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Green Building News

Rice U. and Houston’s Third Ward: A Happy Alliance Between Academia and Community Development

Students at Rice University’s School of Architecture have been among the Row House Community Development Corporation’s most productive collaborators

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New homes meet community's needs Rice University architecture professors and students designed these affordable homes. Time-tested vernacular details, such as deep overhangs and reflective metal roofs are low cost features that help the homes stay cool during Houston's hot summers.
Image Credit: Dan Morrison
Old neighborhood, new homes. Rice Building Workshop students have designed and constructed new housing on property owned by Row House Community Development Corporation, which focuses on renovation and rebuilding in Houston’s Third Ward neighborhood. Among the Building Workshop's projects are these duplexes, which reflect an architectural style common to the Third Ward.
Image Credit: Row House Community Development Corporation
FIRST, SAVE WHAT YOU'VE GOT. These row houses are in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston. Project Row House worked with Rice University's architecture faculty and students to preserve several blocks of homes in this community.
Image Credit: Dan Morrison
PERMANENT PAVILION. This work space in the heart of the Third Ward allows the Rice architecture students to work on meaningful construction projects in a real world setting. The large metal roof lets them work in nearly any weather, while a large storage container keeps the tools they need close at hand.
Image Credit: Dan Morrison
CULTURE IS AS IMPORTANT AS COMFORT. The row house renovations and new affordable homes are essential to keep this neighborhood thriving, but art is a driving force too. Every year groups of artists from around the world take up residency in a cluster of row house studios. they work with the members of the community on a growing collection of public installations.
Image Credit: Dan Morrison

Back in May, GBA posted an item on the Ze-Row House, Rice University’s entry in the 2009 edition of the Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges 20 teams from academic institutions here and abroad to develop and construct highly efficient, low-cost solar-powered homes. A biennial event, the Decathlon is scheduled for October 8-18 on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall, where the competing teams will set up their houses for public viewing and judging. For many Decathlon houses, the mall is the last stop before they’re permanently dismantled. But that will not be the fate of Ze-Row House. Whatever its overall ranking in the competition, Ze-Row House will be returned to Houston and reconstructed in the city’s Third Ward, one of its oldest neighborhoods and the focus of historic preservation and revitalization efforts by the Row House Community Development Corporation.

“It has been a constant goal of Rice Solar Decathlon to bring an end to the site-less and client-less designs of many previous Solar Decathlon houses,” the team explains on its Ze-Row House website. “Our team worked hard to design a house that will be uniquely suited to withstand the rigors of Houston’s Gulf Coast climate – where the house will spend most of its operational life – and will be designed specifically for the client, Row House Community Development Corporation.”

Established in 2003, Row House CDC has been renovating and building Third Ward homes with the aim of providing housing for low-to-moderate-income residents. As Row House CDC’s director, Alain Lee, recently told GBA Managing Editor Dan Morrison, students participating in the School of Architecture’s Rice Building Workshop program have long been collaborating with CDC on Third Ward projects, including renovations of many the neighborhood’s single-story “shotgun” bungalows and the design and construction of new buildings, including artist studios and nine duplexes, all of which reflect the Third Ward’s architectural history. The Rice Decathlon team says that the design concepts developed for Ze-Row House, which is 800 sq. ft. and cost about $150,000 to build, could be replicated for six more energy-efficient one- and two-bedroom homes on two 50-by-80-foot lots in the Third Ward.


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