Auburn University‘s Rural Studio, an undergraduate program that focuses on designing well-built, low-cost housing for the poor across three counties of Alabama, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this 2013-14 academic year. Since 1993, Rural Studio has been recycling, reusing, remaking and using local materials while maintaining the belief that both rich and poor deserve good design. In honor of 20 successful years of helping Alabama’s rural poor, Rural Studio will, for the first time, design eight 20K Houses in one year- and they need your help.
Rural Studio built its first 20K House in 2005, under the direction of Andrew Freear, and has since become an ongoing research program. The objective of the 20K House project was “to design and build a model home that could be reproduced on a large scale by a contractor and built for $20,000, thus addressing the need for affordable housing.” The 20K figure was chosen because it was considered the highest realistic mortgage possible for someone living off Social Security and is usually divided into two parts: $10-12,000 for materials and $8-10,000 for labor.
Being far more durable than the countless house trailers that dot Hale County and capable of doubling in value within 1.5 years, the houses are simple but extremely well thought-out. They take far less energy to heat or cool by incorporating techniques such as passive cooling through cross-ventilation and they incorporate safe and dual uses, such as a large concrete closet that can double as a tornado-safe room.
According to architect Marion McElroy, “students in Rural Studio can spend four days discussing the placement of a refrigerator” – a clear indication of the care taken in designing each home. The program trains Auburn students to become “citizen architects” who understand that everyone deserves “shelter for the soul” – words used by the program’s co-founder, the late Samuel Mockbee. Architects weren’t meant to be “house pets for the rich,” he used to tell them, and that thought has certainly stuck with Rural Studio to this day.
Rural Studio invites everyone to be a part of its 20th anniversary celebration and needs your support to reach its $160,000 goal by December 6, 2013. Adopt-A-20K is the Rural Studio online fundraising campaign that offers twelve adoption options from a 2×4 to a whole $20K House. A donation of any amount, received on behalf of Rural Studio by the Auburn University Foundation, helps to build a home for a family today and to educate the citizen architects of tomorrow.
For more information on making a tax-deductible donation in support of Rural Studio, visit supportruralstudio.com or contact Natalie Butts at email@example.com. To see how the fundraising is going, check Rural Studio’s blog every week.