With the current vogue of reality tv shows sweeping the networks, we’re excited to see one with an admirable humanitarian design mission. Architecture School is a new series that follows twelve architecture students at the Tulane University School of Architecture as they design and build a low-cost sustainable home for a family returning to New Orleans. An excellent example of integrating students within a community, the three year venture will join the architecture school with URBANbuild and the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services
Before the show each of the 12 architecture students submitted a plan and then they voted on which one would be built. This season’s winning design is a two-story, 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house that features Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs. These high performance building panels are durable, energy efficient, and cost-effective. Sips are constructed by sandwiching foam insulation between two structural skins of fiber-cement, metal or oriented strand board (OSB). OSB is made from sustainably harvested wood, and SIP foam cores are composed from air and a small amount of petroleum. According to the Structural Insulated Panel Association, “The average SIP home saves nineteen times the energy it took to make the EPS insulation in the first year of installation”.
The URBANbuild program emphasizes “affordability and innovation” and employs a variety of sustainable building techniques with low-cost. Cutting-edge strategies like photovoltaics are not used due to their prohibitive cost, but URBANbuild’s sister program GREENbuild does incorporate sustainable energy into its designs.
After five months of construction, the third URBANbuild house now stands in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The show premiered on the Sundance Channel on Wednesday, August 20 and will continue through October 2nd.