How Tiny Houses Bring Opportunity for Architects

The “tiny house” trend, for some architects, may not seem like a good place to flex their creative muscles. When you hear about tiny houses and their recent rise in popularity, something like what’s pictured below may come to mind. A “box on wheels” that’s simple, utilitarian, and boring.

basic tiny house design

image from

But there are many ways in which tiny houses present great opportunities for architects. Whether it’s crafting “tiny luxury” or working to improve access to affordable housing - the versatility of tiny homes is something architects should be noticing.

Finding Beauty in Sustainability and Flexibility

In her recent article for ArchDaily, Susanna Moreira shows that tiny houses can be both sustainable and beautiful. With the lack of excavation to build a foundation needed for wheeled tiny houses, they leave their surroundings undisturbed. Having virtually no environmental footprint means these tiny homes can rest in locations where traditional home building is impossible or impractical.

This flexibility brings endless design opportunities for architects. If a customer wants to live in an area special to them, but is unable to build a traditional home there - a beautiful tiny house could be the solution.

CABN tiny house in forest

This CABN tiny home creates a place to appreciate its surroundings without getting in the way.

CABN Tiny House

Tiny Houses can present many design opportunities for Architects

One example of this “off the grid” living comes from CABN in Australia. CABN’s goal is to provide people with a “means to disconnect from the crazy we have brought upon ourselves.” Their eco-friendly tiny houses are set right in the middle of some of Australia’s “most stunning and stimulating landscapes.” Being able to work in such spaces creates a world of possibilities for architects. With tiny houses, their designs are not as limited by the context of its environment as their massive, earth disrupting “normal house” cousins.

Creating Efficient, Affordable Housing

But as you know, the beauty of architecture is that it’s not only about beauty. It can create safe, sustainable work or living spaces that improve the lives of people all over the world.

Affordable housing is a global issue. It’s projected that 1.6 billion people will lack adequate housing by 2025 if nothing more is done to solve the crisis. “Adequate” housing, according to Eduardo Souza, means more than just a roof over someone’s head. It means a person’s home is integrated with the city, jobs, infrastructure, and city services.

Emerald Village Eugene (EVE) an Oregon-based tiny house community focused on providing quality, affordable housing for lower-income individuals and families. Each tiny house is designed as a 160 - 288 sq ft permanent dwelling on a slab foundation. Thanks to mostly private donations, EVE has been able to construct all 22 homes for about $55,000 per unit (including land). Many local architects contributed to this project, who created designs that don’t forget about style despite the space constraints.

Arbor South Architecture EVE Tiny House Floor Plan

Floor plan by Arbor South Architecture, PC

Completed Arbor South Architecture Tiny House

Completed Arbor South Architecture Tiny House in EVE Community

“Tiny Houses are unlikely to be the solution to the global housing crisis,” Souza says, “but they certainly have a role to play by providing an opportunity for improved quality of life through a smaller financial and ecological footprint.”

What do you think about tiny houses? Have you wanted to try designing one? Let us know on social media!

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Design Ideas for Safer, Post-Pandemic Schools

While many people are currently considering whether or not schools should open this fall, let's take a step back and look toward the future of education spaces. These design proposals, shown in ArchDaily, give a glimpse of what post-pandemic schools might look like.

Many new designs revolve around a common goal: increasing sustainability, emotional wellness, and physical health by creating more space for learning - especially outdoors. For New York-based design firm Cooper Robertson, blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors essential for post-covid learning.

For their work on the Lyford Cay International Baccalaureate School in Nassau, Bahamas, Cooper Robertson prioritized creating learning environments with better access to light, fresh air, and outdoor space. The main building is only one room wide, creating cross ventilation for all interior spaces, with 12-foot-wide verandas that flank each classroom to expand floor space into the outdoors. The campus also features a dedicated outdoor classroom space.

Layford Cay Concept: Image from Cooper Robertson

Recently, the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB) and the Urban Projects Collaborative (UPC) partnered with six New York-based architecture firms to create the "Back to School Facilities Tool Kit.” In this toolkit, the six firms proposed design ideas that “allow for proper physical distancing and a safe journey from home to school.” The most effective ideas will move forward through design, construction, and installation in preparation for occupancy.

Integrating new requirements for health and safety, the guidelines will become a resource for schools to create fair, equitable plans to reopen their doors, while protecting the well-being of all students, teachers, staff, and their families.

Ideas from the tool kit include ways to improve the school entry process, and new classroom layouts that support social distancing.

Classroom Concepts from the Tool Kit. Image from ArchDaily

How would you improve the layout of schools or any public building to make it safer for today and the future? Let us know on social media!

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AIA Criticizes New Fair Housing Ruling

On July 23, 2020, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced that he would effectively end 2015’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

The purpose of the AFFH ruling was to ensure communities complied with the 1968 Fair Housing Act. In order to get any HUD funding, local governments needed to track poverty and segregation in their communities by completing a 92-point questionnaire. Now, without AFFH, municipalities can declare they’re in compliance with fair housing rules themselves, and HUD will accept it based on their word.

Instead of making housing providers pass a sort-of fair housing exam (the 92-point questionnaire), responsibility largely lands on tennents to file complaints. In an official press release, HUD said they can still “terminate funding if it discovers, after investigation made pursuant to complaint or by its own volition, that a jurisdiction has not adhered to fair housing regulations” (emphasis added).

AFFH has been under attack since 2018, when HUD stopped strictly enforcing it. Since then, a 2019 National Fair Housing Alliance report found 31,202 complaints of housing discrimination in 2018, the highest number since the NFHA began collecting such data in 1995.

