2012  •   Humanities and Arts

Rethinking Urban Public Housing: A Prototype Promoting Social Sustainability

Lead Presenter: Jessica Wilcock


Humanities and Arts

Over one million American households reside in public housing, and with income inequality continuing to rise, the success of affordable housing demands our immediate attention. Throughout the past fifty years, efforts to break up the homogenous concentrations of poverty found in housing projects have failed to meet the needs of the urban condition. My research model addresses the requirements of the modern urban landscape by providing high-density affordable housing while encouraging social diversity and sustainability. This prototype minimizes construction costs and time by utilizing wood frame structures, walk up units and on-grade parking. This achieves a high net-to-gross ratio, allowing for ten different unit types within one low-rise block. The diversity of unit types, both rented and owned, will attract residents of mixed incomes and households, preventing the homogeneity that has isolated public housing in the past. This research also looks to promote a sense of community through shared courtyards while encouraging environmental sustainability. The units’ living spaces open up onto a green roof, and each resident can control their level of interaction with this semi-private lawn and patio through a series of shading louvers and private balconies. These living spaces also get Southern exposure to maximize solar heat gain with thermal mass, reducing heating loads and increasing comfort levels. The bedrooms, requiring more privacy but less heating throughout the day, are located away from the garden to the North. My research establishes a successful affordable housing model through efficiency, sustainability, and diversity that turns housing projects into sustainable communities.