Photo by Advocate staff Bryan Tuck. Excerpt from article by Marsha Sills Acadiana Bureau. Progress is going great! There are three more weeks of class and then the house should be finished by the end of September. Twenty architectural graduate students at University of Louisiana in Lafayette are turning its design of a 1,300 square-foot house into a home for a future Freetown neighborhood resident. The program’s goal is to revitalize empty neighborhood lots with innovative and affordable homes. The program includes students designing a home in the fall semester and building it in the summer — under the supervision UL Associate Professor Geoff Gjertson.
The program launched last year with the design and construction of the “Event House” on Madison Street. That home sold in April for about $153,000. The “Next House” at 319 Jackson Street is priced at $159,000 and is listed with PAR Realty. The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority provided $400,000 in financing for the neighborhood program through a five-year agreement with Ragin’ Cajun Facilities, a nonprofit, third-party group organized to facilitate university construction projects. Proceeds from the sales of each house will be used for construction of future houses. King Construction is the partner contractor for the Next House project.
The contractor’s work crews have had to slow down their usual pace to offer instruction to students, which is a change since “construction is all about speed and efficiency,” Gjertson said. The 20 students work in two shifts with separate crews in the morning and afternoon. The on-site exposure also gives them the opportunity to solve problems in their design and make needed detail changes. Those alterations are put to a vote on the site, Domingue said. The two-bedroom, two-bath house features an open kitchen and living area with the kitchen sandwiched between a front porch and back-side porch accessible by French doors. The design also includes a 200-square-foot loft area above the kitchen that overlooks the open living room. One bedroom is located at the front of the house with its bathroom accessible from a separate small hallway off the living room, making it ideal for guest use. The master bedroom is at the back of the house and features a private bath with a walk-in closet. The master suite also opens out onto the back-side porch through the French doors. Ceiling heights are 8 feet in most areas of the house, but peak at 17 feet. The small lot, 39 feet by 98 feet, created a design challenge for the students, which they answered with a loft area to provide additional square footage for the homeowner. The design incorporates traditional architectural features of the neighborhood, including porches and gabled roofs, but with a modern touch. “We wanted it to fit in with the vernacular of the neighborhood,” Talley said. Homes in the neighborhood are raised off the ground; however, the ULL house incorporates a slab foundation that is 12 inches above grade to “give that raised feeling,” Talley said. Also, the house’s porches and kitchen are important features of the home. “Because in south Louisiana cooking is everything, we designed it where the kitchen is between the two porches. You can cook and entertain with people on both porches,” Talley said.
The design incorporates lessons learned from prior student design-build projects like the Event House and BeauSoleil, Gjertson said. The “Next House” design is more customized to fit the market, Gjertson said. “It’s a delicate balance of bringing in innovation without making it out of people’s reach financially,” Gjertson said.
The third house in the neighborhood program will be located across the street at 324 Jackson St. Students will begin the design process in the fall semester with construction slated for summer 2013. The plan is to continue the design-build cycle annually to give graduate students hands-on field experience, Gjertson has said.