For those of you who believe that the reputation of college students as impassioned revolutionaries has been replaced by one of apathetic conformists, you may find restored hope at the University of Virginia School of Architecture.

ecoMOD is a research and design/build project begun during the 04-05 school year and slated to continue in phases over the next four years. In partnership with the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, VA, students at the UVA School of Architecture intend to design and erect at least three 1,000-1,2000-sq.-ft. homes in low-income communities in the Piedmont area.

These are not your standard affordable houses. The ecoMOD homes are modular and eco-friendly, with emphasis placed on marrying indoor and outdoor space through passive design strategies. The first prototype is aptly named the OUTin house, and will be erected in the Fifeville neighborhood following completion at a build site in a former airplane hangar.

During the 05-06 school year, the OUTin home will be closely monitored, with data collected and compared to other houses in parallel categories. In the subsequent two years, the remaining two prototypes will be built, and presumably many more in the future, to be sold by the Piedmont Housing Alliance to qualified buyers.

ecoMOD?s mission statement says that they are dedicated to “making ecology legible for the inhabitant.” That’s one of the most sensible missions I?ve ever heard from a group of sustainable building advocates. What good is it to implement sustainable practices if the homeowner doesn?t understand the how and why of their eco-friendly home?

This is an admirable project that brings together community advocacy, social responsibility, and sustainable design. If the UVA architecture students and professors are any reflection of the next generation, we’ve got a good thing coming.

Posted by Sarah Rich