design muscle

The wide range of skills required for social impact projects often call upon our planning, budgeting and scheduling experience more than our spatial and material selection talents. We stretched some long unused muscles this year and completed a few traditional projects including design and construction of an elevated tiny house, two office remodels, and a custom two-story home. The benefits were two-fold. We brought our community engagement skills to our client meetings in each of these projects in 2016, and we now feel more prepared to work on floor plans and renderings in an upcoming neighborhood investment project.


way way back

Delta Design Build Workshop grew from a construction company into a social impact design, build, and teaching collaborative in 2016. Post Rose Fellowship, we are excited to have continued to work in the Mississippi Delta, building equity through the built environment and working in partnership with communities and organizations that share our values.

Unfortunately, while we were busy with all that growth, writing blog posts didn’t make it to the top of my to-do list. So to end the year, we are recapping a great twelve months with a series of blog posts that highlight how we stretched our capacity, our brains, our schedules, our budgets, and our legs in 2016.

To start the list, Delta DB’s longstanding partnership with Village Life Outreach Project continued. Our design team grew to include recent University of Cincinnati DAAP graduate Jesse Larkins as a summer intern, and Richard traveled to Tanzania to wrap up construction of one medical personnel duplex, and begin a second one. These staff houses are essential to support the Roche Health Center (read more about RHC here) because the remoteness of the site means that resident doctors and nurses are required for the center to qualify to offer many important medical services and medications.

We are thrilled to continue to be a part of this team (including partners both in Cincinnati and Roche) that values health and human life so much.

Many aspects of the process that has developed over our seven years of working with UC, Roche, and Village Life is represented in the pictures below. Roche residents build masonry (fence posts and soil bricks) on site, a team of Tanzanian craftsmen lead the construction crew, women are a part of the construction team, new water and electrical infrastructure is being developed, and UC alumni, faculty, and students provide medical care. It makes me proud to be a Bearcat.

mississippi state celebrates research success

Sixty Mississippi State students, faculty and staff are 2016 selections for exceptional research and leadership honors. Assistant Professor Emily McGlohn and I were pleased to be among the honorees for our work on energy efficiency in low-wealth housing in Greenwood, MS.

Source: Mississippi State celebrates research success with annual banquet

innovation and the odds

In July of 2015, a Washington Post article “An Opportunity Gamed Away” shared the story of Linda Fay Engle-Harris, a Tunica, MS resident whose housing and economic situation might have been different if the development possibilities brought by casinos had been tapped into by government and corporate leaders. Ms. Engle-Harris, like many others in rural Mississippi, lives in a dilapidated home and does not have access to affordable housing options that are safe, healthy or dignified. Though we often hear stories of Mississippi and the ways in which the deck is stacked against residents, especially Black residents, adversity also leads to ingenuity. Though a challenge is at the root of Ms. Engle-Harris’ story, in 2016, innovation is becoming the theme.

Olon Dotson, an Associate Professor of Architecture at Ball State University, was inspired by to get involved by the Post article. He contacted Ms. Engle-Harris and the two have embarked on a journey to improve Ms. Engle-Harris’ living situation, but also to engage Ball State students in important questions around affordable housing and social and environmental justice in the process.

My own work documents one story of how Katrina Cottages have been re-purposed as affordable housing after their initial deployment to the Gulf Coast. Now, Dotson and his students are digging into the question of how to utilize remaining one-bedroom (approximately 400 square foot) units that don’t fit well in the demographic of large and sometimes multi-generational households common in Mississippi’s rural environment. Students presented mid-term designs to Ms. Engle-Harris combining two of the smaller units into one large home.

Dotson’s studio is exposing students to topics that loom large in the architecture and community development fields today, such as how design can better be utilized and understood as a tool for building equity, and how the definition of the roles of the architect and the client change faced with contemporary challenges. But likely the most innovative aspect of this project is the balance that the student proposals strike between modular and site-built components. As architects seek opportunities for innovation throughout an expanded scope of project delivery, and interest in pre-fabricated, modular and manufactured housing continues to rise, this type of hybrid thinking is not yet well vetted but implies untapped potential for improving building performance and responding to client’s individual goals within the confines of a budget.

housing knowlege at aia 2016 convention

The first time I registered to attend an AIA (American Institute of Architects) convention, wading through course descriptions (and checking which ones I could afford) took up more than my lunch hour. Now, AIA offers “tracks” to help you select a specific type of learning experience. Similarly, the Housing Knowledge Community (HKC), compiled the following list of housing related programs for those interested in housing and community development.

