Experiential Learning   |   Undergraduate

Freedom by Design

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The Northeastern University chapter of American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is proud to announce the completion of its second Freedom by Design (FBD) design/build project: an accessible ramp addition to the Congregation Eitz Chayim building in Cambridge, MA. The project began in early February 2012 as a conversation between Chelsea Brown, a fifth year architecture student, and then Team Captain of AIAS FBD, her co-op employer David Eisen of Abacus Architects + Planners and member of Congregation Eitz Chayim. Since then, the project has moved quickly, from a feasibility study, to design and constructions drawings, through permitting and a rapid construction all in just under 8 months!

“With each new project we are of course hoping to get hands-on experience designing and building,” says Chelsea, “but what has been great about this project has been the level of community engagement.” Last spring the student group hosted a design charrette open to the Northeastern University community, in which teams of designers were given plans of the site, with a different entrance highlighted in each, and asked to design a ramp specific to that entrance. The designs were then reviewed with the help of School of Architecture faculty members Sam Choi and Michael Grogan. As a result, the charrette was a great way to introduce the project, as well as a way to get more people excited and involved in the project.

Throughout the summer months, the FBD team set to work on the design and construction drawings, working closely with David Eisen and David Salomon, a registered contractor and head of the Congregation’s building committee. Simultaneously, Eitz Chayim set to work fundraising for the ramp. Because the congregation was not the typical FBD client, a homeowner with limited mobility, the congregation took on the responsibility of fundraising for all materials for the construction, which sped the progress of the project tremendously. After securing all of the funds and applying for a building permit in early August, construction began, and with the exception of one rainout, members of the Northeastern University Freedom by Design team were on the build site every weekend building on the ramp.

This project is the result of the hard work and dedication of many people and sponsors. Panera Bread donated baked goods and coffee to the design charretter, with drawing supplies donated by Utrecht Art Supplies. And Zipcar donated the use of a zipvan for the duration of the build. Freedom by Design is composed of Northeastern University architecture students Jimmy Chao, Anita Cheng, Celeste Li, Ovgu Ozcan, Olivia Bowering, Dominik Wit, Chelsea Brown and Michael Green. Additional volunteer students include architecture students Heather Little, Ellen Duff, Yun Gao, Yiming Wei, Linnea Coveney, Nicholas Guertin, Karen Hilario, Kevin Chen, Sijie Dai, Lama Bitar, Dylan Church, Sean Kline, Lukas LaLiberte, David Parker, Joe Skrocki, and Matt Piccirillo.

Freedom by Design is the charitable design/build program of the American Institute of Architects. The FBD team at Northeastern is dedicated to improving the lives of those with limited mobility and/or income to improve their surroundings. Composed of architecture students, the team is solely responsible for the design, fundraising, and construction of each of its build projects.