Hello from the new graduate students!
Devin Denman graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in City and Regional Planning and minor in Sustainable Environments. She has been living in San Francisco for the last ten years and most recently working as an owner’s representative on public housing rehabilitations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Although she thoroughly enjoyed working in the field, she found herself continually frustrated with the system. Devin was also longing for hands on experience of actually building instead of watching the process. After one too many lunch rants about bureaucracy and red-tape, a friend convinced her academia might be a positive direction to take her passion for housing affordability.
Charlie Firestone graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Architecture. Since then, he’s been practicing in New York City as a designer and project manager for Matiz Architecture & Design. His work in New York primarily involved interior renovations for universities and other non-profits throughout the city. Charlie came to Rural Studio to pursue his master’s degree with the hopes of learning how to participate in public interest design, integrating design-build into his practice, and reconnecting with academia. Charlie is passionate about social justice and he is excited and honored to be working on a project to help provide affordable, beautiful, and durable housing to the under-resourced population of the rural South.
The 20K project started 15 years ago with the aim of providing affordable, efficient, durable, and buildable homes for low-income residents of the rural South. The goal of the project was to provide an alternative to the only option currently available in a similar price range: a used manufactured (mobile) home. Mobile homes are not only manufactured out of state (and therefore not feeding back into the local economy) but they also will only degrade in value over time (rather than increase in value as well-maintained stick-built houses will).
The “20K” label arose from the original price tag established in 2005 as the total price of a house that someone in the lowest income bracket (living on government assistance) could afford to make a mortgage payment on. The actual price has increased over time, but the name and the goal of designing homes that could be purchased by anyone, have remained the same.
Over the years, Rural Studio has continued to develop and test various designs for one and two bedroom models of the 20K Home, investigating different aspects of the issue each year – from nailing down an appropriate material palette, to testing different foundation and platform methods, to developing a handicap accessible model, to pushing the envelope with sustainability practices.
This year, our mandate is to go back to the basics. Our first task is to go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb, to update the original study from 15 years ago and to nail down exactly who the 20K client is, what they can afford, and what developments from the past models we can incorporate into our 20K design and stay within a strict budget.
Over the course of a year, we will research, design, and build a one-bedroom 20K home. The plan is to break ground mid-spring with final completion by mid-summer 2020. Currently, we are in the weeds of research and process design. The plan is to address our list of principles/goals/questions, which we have divided into three categories of focus: Cost, Performance, Program – all under the umbrella of maintaining a rigorous budget in the spirit of the 20K legacy. The beauty of the 20K is in its simplicity. Adding more is easy, but not always the best solution.