community Outreach

As a class, we collectively synthesized and worked to better understand the themes and tensions arising from our research. Namely, that of what sustainability means — on a block level and on a personal level. 

We left the class working with a grass roots housing collective who was in the process of scoping new initiatives for affordable housing in the city. Our presentation deck is included below.

Lingering questions

Because the aim of the class was getting to build out architectural renderings, I do still have some questions for the principles and continued research into this space:

Is it right to put the burden on Affordable housing alone?

While I agree with the idea that demolition ignores the embodied carbon in buildings, I don't know the I agree with the burden being on low-income residents alone.

What about the block level?

One of the major themes we returned to was the idea of regenerative practice as a block. While better insulated homes can drive down utility bills, the biggest changes observed came when neighbors banded together to establish practices.

I think more emphasis and uplifting needs to be done around the spaces which already succeed in community building and organizing: our gardens.

Can people live in it?

A story sticks with me from this project that I return to time and again. When on our site visit, the building manager disclosed that they had put in high efficiency washers to help integrate sustainable measures into the unit. The manager was shocked, though, as residents kept filling the machines up with water. The manager lost more in fixing the machines than he saved in water costs.

At what point can sustainability succeed if we don't build it with the people?