We were extraordinarily lucky on this project to have had our local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) contact us to offer their help with the design of a home. A group of about ten local architects and Habitat staff got together for a charrette session to design the home using Habitat’s mandated house design criteria, which limit size and amenities to maintain affordability. One of the guiding principals we used was that we wanted to build a home that didn’t look like a “Habitat home”. Often, to keep homes affordable and easy to build, Habitat affiliates (including ours) have used stock plans that were designed for maximum utility with little attention paid to the look of the home and how it will compliment its surroundings. The result of these “ugly houses” has unfortunately been the myth in the eyes of some that Habitat for Humanity is a low-quality builder, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The AIA members were able to use their expertise in attractive design to help us work in low-cost options for giving the home a sense of style and place.
The floor plan below shows the layout of the home, with bedrooms and bath on one side and a large, open living space and kitchen on the other. The home is about 1100 square feet in size, and incorporates universal design elements, making the home visitable to persons with disabilities, as well as easily adaptable to full accessibility if necessary. This allows for a family to live in the home longer as they age without substantial, costly renovation. Some of the elements of this design include 36″ wide doors on all rooms, wider hallways, a bathroom with room for wheelchair access and plumbing in the wall should the vanity need to be converted to wall-hung, and one no-step entry into the home.
In order to increase usable living space, the furnace and heat-recovery ventilation unit (HRV) will be installed in a completely conditioned attic room accessed by a pull-down stair unit in the laundry area. This room in the attic will be super-sealed and insulated so that it falls within the thermal envelope of the home, and also serves as storage for the family’s belongings. The water heater will be a hybrid, wall-mounted unit made by Eternal (model GU120), installed in a closet adjacent to the bathtub. This location places the water heater in very close proximity to the fixtures using the most hot water: the bath and laundry. In fact, except for the kitchen sink, the hot water lines to each fixture are all less than 12 feet long, with a few being just a couple feet long. This ensures less wasted water and much faster hot water at the fixtures.
In the design process, effort was also made to try to conserve resources through smart design. The home’s dimensions are all in 2 foot and 4 foot increments (not shown on the plan below), which match the dimensions of common building materials, therefore creating less job site waste. In fact, the pitch of the roof (6/12) and overhangs (22 inches) worked out so that the distance from the eave to the peak is almost exactly 18 feet, meaning that it will take 4-1/2 sheets of roof decking to span to the top, eliminating waste from odd-sized cuts.
Note: the drawing below was not done by the architects involved in the project, but rather by our construction staff because we had a very tight time frame to get a building permit. This is not a representation of their work 🙂