November 11, 2020 Architecture Students Address Housing Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light many critical issues in America, including the fragility of housing, and two studios in the School of Architecture are addressing the issue head on.

Distinguished Lecturer James Rose is leading a 4th-year Integrations Studio to define new types of housing that use less energy and fewer resources, are less expensive and appeal to cities, builders and occupants, alike.

Using a block on Knoxville’s Gay Street as a site, teams of 2-3 students are conceptually designing various types of multi-unit, mixed-use housing structures in the heart of the city. Teams are challenged to design-in better space use and energy efficiency while introducing lower construction costs and economic benefits to the occupants.

In all, teams are designing microhousing, co-housing, energy-plus housing, live/work housing and urban farms. Each type must provide financial benefits while addressing challenges with site, culture, climate and demographics to achieve quality-of-life solutions.

headshot of Jared Mullins

“My group decided to tackle this mission by employing an ‘Energy Plus’ design strategy and modular construction methods,” said student Jared Mullins. “These units are effectively self-sufficient in both energy use and energy production…and partnered with the modular construction, allow for the adaptation of the building to fit the needs of its inhabitants throughout its lifetime.”

Students are learning to look to architecture for ways to address issues in society to improve quality of life.

“I believe that it is not only important for architecture to address needs in society, but it also is our responsibility as designers to identify problems and make decisions to better enhance the lives of others,” Mullins said. “My favorite thing about architecture is that it is not partial to one person over another; in fact, it becomes a unifier between different cultures, beliefs and ideals. The scope of our work stretches far beyond the walls of a building, reaching out into the community to engage the needs of others.”

Similarly, in Professor Marleen Davis’s 3rd-year Architecture studio, students also are addressing the critical societal issue of affordable housing. Using a section of Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville as a site, students are designing mixed-use buildings and investigating innovative and affordable pre-fabrication construction techniques.

Through the practice of designing architecture to reduce the economic burden of housing, our students are learning that architecture can be used to ameliorate issues in society to improve quality of life for our region and world.

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