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UC Honors Students Begin Building A Home Designed for Special Needs

Honors students get started on a new building plan for a Habitat home. Its design was enhanced by University of Cincinnati architecture students to better accommodate people with disabilities.

Date: 9/8/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot  

University of Cincinnati freshmen taking a service-learning Honors English course are getting to work two weeks before classes begin on Sept. 24. They won’t be using pens and notebooks for this part of their class project – they’ll be using hardhats, hammers and nails. The work by the Honors students takes place Sept. 9-13 and Sept. 16-20.

Honors students

Over the next two weeks, the Honors students will begin building on UC’s sixth university-wide partnership with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity. Once classes begin and under the instruction of Beverly Brannan, a field service instructor for English & Comparative Literature (McMicken College of Arts & Sciences), the students will write about their experiences as they reflect on the meaning of community.

As the actual site for the new home is prepared in a new location at 3253 Wolseley Dr. in Avondale, the Honors students will be pre-framing the walls for the home on UC’s campus at the site where Sawyer Hall was formerly located. They will also volunteer at other Habitat sites around Cincinnati.

As construction gets underway during fall quarter, student volunteers from across the university will spend their Saturdays working at the site through the end of the academic year. The home will be formally dedicated in the spring.

UC’s sixth project with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity holds additional student input into the actual design of the home, with the idea of designing a Habitat home to better accommodate families with disabilities. In a competition sponsored by Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity, the UC Center for Community Engagement, the UC Institute for Community Partnerships, the Office of the University Architect, the UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) and the UC Community Design Center, architecture students were challenged last year to incorporate attractive, effective, affordable designs into Habitat homes to accommodate people with disabilities.

The competition was created around the following criteria in designing such a home

  • Livability – The design should support the comfort of its occupants in ergonomics, thermal comfort, visual quality and accommodation.
  • Accessibility – The design should exhibit clear and innovative means of accommodating and serving a resident with a physical disability.
  • Sustainability – A design that includes reduced energy use and environmental impact.
  • Affordability – The design needed to stay within Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity’s philosophy of building simple, affordable housing.
  • Feasibility – The design needed to take into consideration that the home would be built by non-professional volunteers.
  • Sociability – The design needed to “fit” into the neighborhood.
  • Beauty – The design needed to be recognized for its formal integrity and aesthetic quality.

Honors students

The design plans were judged by a faculty member representing the School of Architecture and Interior Design, a representative of Habitat for Humanity and a community member with a disability. The committee selected two designs for development and implementation. One of the designs by a team of DAAP students – architecture major Zach Fein and interior design major Julie Fowler – will be implemented this fall. The students worked at the Community Design Center to develop the plans. A second design by architecture student Meghan Painter is to be implemented into the UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity build in 2009.

Regular UC/Habitat volunteer Mike Benkert, a graduate student in architecture who earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from UC last spring, helped introduce basic sustainable affordable design strategies into the project. The updates to the three-bedroom, one bath, ranch-style home include a handicapped-accessible concrete ramp that is integrated seamlessly into the landscape, an idea that is also going to be added to the home under construction next door. A slightly vaulted ceiling opens up the interior of the home. Overhangs on the south side of the home provide for additional shade in the summer and increased wall thickness will provide for additional insulation, lowering energy bills. The design also incorporates modified cabinets and a larger bathroom.

The UC Honors Program serves more than 1,800 UC students representing every undergraduate college on campus. Freshman volunteers in the service-learning English course represent majors in engineering, pre-nursing, theater design production and education. Honors coursework and out-of-the-classroom experiences emphasize the University Honors themes of community engagement, global studies, leadership, research and creative arts.

UC commits to the funding and to supplying the volunteers for its annual builds with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity. The UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity partnership is supported by Fifth Third Bank, the Messer Construction Company and UC Athletics with support from University Dining Services, which provides Saturday lunches for the volunteers. Every year, as many as 175 UC student, staff and faculty volunteers dedicate around 1,700 hours alongside a qualifying family to build a home.

UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity Web site

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