For years Auburn University students at the design school’s Rural Studio have been working on a problem that until now was impossible to solve – “How do you design a home that someone living below the poverty line can afford, but that anyone would want—while also providing a living wage for the local construction team that builds it?”
Well, with the first two prototypes under their belts they’ve realized one of the issues – developing more efficient building methods to minimize building costs. The materials in these homes costs just $14k.
(More pictures and the article quoted here are available at this link from FastCompany)
Says Rusty Smith, Associate Director of the studio, “the houses are designed to appear to be sort of normative, but they’re really high-performance little machines in every way. They’re built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements. … We’re using material much more efficiently.”
However, the larger issue now is how to take a house that is completely different than normal and fit it into the standards of zoning, codes, how contractors do their jobs, and even mortgages. Smith states “the problem is your local code official doesn’t understand that. They look at the documents, and the house is immediately denied a permit simply because the code officials didn’t understand it.”
Their solution to the zoning and code issues has been to devise an “IKEA-like” set of instructions and documents specifically for local municipalities and building inspectors that details how the houses exceed all building codes. The issues with labor, banks, insurance and mortgages have to do with scale. The houses are either too small or too cheap to fit into normal guidelines. The group has been working with the various groups to design customized packages that take care of these issues resulting in new insurance and mortgage products designed for extremely small, inexpensive houses.
As it turns out, in order to provide a living wage to the contractors, the final price may end up higher than $20k, depending on area, but you can certainly do a majority of the work yourself and come in under that amount.
We’ve been following the Tiny Home movement for some time and a way to provide those under the poverty line with affordable housing is an interest of ours. We’re excited about the work they’ve done at Rural Studio and will be following this story…