Hi-Tech Homes Preserve Past

By: Whitney Holmes Email
By: Whitney Holmes Email

August 14, 2007

Using nails, drills, and levies, UVa students worked together to assemble three modular units they have spent years designing.

One module is connecting to an existing house. The other two will form an apartment in the back.

The units are unlike any other. Dubbed, 'ecoMOD,' they are ecologically friendly by using sustainable materials and energy saving technologies.

"The first thing you want to do when you do a house like this is to think about the building envelope," explained UVa Professor John Quale, the project director. "The walls, the roof, the floor, and make them as super-insulated as possible. That really helps to reduce the amount of energy that you need to run the home."

This design is not just good for the environment. It is also good for the people moving in. The new residents will be low-income families helped by non-profit group, the Piedmont Housing Alliance. The design cuts down costs and last longer so families can live there longer.

"The people who are living here are going to be very concerned with their utility bills and maintenance costs, so we were very careful with all the material selections to make sure they didn't have to be maintained over time," said Quale.

The hi-tech homes contrast greatly with the house they are attached to, which is over 150 years old.

"It basically provides the story of affordable housing for African Americans in Charlottesville," Quale said. "We are not sure exactly when and how it was built, but it is conceivable that it was built as a slave quarters."

Starting in the fall, when the families move in, new history will be made.

ecoMOD is a multi-year project at the UVa School of Architecture. Students and faculty are designing and building several of these housing units over the next several years.

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