April 26, 2014 Students Design, Build Better Access to Home of Woman with Medical Needs

UT architecture students are designing and building front and back entrances to the home of a Knoxville woman with medical needs. They expect to complete the project by Friday, May 16.

The home of Barbara Beilke is the third project of UT’s Freedom by Design, a student service organization that is part of the American Institute of Architecture Students. The group’s goal is to use students’ architecture and design talents to improve the homes of people in their local community. 

FBD Team

“Freedom by Design is important to the community because it gives the luxury of great design work and free execution of construction to those that normally would not have that opportunity,” said Matthew Barnett, a fourth-year architecture student who is the project manager of Freedom by Design. “Our clients are chosen not only on the basis of disability, but also on their income. Often, we are the only option they have.”

The students learned about Beilke’s needs through Operation Backyard, a free home repair service of the Knoxville Leadership Foundation. The goals of their project include construction of a front entrance ramp that is ADA-compliant and a back porch with ample shade, as the client cannot be in the sun long for medical reasons.

“She is not currently in a wheelchair but as she gets older her mobility will be limited,” said Barnett. “The conditions of decking and stairs were dilapidated, run down, and on the verge of collapse. The stair height was dangerous and the railings gave splinters.”

The student organization turned the project into an educational exercise, hosting their first design competition among the three disciplines of the UT College of Architecture and Design. Of seven entries, two winners were selected by faculty, including internationally recognized architect Larry Scarpa, who is serving as a visiting professor in the college this semester.

“We are all very excited about this year’s project and hope to continue to set the standard for the nation in Freedom by Design,” said Barnett. “This year one of our major goals was to have a college-wide competition. We figured the more quality submissions we have the better the outcome of the overall project.”

The two design solutions by Cameron Rodman, a graduate landscape architecture student, and Wesley Pettit, an undergraduate architecture student, feature a ramp, stairs, and a central wall that is divided with room for planters for the front of the house, as well as storage and shading for the back of the home.

Plants for House
“We are designing and building for the sole reason of improving lives without any monetary payment,” said Barnett. “This may be the only time a student can submit a competition, win, and have the design come to life by construction. The construction is a vast learning experience because students begin to fully understand and make the connections between what they draw and how it is actually constructed on site.”

Learn more about the UT chapter of Freedom by Design and see pictures of the work underway by visiting their Facebook page.

C O N T A C T:

Kiki Roeder (865-974-6713,

R E L A T E D:

UT Architecture students using skills in the Knoxville community,” WATE, Channel 6 Knoxville (13 May 2014)

UT architecture students remodel East Knoxville woman’s home,” Knoxville News Sentinel (19 May 2014)


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