The goal is to transform an impoverished neighbourhood through community engagement. The housing project will also be net carbon-negative due to its green systems and materials, landscaping and energy-savvy design.
House as Garden is located in West Woodlawn which, 50 years ago, was a prosperous Black precinct. Today, it is characterised by a high rate of vacant lots, neglected buildings and disinvestment. It is therefore commendable that the community has undertaken efforts to reclaim its confines and invested in sustainability.
Driving the push is an eagerness to create conditions that foster a sense of place and belonging. Neighbours don’t just live next door to each other; they live together.
Residents are set to share many on-site amenities like a greenhouse, a guest suite, a micro-village and garden beds. They will also have access to common areas for gatherings, parties and other activities.
The structure, mostly made with timber, is designed to be assembled easily and tended to by local builders, painters and apprentices.
House as Garden differs from other urban buildings in that area. It is a modern, flexible take on the classic Chicago 4-flat. Yet, instead of being oriented from east to west, it is facing south to receive maximum sunlight.
The premises comprise four residential wings interlinked to create a mews, surrounded by lush greenery and an orchard.
Several passive design strategies have been tapped to ensure building performance, such as thick walls, thermal glass and cross ventilation. It also relies on seasonal shading to lower energy consumption and operational costs.
Interconnected photovoltaic panels on the roof supply power to heat pumps and appliances on the grounds. Storage batteries and a new local grid bolster the network.
There are provisions for composting and recycling. Rainwater is collected and stored in cisterns. Blackwater passes through an anaerobic digestor. Grey water is recirculated to provide toilet flushes and irrigation for the garden.
What sets this dwelling development apart from other sustainable projects is its focus on social sustainability. Its long-term success will depend on residents coming together as stakeholders, all committed to its upkeep.
It captures the logic and simplicity of sustainable living and reveals how, in turn, the lifestyle is predicated on a sense of community pride.
Post sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
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