State College Community Land Trust
In late 2014 Penn State’s Architecture and Engineering departments joined with the State College Community Land Trust to design an affordable, owner-occupied, high- performance duplex in the Borough of State College, the host municipality of Penn State.
In architecture, the challenge is the genesis of design – the initial concepts that generate form and space have the potential to enrich or diminish the building science, engineering and technological aspects of the building. Our project site, sloping to the south and overlooking the Tussey mountain ridge provided the impetus that we were looking for and informed the orientation of the homes. The longer sides facing North-South not only to take advantage of the views, but also from a climatic point of view – allowing the winter sun to penetrate deep within the home and buffering the cold winter wind. In keeping with our dictum of ‘Image is informed by place’, we researched traditional regional buildings styles, of which the ‘Bank Barn’ and the ‘Pennsylvania Farmhouse’ stood out as remarkable precedents – the Farmhouse because of its simple planning and its elegant facade, and the Bank barn because of the way it gracefully utilized the site topography and its roof form reflected the interior plan.
Partnership with a ‘real’ client, a local provider of affordable housing, sensitized the team to the community and heritage of place in a way a hypothetical project could not. It provided cultural context, a very realistic budget, it encouraged the team to minimize energy consumption through passive design as an integral part of our design – from siting and orientation to wall-opening ratios to color selection. The client’s input regarding social aspects – clear demarcation of open space between the two houses in the duplex, about the need for individuality, visitability/universal design standards, and the importance of community engagement – allowed the team to embrace a crucial, but often overlooked aspect of housing – social sustainability.