Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WNC Additions: Mary

Mary is currently living by herself, as she and her husband are getting a divorce. Originally, in 1984, they had a three bedroom manufactured/mobile home, but got a larger one still with three bedrooms. During this time, they had two daughters. They added a pool/workout room that now serves as a play space for the grandchildren. Unfortunately, it does not have a heat source and stays closed off in the winter. During this time, they also put a new roof on because they old one leaked. They expanded their porch and began to re-side the entire house. As Mary said, “We wanted to make it into a house.” Two years ago, they remodeled the kitchen. There were plans to remodel the rest of it, but those are on hold because of the pending divorce.

Manufactured Home Alterations

Additions include porches, new roofs, new siding, garages, and additional rooms.

I have found a number of trends in terms of how people have changed their mobile/manufactured homes. Most people find that they are built cheaply and need to make repairs or remodel, or people just want/need more space. (most of the homes I have been looking at are single-wide, just because it is an easy module to compare).

Mobile/Manufactured Homes

Manufactured home park in Boone, NC.

I spent some time exploring mobile homes in Western North Carolina. Having served as the most effective and extensive affordable housing option in the United States for the past 50 years, I was curious to learn a little more about the uses of mobile homes here, especially since many of them have been adapted and changed. Many people (especially architects) think that manufactured housing is the only way to effectively address the affordable housing crisis in the US. Unfortunately, the past is littered with brilliant architectural minds failing miserably in using mass production to produce well designed, high quality, and affordable homes. (read the excellent book: The Prefabricated Home by Colin Davies).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Haiti: Beyond Building Housing

Seven weeks after the disaster, a number of recent news pieces have highlighted how now is the time to begin shifting people out of the tent camps and into different kinds of housing. This has many merits but inevitably raises lots of questions. One approach that has been advocated by some is trying to get people back into their communities/homesites as soon as possible. It can begin to ween people from the dependency of the foreign aid system. As we have already seen, such camps are not set up to deal with the onset of rains, etc. Additionally, by integrating people back into their communities, they can begin to re-establish social support structures that would likely provide greater resiliency. Of course, this can only happen once the rubble is removed, or the sites are deemed safe, which is a huge challenge. A number of groups are working on this very task, providing many Haitians with some much needed cash.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Incremental vs. Traditional

Some thoughts related to incremental housing vs. traditional approaches in the case of Haiti.

1) People could get homes built initially much more quickly because they are building less. However, there would probably need to be as much planning up front. But once, a system or framework is in place, the planning doesn't have to go on and on, it can be tweaked for each place or context....without creating cookie cutter mass produced stuff. That is what is beautiful about can take on a life of its own, and have individuality, culture, context, and place embedded in it without the architects designing it in. Also, like many good projects, there will need to be deep community involvement. Incremental housing would allow such involvement to exist, but keep it more focused and take up less time, which is critical in this case.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Incremental Housing in Haiti

In the midst of all the devastation in Haiti, it is hard to imagine thinking about next steps, when I feel like i haven't even been able to process the initial event. Regardless, in thinking about how to rebuild, many ideas and conversations I have been having come back to the idea of incrementality. I decided to utilize this blog again to see what discussion this may trigger. Also, please check out the good work going on at They have a great discussion about issues in Haiti

It seems that intentionally planning projects to be incomplete, offers many advantages over those that are designed to be built all at once, namely that of time and money. Additionally, because most people in places like Haiti are already building incrementally (pay as you go), this approach offers a more potentially culturally sensitive and contextual approach. Finally, incremental growth may offer the greatest opportunity to shift the large scale redevelopment to one that is more sustainable, inclusive, and weighted more towards the bottom up approach than the top-down. However, as with any project as this scope, the devil is in the details…