Habitat/20K Project Dedication: Where Collaboration and Research Meet
It was a typical hot and humid morning in southern Alabama. Cars began to line Stevens Street a little before 9:00, and soon there was a crowd of people of all ages in front of a simple but sturdy-looking new house. But this was Auburn-Opelika Habitat for Humanity’s 66th Home Dedication Ceremony, and the house in question was far from typical.
The first of its kind in Alabama and only the second in the region, the Robinson’s House is built to strict standards which aim to maximize energy efficiency and lower annual ownership costs. Led by Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction faculty, more than thirty students from eight different states and three different countries worked on designing and building the Robinson Family’s new home. The new homeowner, Michelle Robinson, worked alongside students and Habitat volunteers in the construction process.
“Rural Studio’s 20K Initiative aims to expand the definition of affordable housing by lowering energy expenses, insurance expenses, and mortgage expenses,” said Architecture Professor David Hinson, one of the project’s leaders. “We’re taking what we’ve learned from building these houses and disseminating this throughout the South,” he continued. The Robinson’s house is built to meet the requirements of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). More specifically, this means that the structure is very well-sealed and insulated, utilizes a special ventilation system known as “active ventilation,” features high-performance windows which are triple glazed to prevent energy loss, and contains energy efficient technology such as LED lighting and energy efficient appliances. The house was thoughtfully designed and constructed in order to further improve its efficiency, and the predicted annual energy savings will amount to 60-75%.
When it was time for Mrs. Robinson and her daughter to come forward and be presented with the key, a gentle hush settled over the crowd. Through quiet tears, she thanked everyone for coming and all those involved in the project as the sunlight continued to glisten on the dewy grass behind her. Members from the Auburn-Opelika community presented housewarming gifts and hugs. Architecture students came forward to speak to Mrs. Robinson and take photos. Smiles abounded, and the impact of research and spirit of collaboration could be seen and felt by all.