Rural Studio Goes into Hammer and Nails Mode

Housing finance provider Fannie Mae has extended a research agreement with Auburn University’s Rural Studio program, providing an additional $450,000 for The Front Porch Initiative, which promotes the construction of well-designed homes for low-income, rural areas.

Under the initial two contracts with Fannie Mae, faculty and students from Rural Studio developed prototype designs and related construction documents for high performance rural homes. This third contract moves the project from planning to implementation, as field-test partners work with The Front Porch Initiative to begin building houses.

Under the guidance of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae has developed a three-year Duty to Serve plan that seeks creative ways to increase availability of mortgages and housing in low-income, high-needs rural areas.

“This project is about changing the way people look at mortgages and home ownership by linking home performance with financing,” said Mackenzie Stagg, the co-principal investigator under the contract and an assistant research professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA). Working with Stagg is principal investigator Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio and also in the APLA.

- Sponsor -

The current phase enables the Rural Studio Front Porch Initiative team to continue to work with organizations on the ground that are building homes in rural areas, while offering technical assistance and construction documents to field test partners and home builders.

In addition, this contract will enable Rural Studio to develop both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the performance of the energy-efficient homes that are now under construction.

Based on the specific model and owner of each home, the team will collect data related to energy consumption, indoor air quality, ambient light, temperature, relative humidity and intra-wall measurements, which will be compared to exterior weather and climate data. Of equal importance is gathering information on the relative comfort of people living inside the home.

“The faculty, staff and students of Rural Studio have been innovative and creative housing partners,” said Michael Hernandez, vice president of Housing Access, Disaster Responses and Rebuild, Fannie Mae. “Our work with The Front Porch team has resulted in many new actionable learnings on how to design and build affordable and resilient homes to serve the needs of rural communities.”

Rural Studio is an off-campus, design build program of Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture. It has been working in West Alabama’s Black Belt since 1993, when it was established by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee. The studio has built more than 200 projects.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox