This plan addresses the urgent need of developing dignified and permanent homes for single families with limited resources. The idea, which arose from the aftermath of the devastation caused by 2017’s hurricane Maria, is an exploration of what it takes to create a well-tempered affordable living unit.
The design process looked to dissect the makings of a home into its elemental components. By classifying each programmatic area into private, common and social spaces, the team assessed the integral balance between spaces and needs. Reminiscent of building blocks, these components were amassed into several combinations in search of a practical, and spatially sound solution.
Keeping the project’s affordability in mind, square footage was kept to a minimum. While procuring compliance for accessibility, energy standards, and utility demands, the crafting focused heavily on implementing passive design strategies. Natural light and cross-ventilation threads throughout the whole living unit. Louvered windows and doors allow the wind to flow continuously from all angles, pushing heat out and reducing the need for air conditioning systems. A courtyard, added as a social component, further improves the temperature and interior light quality by linking the interior of the dwelling to the exterior.
Puerto Rico’s tropical climate does not change much over the year, but hurricanes and floods are a constant threat, making it fundamental to protect against them when considering the safety and long-lasting aspects of construction. Each opening throughout the home is protected from the exterior using eaves, which screen both from sun and rain. The structural system and main building materials are the same, capable of withstanding harsh natural events while maintaining cool interior temperatures. It is also fitted to harvest and filter rainwater, store potable water for up to five days, and store solar renewable energy.
An additional and crucial component of this prototype is the concept of adaptability. Architecturally and structurally, it is modularly formulated to grow from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom home. While the primary needs are to be met through public utilities, the infrastructure is designed to be self-supporting and allow for reduced day-to-day consumption. The electrical infrastructure is split into two main distribution panels, one for heavy loads and another for lighter loads, powered by renewable energy. Also, the potable water system is equipped with a 1,000-gallon water cistern and a 200-gallon tank that harvests the water that gets filtered and inserts it back into the main system.
The sum of these components: the architecturally adaptable module, and the use of natural light, cross ventilation and, renewable resources, comprise the most important goal and a new baseline for this affordable housing prototype: resiliency.