We are especially excited about our own pre-convention workshop, described in the postcard below. There’s still time to sign up.

AIA-WE115 postcard-031616

Pre-Convention Workshop
WE115 Housing, Community Development and Design: Case Studies from Philadelphia Wednesday 5/18, 8AM-12PM, Pennsylvania Convention Center 3.75 LUs/RIBA

Housing Awards Ceremony & Reception
EV313 – The Best in Housing Design: AIA and HUD Housing Awards Friday 5/20, 6:30-8:30 PM, Philadelphia History Museum, 15 S 7th Street

WE307 – Strengthening Design through Community [3.75 LUs/RIBA]

EV213 – CRAN Forum: Focusing Exclusively on the Practice of Residential Architecture EL101a/b The Architect’s Guide to Managing Risk on Residential Construction Projects TH203 – Accessible Homes: Lessons from the Field
TH208 – Converging Innovative Health Care Delivery and Green Urban Design
TH217 – Passive Housing: Affordable Fenestration Solutions
TH305 – The New East River: Transformative Waterfront Design
TH408 – DesignVoice: Serving Your Community through Public Interest Design

FR109 – Green Residential Trends: Opportunities in a Rapidly Growing Market
FR110 – Small Firms Achieving Zero Net Energy through Creative Residential Design FR115 – The NEW Collaboration Between Residential Architects and Custom Home Builders
FR204 – Fabulous Pre-fab: Applying Modular Construction to Multifamily Residential Projects
FR303 – HOUSE: Adaptive Reuse from Residential to Academic at Penn
FR322 – Making Room: The Housing Crises in London and New York
FR411 – Smaller Residential Unit Design Principles as a Key to Sustainability
FR415 – Community Invigoration: Pop-up Impact on Communities
EX108 – Emerging Trends in Package Management and Equipment for Multifamily Housing

SA108 – Social Impact: A Philadelphia Tradition [1.00 LU/RIBA]
SA206 – What’s Driving Home Improvement? Results from Major New Houzz Research

GT203 – Tour of Social Impact Development
ET228 – Cira Green: Green Infrastructure as a Public Amenity
ET222B – High-Performance, Affordable Housing for TOD: Paseo Verde


Hop On The Bus For A Mad Mod Affair In The Delta

Thanks to Harry Connolly for introducing me to this great Mississippi based blog!

Preservation in Mississippi


 Mississippi Heritage Trust

Mad Mod Affair Delta

Saturday, April 2

9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.-Architectural Tour of the Delta

$25 a person

Architects in the mid-twentieth century defied tradition and experimented with color, form and materials to create the many fun, unusual and occasionally outlandish houses, banks, dry cleaners, offices and schools that make up Mississippi’s historic modernist landscape. The Delta is home to many such modernist gems that are now considered the “new historic.” Our fun and informative tour, led by John Beard, AIA, will showcase the creative spirit that is embodied in modernism in true Delta style. Stops will include visits with people who have worked hard to save and maintain these special places, like Tommy Verdell with the Valley, architect Charles Bowman, Cheryl Taylor with the Museum of the Delta, David O’Bryan with Delta Electric and Myrna Smith-Thompson with the Knights and Daughters of Tabor.  Noted photographer Trip Farris…

View original post 272 more words

architectural agency workshop at MSU is NCARB winner

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) announced three NCARB Award winners last night at the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) administrators conference. I’m thrilled that a proposal I co-wrote with Emily McGlohn, Assistant Professor of Architecture at MSU CAAD, and John Poros, director of the Carl Small Town Center (CSTC), was chosen as an award recipient.

Our proposal brings together the community design expertise of the CSTC, Emily McGlohn’s teaching knowledge and Rural Studio background, and my social impact architecture practice in Greenwood, Mississippi. Students will engage in three ways: immersion, discussions, and workshops. Gaining leadership skills, community engagement experience, and a broad perspective on the field of architecture, class participants will expand their understanding of how architects can apply their expertise to the challenges that face our society and our planet today.

Read about all three winners here, and then check out this site (preview below) and this book, “Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture” that inspire us.

spatial agency screen shot