The national debate surrounding housing affordability may have reached a tipping point. While increasing labor and material costs continue to figure into that discussion, government regulationincluding the longstanding municipal practice of single-family zoning and especially the regulatory practices resulting from the 1970 National Environmental Policy Actis coming under fire. Research increasingly points to regulatory hurdles as an outsize driver of rising housing costs, a condition at odds with the mounting call for housing as a fundamental human right. Thus, there is surprising political agreement: millions of units of housing are neededand fast. Where should they be built, how, and most pointedly, by whom? 

Economy is the fifth in a series of Construct projects to examine accessory dwelling units (ADUs), a building type with a unique relationship to the socioeconomic history and possible future of US housing. In this design research project, we examined the economy of the ADU and its productioneconomy in the broadest sense, both as a financial instrument and as the prudent marshaling of resources. The investigation was an explicit attempt to expand upon the question of affordability by engaging the broader micro- and macro-level implications for a particular ADU design within the material and political economy of Houston.

To address these concerns at a commensurate scale, students were tasked with the need to rapidly design and construct thousands of infill housing units and to do so through the use of automated design and construction methodologies. Responding to the prompt, projects were both radical and deeply pragmatic while integrating a high degree of technical resolution. Simultaneously, the research mapped the financial viability of a repeated ADU design across central Houston, demonstrating in stark terms why no amount of technical innovation alone can create what is called for: equity in the built environment.      

Studio: Adam Berman, Andrew Clifton, Phoebe Cox, Alida Fabrega, Siobhan Finlay, Nell El Souri, Violet Ziwei, Edward Liew, Maggie Martin, Michelle Schneider, Henry Taibi, Benson Xie, Rita Xiong, Peter Zhang, Wanting Zhou

Faculty & Consultants: Andrew Colopy, Construct Codirector; Silman Associates (structure); Eric Cheung (computation), Jessica Newhouse (finance & development)

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