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EcoMOD project benefits students and the community
Low-Income Modular Housing Project Looks To Protect The Environment

April 26, 2005 --

WHO:  U.Va. School of Architecture students in collaboration with the Piedmont Housing Alliance

WHAT: Exhibition — ecoMOD House Number One

WHEN: Opening reception, Friday, May 6, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

WHERE
: The Community Design Center
101 East Main Street, on the Downtown Mall  

Create well-designed and well-built homes that cost less to live in, minimize damage to the environment and appreciate in value — those are the goals of a new research and design/build project at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Through ecoMOD, an innovative, community outreach program, U.Va. students and faculty will design and construct three 1,000- to 1,200-square-foot prototype modular homes during the next four years.

The first house, titled the OUTin house, was designed during the 2004-2005 academic year, and will be constructed this summer at the University-owned Milton Airport hangar. When completed, the OUTin house will be sited on 7 1/2 Street in Charlottesville’s Fifeville neighborhood.

John Quale, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, founded and directs ecoMOD. Faculty and students from the departments of architecture and landscape architecture, planning, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science are participating in the project.

The effort is a partnership with the Piedmont Housing Alliance of Charlottesville, which will sell the homes to qualified buyers. PHA is dedicated to improving the lives of low- and moderate-income families and individuals by creating housing and community development opportunities throughout the Thomas Jefferson Planning District in Virginia.

An exhibit of the project will be on view during May at The Charlottesville Community Design Center, located on the Downtown Mall. An opening reception will be held on Friday, May 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibit will include the final design for the OUTin house as well as all the ecoMod studio design work by students throughout the academic year.  

The design of the houses focuses on optimizing energy efficiency, integrating environmental site strategies and developing cost-effective prefabricated building techniques. The results will influence the design of later prototypes, and the completed project may lead to a system that could be adapted by modular home building manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region. 

The second year of the project, the 2005-2006 academic year, will be devoted to a detailed assessment of the OUTin house. This will include monitoring the thermal environment and energy use; a post-occupancy evaluation that will include interviews with the owners, the neighbors and PHA; and a thorough life-cycle analysis of the building and landscape. The actual building will be measured. The information will be compared to the design simulations. Also, the ecoMod energy data will be simultaneously compared with data collected from the monitoring of another recently built house of the same size.

Although it is widely known that prefabricated building techniques can save time, money and materials, the potential environmental benefits of this method are largely unrecognized by the industry. Off-site construction can significantly reduce the energy required to construct a building. The inherent efficiencies of centralized fabrication include climate-controlled, year-round construction; better quality control; significant reductions in construction waste; and a smaller number of trips for fewer people to construction sites.

The 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years will be devoted to using the results of the energy-efficiency research to design the second and third prototype structures, which will be assessed in the same way as the first. 

Throughout the four-year project, designs, news, research and monitoring results will be posted on the Web at www.ecomod.virginia.edu. The project team has established a decision-making strategy that attempts to carefully balance environmental, social, technical and financial issues of the project. By making these decisions available to the general public and architecture community via the Web, methodology can be shared and participants can receive critical feedback, Quale said.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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