The Appalachia Project: Red Bird Water Kiosk

Students across the college use design/build to address great need while gaining real-world experience.

The Appalachia Project spans years and impacts many, not the least of whom are our students. Led by Prof. John McRae, FAIA, students in studio collaborated with other colleges across campus to understand need in the Appalachian Region and address that need through design innovation and sweat equity as they built what they designed.

In the Red Bird community of Clay County, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in the U.S., described by the New York Times as “the hardest place to live in the United States,” students addressed many needs in the county, including access to fresh water. Architecture, Interior Architecture and Landscape Architecture students designed and built a water distribution structure, containing two water dispensers, a covered area for a farmer’s market and a cistern for rainwater collection for use in the adjacent greenhouse.

Our nationally ranked design/build program is just one way we transform lives.

When UT’s architecture students started designing the water kiosk, they knew this was something important and life changing for the families in Clay County.

Prof. John McRae, FAIA

The Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project (The Appalachia Project) is designed to improve the wellness and disaster readiness of the Red Bird community in Clay County, Kentucky. For this exemplary work, the UT collaboration of colleges received the prestigious C. Peter Magrath/W.K. Kellogg Exemplary Program designation, and the water kiosk earned a Design Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects East Tennessee.

The design/build project was carried out by faculty and students from across our college, as well as students from the UT colleges of Nursing and Engineering and the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center.

Assisting the effort was Merit Construction, who served as general contractor, and DJ Construction, Cannon+Cannon, Harrison Concrete, Paulk + Company, McAbee Hayes Consulting, Pop Fizz, Master Welder Rick Comer and safety and staging provided by Steve Loy.

The water kiosk was funded by a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief and private donations. UT partnered with Clay County’s Red Bird Mission, Clay County Emergency Management Services, local clergy, elected officials, teachers and law enforcement personnel.

The Appalachia Project was funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.