2012 Recipient | AIA Housing Awards

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Live Work Home | Notes of Interest

Winner of the “From the Ground Up” Competition, the LEED-Platinum-certified home considers the longevity and livelihood of the Near West Side of Syracuse, N.Y., a shrinking city affected by the migration of significant industry throughout the 20th century. Today, the neighborhood faces high unemployment rates and lacks space for creative industry. Affordable housing alone does not respond to the needs of the neighborhood; its vitality as a community is a question of sustaining livelihoods and the social diversity. Just as pockets of extreme blight and vacant lots can weaken a neighborhood, adding density to the small-lot patterns of Near West Side with mixed social and economic activity will re-energize the community.

Grounded in ideas of healthy living and biophilia—our innate human need to connect with the natural world—the home is also a response to Syracuse’s climate and ecology. The city’s long, light-starved winters make daylighting a top priority, thus the house is placed to maximize solar exposure, lit with daylight from skylight tubes. A perforated screen, inspired by the pattern of dappled light filtering through trees, wraps the western and northern facades and bounces daylight into the house. An oversize, garage-type front door can fold down to engage the sidewalk and street, creating an open-air anteroom of “prospect and refuge.”

Long-term operational affordability and low-tech passive strategies were of prime consideration during the design process when addressing the needs of a diverse population of potential occupants, including students and aging residents. A high-performance building envelope constructed of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) saves energy, improves comfort, and reduces both construction waste and on going costs of ownership. A heat recovery ventilator circulates healthy, filtered air year-round, and efficient, hot water-based heating is delivered through a radiant floor, which also allows maximum flexibility in room planning.

A local nonprofit managed the construction process, which included training for a team of construction apprentices, cultivating a workforce for future sustainable building projects, and creating much-needed green-collar jobs. Homeowners moved in in November 2010 and use the home’s flexible layout to house an environmental consulting business, a small office space, and personal living space for the couple. In practice, the home will function as a modern response to Syracuse’s 21st century concerns as a post-industrial American city.

Additional Credit

  • Consultant: Northeast Green Building Consulting, LLC; Terrapin Bright Green, LLC
  • Engineer: Severud Associates; Arup; Jaros, Baum & Bolles
  • Landscape Architecture: Terrain

Photo Credit

  • © Cook + Fox Architects

Live Work Home

Category Two: One and Two Family Production Homes

Jury Comments

Flexibility of the design to accommodate the different users of the space is a strong component of the prototype. It considers the conditions of different possible users where only a quarter of households now are traditional nuclear families.

The materials are nicely exposed. It works and creates privacy in a tight space. It seems like it will wear well over time, which can’t often be said of inexpensive housing.

2012 AIA Housing Awards Jury

  • Sandra A. LaFontaine, AIA, Chair
  • LaFontaine Architecture and Design
  • Worthington, Ohio
  • Allison Arieff
  • New York Times
  • San Francisco
  • Sara E. Caples, AIA
  • Caples Jefferson Architects
  • New York City
  • Jerome King, FAIA
  • The Office of Jerome King
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • Bill Moore, AIA
  • Sprocket Design Build, Inc.
  • Denver

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