2013 Recipient | AIA/HUD Secretary's Awards

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New Accessible Passive Solar Housing | Notes of Interest

This project, for a small public housing authority, responded to a need to provide affordable accessible housing that could be used as a model for future development. In addition, the project had to embody the spirit of universal design principles by meeting high standards for energy efficiency and passive solar heating.

Every element of the buildings as well as the site was designed to meet ADA and state accessibility requirements. The sloping topography of the site was carefully graded to ensure all the inclines were below 5 percent and to avoid the ramps and double railings that often make accessible buildings seem cut off from the surrounding landscape. Other issues concerning quality of life, connections to the outdoors, and responses to climate were viewed as just as important as the regulatory requirements.

Entries are sheltered by simple pitched roofs, which have been lifted, warped, and folded to welcome in the sun and provide shade in the summer. South-facing windows bring in the low winter sun, and deciduous trees and broad overhangs provide summer shade. Terraces serve as outdoor rooms that help create a sense of community. The deep floor plates of the side-by-side apartments are lit from above by clerestories and interior windows that bring the sun into every room, hallway, and bathroom. Artificial lighting is never needed during the day, and blue sky and green trees are visible in every direction.

High-density foam insulation, high-performance windows, and radiant heating in the concrete floors keep the apartments comfortable and minimize energy usage. Despite the small size of the two- and three-bedroom apartments, the open plan and high ceilings create a sense of spaciousness. Changes in fenestration and ceiling height delineate the separate eating and living areas. Kitchens look out to the street, and living rooms face the woods to the south. Bathrooms and hallways are clustered in the middle.

Additional Credit

  • Builder: MCM USA Inc.
  • Consultant – Color: THEREdesign
  • Engineer – MEP: Norian/Siani Engineering
  • Engineer – Structural: Lim Consultants
  • Funder: MA Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Landscape Architect: Schreiber Associates

Photo Credit

  • © Bruce Martin 

New Accessible Passive Solar Housing

Category Four: Housing Accessibility  |  Alan J. Rothman

Jury Comments

This is good planning and good architecture—it accomplishes much with little. It provides occupants with dignity and a sense of feeling they are in a special place.

This is an extraordinary building. What a great step forward it would be if every housing accessibility group modeled their projects after this one.

2013 AIA/HUD Secretary's Awards Jury

  • Kathleen Dorgan, AIA, Chair
  • Dorgan Architecture & Planning
  • Storrs, Connecticut
  • Luis Borray, Assoc. AIA
  • U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Elizabeth A. Cocke
  • U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
  • Washington, D.C.
  • John Isch, AIA
  • RWA Architects, Inc.
  • Cincinnati
  • R. Thomas Jones, AIA
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Stephen Sharpe, Hon. AIA
  • Austin, Texas
  • Charles L. Travis, AIA
  • The Housing Studio, P.A.
  • Charlotte

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