Penn State Students Help Create Affordable, Sustainable Housing in State College

Owning a home is often considered part of living the American Dream. But as housing costs have risen, that part of the dream has become more and more unattainable. Instead of just talking about the problem, Penn State architecture and engineering students and faculty decided to become part of the solution and have received a USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) Central PA Chapter Leadership award for their efforts.

In 2014, they began GreenBuild, a collaborative project with the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) that would lead to the construction of affordable, energy-efficient homes for two State College families, laying a foundation not just for the families’ future, but for the future of housing in the area. The GreenBuild duplex, located at the intersection of University Drive and Royal Road in State College, is the first place winner of USGBC’s “Innovative Project, Residential” award. Initially designed by students as a class project, the homes attempt to offer solutions and lead to the construction of affordable, energy-efficient homes in State College.

“Rather than just talking about why housing is so expensive, the question became, ‘what can we do to create affordable housing?’” explained Chris Hazel, 2017 graduate with a master of architecture degree, who is working as a research technician in the Energy Efficient Housing Research (EEHR) group, an outreach arm of the Hamer Center for Community Design in the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

The net zero-energy duplex was originally designed for the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design Competition, where the students won awards for Design Excellence and Systems Integration Excellence. Architecture faculty Lisa Iulo, director of the Hamer Center for Community Design, and Scott Wing, associate dean for academic affairs and outreach in the College of Arts and Architecture, served as faculty advisers, along with Ali Memari, professor in the College of Engineering and Hankin Chair of the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC).

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