Alabama’s Blackbelt counties suffer from some of the poorest economic conditions in the country. Thirty-two percent of all people living there, live in poverty. Affordable and climate appropriate housing that contributes to the well-being of this significantly sized group is lacking, and the challenges are many. Auburn University’s Rural Studio attempts to address this need through the 20K Home Project. This paper focuses on one aspect of this fourteen-year research project: the design strategies of a climate appropriate, affordable home and ways to teach students to prioritize options.
Within the larger 20K Home Project, third-year architecture students at Rural Studio build one house a year. They start with the plans of a previously designed home from the project. They inherit the strategies and details from another group of students. To understand the house, they analyze the conceptual and tangible aspects of the design. Learning how to prioritize and select from the ever-growing number of ways to structure, enclose, insulate, heat, and cool a home, while minding the climatic characteristics of hot-humid Alabama is the objective. Making informed adjustments to the existing strategies and building a house to test their selections is the goal. This paper is a case study of the 2017-18 Rural Studio third year project house and addresses the pedagogical approach for this process.