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Posts Tagged ‘Habitat for Humanity’

I am licensed by three states to practice architecture.  My partner in two.  As such, we are licensed to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.  There is an obvious obligation implicit in this to create buildings that comply with the building code.  Simple code compliance, however, is the worst possible construction that is legal.  This is true regardless of client means and project budget.

In this day of COVID-19 and working from home, the notion of safety has expanded to become inclusive of health and protection from disease.  To provide safe space is to provide healthy space.  Again, this applies regardless of client means and project budget.

People of means can easily throw money at this if they so choose.  But what about those who can’t afford even basic housing, especially in this day of high commodity prices of lumber, gypsum, and other building materials?

This is where the people that former president Jimmy Carter speaks of as “our better angels” enter the picture.  Habitat for Humanity has stepped up to fill in the housing gap since 1976.  Habitat creates safe place for families to gather and grow.  The organization is able to do this through the generosity of its donors and volunteers augmented by the participation of partner families who are the beneficiaries of the effort.

This is where architecture enters the picture.  In order to obtain a building permit, plans and specifications are required.  These can be very simple, but if the design isn’t carefully considered, the benefit of a home is greatly diminished.  The architect needs to consider the restrictions imposed on the site by local codes and ordinances, physical features such as proximity to creeks and steep slopes, subsurface rock, tree canopy, and access to name a few.  These considerations and others influence the design.  Obviously, well sized and crafted spaces to foster interactions within a resident family are needed, but there is importance that the design fit in with the local vernacular, which avoids stigmatization of the residents of the completed project.

Habitat for Humanity of the New River Valley is putting the finishing touches on their Church Street Townhome project in Blacksburg, Virginia.  This project will provide decent affordable housing to seven families in the community thanks to the generosity of many local businesses and organizations.  Even as this project was nearing completion the folks at HFHNRV were looking at other opportunities to serve the Greater New River Valley community.  The projects will come about, but they will not be possible without the generosity of people who donate their time and expertise and cash, all of which are necessary to complete each project.

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