SPOKANE — Thanks to another collaborative effort between Habitat for Humanity-Spokane and the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at Washington State University Spokane, a July groundbreaking is slated for eight sustainable, low-cost housing units that were designed by six WSU students last fall.

Under the guidance of assistant professor of interior design Matt Melcher this group of earth-savvy students has developed a “Smart” (Sustainable, Modular, and Adaptable Residential Technology) complex of four duplex units that will boast many environmentally friendly qualities.

The housing will be created with ecologically sustainable building materials and systems:
energy efficiencies in materials, appliances and landscape design; minimal use of materials that create hazardous by-products; and a design that incorporates passive heating and cooling strategies, daylighting, ecologically sound landscaping and efficient storm water management.

Each unit will also have unfinished space in the attic and an integrated covered porch to adapt to the changing needs of its future owners.

“This is our opportunity to better meet the needs of future homeowners and minimize negative environmental impact” said Melcher. “These homes are adaptable and can meet the needs of a family over time.”

What began as theory-based research became a great pilot design selected by Habitat for Humanity-Spokane to be constructed at a site on East Union Avenue. Once construction is completed this fall, the next step in this four-part process is evaluation. The students plan to follow-up with a post-occupancy survey that will test the sustainable properties of the house. Homeowners will be able to provide feedback on their overall satisfaction with the home, especially in the areas of daylighting, energy usage and air quality. The evaluation process will assist the group in the research and design of future higher density living options.

Lead designer on the project is Master of Arts in interior design student Leah (Jesse) Peck. The other team members are architecture students Brian Dibble and Ly Chan Ho; interior design students Hilary Girrard, Lauren Hall and Diana Nicoletti; and landscape architecture student Ryan Moller.

All the students agree this has been a rewarding experience that will only get better when they turn over the keys to the new homeowners this fall.

Peck and Hall summed it up best. “The interdisciplinary nature of our group adds to the creativity of our projects and increases the innovation of our designs, but seeing our project come to fruition and giving eight families something they wouldn’t have—that’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Habitat for Humanity-Spokane is a non-profit, ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Habitat-Spokane works in partnership with people in need throughout Spokane County building simple, decent, affordable housing that is sold to them at no-profit through zero-interest loans. Habitat has built 163 homes in the Spokane community since 1987 with funds, building materials, and labor donated by individuals, churches, corporations and other organizations dedicated to affordable housing issues.