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Green Building News

Farmworker Housing Gets Green Treatment

One of three Architects at Seattle-based Mithun Inc. designed this modular house, made of sustainable materials, for use by farmworkers in Washington state. This rendering shows one of three configurations, which can be constructed to any of three levels of sustainability and energy efficiency, including net zero.
Image Credit: Mithun Inc.

Seattle-based architectural firm designs affordable, green housing for agricultural workers in Washington state

Housing shortages for the agriculture industry’s seasonal workers are, in many parts of the country, as abundant as the crops they harvest. As architectural and planning firm Mithun notes on its website, tens of thousands of farmworkers in Washington state are forced to compete for a limited supply of affordable housing, and many end up in overcrowded, substandard units, or resort to camping out in cars or tents.

Mithun, however, is participating in a project designed to ease the problem. The firm recently posted renderings of a 580 sq. ft. modular home for farmworkers and their families that, in all of its three configurations, combines sustainability and energy efficiency.

Sponsored by Seattle Catholic Community Services’ Archdiocesan Housing Authority and supported by a grant from Enterprise Community Partners, the Farmworkers Housing Pilot Project is aimed at creating green seasonal housing that meets the goals for livability and environmental sustainability identified by the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust, a coalition of growers, farmworker advocates, housing providers, and community leaders.

The pilot project includes the design and construction of three types of prefabricated modules, each capable of being constructed to any of three levels of greenness: light green, green, and bright green. The bright green model is designed to be a net zero house that, Mithun says, includes solar power and hot water, passive heating and cooling strategies, advanced framing techniques, ultra-low-flow plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances, and FSC certified wood.

Mithun says the houses’ design reflect information the firm gathered from interviews with farmers and farmworkers in the Skagit Valley, where the first units will be constructed. The firm says it also is exploring the possibility of constructing additional units in Yakima.

Each of the three module types is designed to be family-friendly, afford privacy, and provide flexible indoor and outdoor living areas for four people. The prototypes will be occupied when they’re completed but will be open to the public by appointment, Mithun says.

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