PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

October 26, 2007

Ready, Set, Design!

PATH staff member Mike Blanford attended the recent design charrette for the Concept Home Charleston. He participated on the "design track" and gives his insight into the design considerations of the project.

The development of the preliminary home designs went through three stages during the charrette. The first was a group discussion about the lot: the dimensions, orientation of the lot geographically, views and relationship of the lot to other homes and common areas. The Concept Home Charleston lot will front a public road to the north, with an alley-fed garage in the rear. Bordering the lot to the west is a public walk, while on the east is another house. The site restrictions, set backs, etc., were also outlined. One important detail for our design efforts: across the street is a large, protected marsh area, so our views would be out the front of the home.

[IMAGE: One of four designs selected for further development during the Concept Home Charleston design charrette.]

With the geography understood, the next task was to develop a home design that maximized the relationships of the home to its surroundings and incorporated the PATH Concept Home principles, especially:

1. Flexible Floor Plan

2. Improved Production Methods

3. Organized and Accessible Systems

While designing a house is not a difficult task, developing an integrated home design and site plan is something else.

[IMAGE: An example of a low country style home design available in Poplar Grove.]

The architects and designers worked in teams of one and two. Teamed with Felix Serrano, an architect with Torti Gallas and Partners, I went to work developing a draft design. Felix and I choose a simple three bay Cape Cod design with the house oriented in a north/south direction.

[IMAGE: Hollywood Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward observed the charrette process, joined here by Mike Blanford of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Hank Hofford of Bennett Hofford, the builder for Concept Home Charleston.] We placed a large flexible space (think living/dining/family room) on the west side of the home so the "public" part of the home could communicate with the public walkway. We also packed the mechanicals into the southern half of the eastern bay, stacking an upstairs full bath above. Ours was one of four designs selected from the field of eight for additional work and presentation to the entire working group for comments. I found it isn't easy to balance the various considerations. As we saw with Concept Home Omaha, the completion of the design charrette is not the end of the design, but rather just the beginning.

The key lesson: kicking ideas around during the design phase, carefully thinking them through before jumping head-first into the project, can yield great results for any project, whether it's a new home or the renovation of a single room.

Content updated on 10/29/2007

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