Homeward bound

Less than four months ago, a wood-and-metal home on 20 King Place was nothing more than a dream of 64 Yale architecture students.

Yesterday at 5:30 p.m., the Yale School of Architecture dedicated the building as its 2008 first-year building project. The house, designed for occupancy by a low-income, disabled veteran, is the 20th affordable home the architecture school has built for members of the New Haven community, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said.

A house designed by first-year architecture students boasts energy efficiency, handicap accessibility and a second-floor loft that will be rented out.
Aileen Agricola
A house designed by first-year architecture students boasts energy efficiency, handicap accessibility and a second-floor loft that will be rented out.

“We, as a school, hope to make a positive, cohesive impact on the King Place neighborhood,” Stern said.

After the city of New Haven selected the site, the class of architecture students began designing the structure during the spring of this year. Seven teams developed seven distinct designs for the location, and one was selected by a competition review board. The winning design was then refined by the entire class, and the project broke ground in mid-May, building project director and architecture professor Adam Hopfner said.

The new structure at 20 King Place features wheelchair accessibility, sustainable construction materials and household utilities that produce renewable energy. The building design includes a ramp for entry into the home. Wooden planks recycled from tables inside the newly renovated Art & Architecture Building serve as the steps for a stairway leading up to the home’s second-floor loft. Solar panels installed on the roof by Sunlight Solar Energy Incorporated circulate electricity through the building.

“A major feature of this home is its sustainability,” Hopfner said. “It’s something we worked hard to achieve.”

Hopfner explained that the home is specifically designed for a veteran. The School of Architecture partnered with Common Ground Community, a nonprofit that helps low-income people find housing. Common Ground will help find a disabled veteran whose needs fit the home, Common Ground Director David Beer said.

The building’s design allows for two families to occupy the structure. The ground floor in itself is a complete three-bedroom home. The second-floor loft can be rented out, and the rental money will go toward paying off the house’s mortgage, Stern said.

Dozens of people gathered for the building dedication last night, including a number of students who had contributed to the project. Kate Thatcher ARC ’10, a member of the nine-person team whose design was chosen, said she was happy with the concrete results of their designs.

“We managed the project well,” Thatcher said. “We kept all the family space on the first floor, included a slanted ceiling, and used black cedar paneling on the walls. The whole team is happy with it.”

The architecture students were required to follow certain criteria, including that the building be wheelchair-accessible and rectangular in its shape, Stern said.

The cost of the home construction was partially subsidized through fundraising organized by a group of architecture students. The fundraising focused more on obtaining construction materials than raising money to purchase them, said Helen Brown ARC ’10, co-director of fundraising for the building project.

“We made phone calls, wrote letters and paid visits to possible donors to the project,” Brown said. “We really had to balance what we were able to work with and what we wanted to design.”

The list of contributors included the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, which donated the cedar siding for the building, and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which paid for a portion of the solar-paneling. The University also assisted with the costs, Brown said.

A group of 20 students and faculty stayed to work at the site from the end of June to August. During those two months, the home was transformed from being framed and partially roofed to its present stage. The dedication last night marked its completion.

The same lot will be the site of the 2009 and 2010 first-year building projects.

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