In response to the termination of AFFH, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) published the following statement.

“AIA strongly opposes the Administration’s dismantling of this critical rule,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Our federal government should confront the legacy of discriminatory housing policies as intended in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, not shrink away from the responsibility of ensuring our communities are equitable. At such a critical moment in time for addressing racial inequity, it’s clear we need to do more, not less, to provide equitable opportunity to all Americans, especially for a basic human need such as shelter.”

To learn more about HUD regulations in your state, click here.

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AIA’s Tips for Career Resilience

Despite the economic uncertainty facing the world right now, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wants to help all architecture professionals keep their careers going strong. They recently hosted a webinar where they spoke to four panelists who lived and worked through the last Great Recession. Below are the highlights from their advice on how to have career resilience during difficult times.

Utilize Your Network

Staying connected with previous professors, classmates, or co-workers is a great way to find new opportunities. Here are three simple tips for using your network:

  • Be upfront when looking for a new job, and give back by helping others in their search once you find a position.
  • Reach out to professors, even if you weren’t close. Remember: your school wants you to succeed.
  • Reach out to career services, alumni networks, and local AIA chapters to ask for help, request a mentor, or re-engage when you need encouragement.

Get Involved

  • Use design competitions and events to supplement your portfolio with new building typologies to broaden your experience.
  • Volunteer with AIA, Open Architecture Collaborative, USGBC, Urban Land Institute, and others to extend your network within the profession and to stay engaged if you’re working in a different field.
  • Keep pursuing your license to maximize your skills and marketability.*

*Architects Training Institute consistently adds new online continuing education courses starting at $29

Think Outside the Biz

  • Expand your search to different sectors, different size firms, and new locations. Or consider architecture-adjacent positions such as real estate or facility management.
  • Panelists who accepted positions like these during their job search said they gained useful experience that gave them an advantage in future interviews.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or experienced professional, always remember you have resources and a support system that will help you through economic hardship.


Looking Forward: Architecture in a Post COVID-19 World

In an effort to give you a break from the negative news cycle, we want to look forward toward the future and the many possibilities it brings for architects.

In recent weeks, the Moving Forward Act has made its way through Congress. Late last month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced their support of the bill. AIA President Jane Frederick said “Passing the Moving Forward Act is a necessary next step that we must take as a nation in order to deliver the opportunities that American workers—including architects—desperately need.”

The proposal allocates billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements such as:

  • The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would provide funding for improvements to school infrastructure, especially those in high-poverty areas, and upgrading child-care facilities.
  • Encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings through the temporary increase of the Historic Tax Credit
  • Improve affordable housing infrastructure by creating and preserving 1.8 million affordable homes
  • Establish a new Neighborhood Investment tax credit that would subsidize certain development costs to encourage the rehabilitation of vacant homes or construction of new homes in distressed areas

As architects, you’re responsible for much more than just designing safe and beautiful structures; your work can make a positive difference in communities around the country. The schools you help build or renovate (especially in lower income areas) bring opportunities for success that weren’t possible before. Working to increase affordable housing works toward lowering homeless rates and gives families a sense of security.

When it comes time to rebuild the nation (financially and literally), we are proud to help architects like you make positive changes in your local community.

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Architectural Firms, Schools Use Laboratories to Make Medical Supplies

As the coronavirus pandemic grips the world, hospitals are facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment like face masks, gloves and face shields. Many healthcare workers are resorting to dangerous measures, like re-using masks, or substituting PPE with scarfs, bandanas and more. Now, architectural schools are lending their high-tech equipment to help healthcare officials battle the virus on the front lines.

At Columbia University, librarians wanted to make use of their 3D printers. They recruited the help from experts at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation to help them design face shields for medical professionals. Shields have since been delivered by the thousands to hospitals in the Northeast. The library has also created a working guide to help others make face shields using their own 3D printers. The critical supply needs just a few ingredients: filament, elastic, tape, glue, mylar and disinfectant to wipe down the final product.

At Princeton, their School of Architecture’s digital fabrication lab is being used to help produce ventilators, masks, face harnesses and shields, protective wear, testing materials and more. reports that BIG, KPF and Handel architects are making face shields for hospital workers. They’re basing their models off of a recipe cooked up from 3DVerkstan which is available to anyone with the materials and 3D printing capacity.


Architects Building “Vertical Forest” in Egypt

Italian architects are turning a desert city in North Africa into a lush, green metropolis.

Stefano Boeri and his team have taken on plans to build and install a series of seven-story vertical forests in the Egyptian city of Cairo. The building will be used for apartments and will also feature shopping and dining real estate.

The ambitious project aims to create a forest teeming with 350 trees and 14,000 shrubs of 100 different kinds. The vertical forest will have as many trees as an area equivalent to 20,000 square meters of forest.

The building will be alive, in a way, creating 8 tons of oxygen for the city’s residents and eliminating 7 tons of CO2 from the air. Cairo, by many accounts, is one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Boeri and his team say the building will help increase the region’s biodiversity. The building will be habitable by all kinds of creatures, including birds and insects. The building will be energy self-sufficient.


On the architect’s website, he says “Vertical Forest is a model for a sustainable residential building, a project for metropolitan reforestation contributing to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity, without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory.

Boeri has built vertical forests in Milan, Italy, already. That project has 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants.

Construction starts in 2020 and will take 2 years to complete.

To learn more about these ideas, click here.

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