Affordable Housing Prototype - Philadelphia

Finalist 2016 National DiscoverDesign Competition - Affordable Housing Prototype for Philadelphia

Design an affordable housing prototype

Define the Problem

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Affordable housing is housing that people who earn the median income can afford. In Philadelphia, the median income dwindles at roughly $34,000, the lowest of any major city in the United States. Simultaneously, over 100,000 Philadelphians are on the public housing waitlist. This has caused a major housing dilemma in the city that must be fixed. The purpose of my project is to build a prototype that is affordable, sustainable, and something that Philadelphians actually want. There are many aspects of Philadelphia unique from any other city in the world. It is a city rooted in American history where the new and the old flow together effortlessly. It has managed to give its citizens all aspects of city life while still upholding the feeling of an intimate and tight knit community. It is a place known for its art and creativity but also its industry and business. My challenge is to help lower income families feel like part of this community, while still giving them an economical place to live. Philadelphia City Council believes mortgages on affordable homes should be $200,000 or less. My home will accommodate a 3-4 (average family size) person family with children. It will also take into account households with members who have disabilities. With the cost of the average home rising greatly every year, Philadelphia needs new ideas for housing options before homes become unattainable. Since the average electricity bill in Philadelphia is $107.5, it is imperative that I maintain a focus on energy efficiency to reduce that cost. Overall, I want to reduce cost of materials while making my home new and modern, but still maintain the Philadelphia charm that everyone desires.

Collect Info

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The site for my home is one of the many vacant residential properties in Philadelphia. It is located in the East Parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Being on a quiet street and within walking distance of Fairmount National park, the Philadelphia Zoo, a neighborhood playground, and three schools makes it the perfect location for a Philadelphia family.

Brainstorm Ideas

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The site I found was perfect, but I want my design to be functional anywhere. I chose to design one house instead of a group of houses or apartments because I want families to be actively involved in the construction of the house and tweak any aspects that they need. This way they can also take advantage of all the vacant land in Philadelphia.

Final Design

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Here is the full overview of my final design. I chose wood textured floors throughout most of the house and tile for the bathrooms since that's what most people prefer. I used gray brick on the outside of house because the color pops but the material still blends in with the surrounding homes. The guard rail for the roof is made from metal panels. Lastly, I chose to use turf for the roof floor to give it a comfortable texture. Overall, I believe my design fits my goals of affordability, comfortability, sustainability, creativity and it's also very pleasing to the eye.


Competition Jury 3 months ago
Kerl Lajeune - I like your notion of addition and subtraction as a means for coming up with a solution. An urban infill site, as you have chosen, offers lots of opportunities. Although modern in nature to its surroundings, I like the jump you took.