WUOMFM

Habitat for Humanity and Lawrence Tech team up to develop new, community-focused designs

Nov 3, 2015

Habitat for Humanity volunteers constructing a house in 2007
Credit wikimedia user Jmabel / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Habitat for Humanity’s mission statement is simple and straightforward: “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

And now, thanks to a special partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County and Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, graduate architecture students will be coming up with ways to make those houses really fit the needs of the people who will live in them.

Tim Ruggles is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County. He says Habitat for Humanity has been in talks with LTU for some time exploring ways the two could work together, and they ended up working Habitat into the school’s curriculum.

“The purpose really is to do a deep dive into the impact that Habitat has, which empowers families to attain home ownership and better their lives, and really … take a look at how we can actually get better and be more relevant in the work we do in the community,” Ruggles says.

Scott Shall, chair of the Department of Architecture and an associate professor in the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Tech, says  the partnership “seemed a natural fit for our advanced design studio, which focuses on using both pure and applied research techniques to challenge the conventions of practice.”

Shall says the program doesn’t pile too many expectations on the students, but rather lets them decide the course of study through their research.

“But I will say that now we’re looking very carefully at prototyping, developing prototypes that would test new models of construction,” he says.

One of the great things about this partnership, Ruggles says, is it teaches the LTU students to approach architecture and design with a holistic perspective.

“It’s not just about the house, because Habitat’s not just about the house,” Ruggles says. “So they’re really not only taking a look at structure, but they’re taking a look at the social environment.”

Shall tells us the students are learning the value of listening and how engaging with the actual people their designs will help can influence architecture.

According to Ruggles, the goal is to build a structure using the new designs developed by the students over the two-year project.

“The exciting thing about that for the students is they actually get to have a house built for their portfolio, and the exciting thing for Habitat is we have a new design that increases our relevance moving forward,” Ruggles says.

- Ryan Grimes, Stateside