20Kv16 Michele's House
Rural Studio Outreach Program, Fall 2013 - Summer 2014; Andrew Freear, director; Mackenzie Stagg, Cameron Acheson, Steve Long, instructors.

Design Team: Rob Culpepper, Cierra Heard, Thomas Johnston


The Outreach Program was designed as a way to bring students and collaborators from outside Auburn University into the fold of the Studio. Since its establishment in 1999, the Outreach program has evolved from often individualized, community-driven projects to a single team project: the 20K House.

20K House

The 20K House seeks to provide a well-built, affordable housing alternative to the ubiquitous mobile home for local clients. The homes are built for $20,000 where around $12,000 is allocated for materials and the remaining $8,000 would cover labor costs and contractor profit. Unlike other Rural Studio projects, the aim of the 20K House is to create a line of homes which could be built by contractors and have a greater impact on local communities.

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Michele’s House

Four new 20K House deisgns were built in 2014, all expanding on the previous research and product line to look at a new need: families. Each new house incorporated a second bedroom and expanded the area of common spaces while maintaining an efficient wet core.

The sixteenth iteration of the 20K House for Michele Bolden and her mother Deborah sought to address issues of cross-ventilation and balanced daylighting as its primary aim. How narrow can you make a house and still have double-loaded program?

At twenty feet wide, the house is able to combine all living areas of the house without a dedicated circulation corridor. The kitchen and dining area are opposite each other without being squeezed, and have a direct connection to the family room that has its back oriented to the bathroom/utility core.

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Windows are aligned opposite each other in every room to allow breezes to pass through the house regardless of prevailing winds. Horizontally sliding windows were chosen over the more common vertical sash single-hung windows for their ability to facilitate air movement both low and high.

The bedrooms flank the living areas and only occupy the rear twelve feet of the plan, allowing for two programmatically distinct porches to complete the front of the house. A long, narrow entry porch provides a seating gallery while a more square screened porch acts as an extension of the living room, outdoor dining, or additional sleeping quarter.

By recessing the porches within the rectangular volume of the house, the living areas had access to daylight from apertures on four exterior walls, providing soft, balance light at all times of day. The windows and doors connecting to these porches were also protected by the soffit, essentially eliminating the need for additional shading typically providing by large eaves. This led to the removal of any roof overhangs and turned to the exploration of localized shading.

The 20K House is designed as a speculative project—it is without site and client until shortly before time of construction. Michele’s property faces the road to the north and patterns of rural life certainly suggested that the porches address the street. This meant that the four apertures at the rear of the house would now face south and would require shading.

A four foot wide, two foot deep sheet of 12 ga. steel was bent and fastened over each window head on the south face, keeping direct sun out during summer months, but allowing welcome heat gain in the winter. Even with the addition of these custom steel shades, the removal of the overhangs that would typically wrap the entire house proved to be a significant cost savings.

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