The MOD5 is a model of how homes can be both sustainable and affordable. The experimental house, which features a clean, flexible and modern design, relies on natural resources, such as rainwater for cooling, natural breezes for ventilation, and the sun for light and heat.
Developed by architecture students in Professor Pablo La Roche’s design studio, the MOD5 and the P+Dzn houses are carbon-neutral prototypes that will be built in Pamo Valley, a small ranching community in the back country of San Diego. They will replace two city-owned homes that were destroyed by wildfires in 2007.
After the fires, the city of San Diego elected to not use FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding to purchase trailer homes and instead contacted Cal Poly Pomona for help. La Roche teamed with HMC Architects, including environmental analyst Eric Carbonnier, a 2010 alumnus of the regenerative studies master’s program, who helped coordinate the practitioner’s side of the project. La Roche and Carbonnier received a $4,000 grant from NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) to help fund the design of the two homes that are energy efficient and cost less than $120,000 each. Construction is scheduled to start in the fall.
“The Pamo Valley project is one of the most exciting projects I have worked on. It presents a real-world challenge of integrating educational theory and architectural practice,” says senior Brandon Ro, who partnered with Aaron Locke to design the MOD5. “Having our design actually built this fall will be an incredible accomplishment. I do not know of very many students who have had their architectural designs built. It is a vision — a dream — come true.”
During winter quarter, La Roche’s studio design class worked with professionals from HMC Architects to evaluate the site’s conditions and develop a general design for a two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home. Working in pairs, students presented their drawings, and two winners were selected.
The MOD5 is a single-story home with a flat roof and a flexible wall system composed of sliding floor-to-ceiling glass panels, moveable insulating partitions and adjustable shading louvers. The two-story P+Dzn house, designed by architecture students Parinaz Behbahani and Dimitrios Tolios, uses modular components that can be pre-fabricated and assembled quickly.
Tolios says his team wanted to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. At the same time, the team strived to maintain a small physical footprint and keep construction costs low.
“We were all very eager to come up with applicable designs while also considering the specified budget, unlike the average student project for other design studios,” Behbahani says. “Setting and following real-life design specifications and being acknowledged for the results was surely a very rewarding experience for both of us.”
One of the project goals is to demonstrate that eco-friendly design doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.
“This project helped me explore and expose people in the housing industry to affordable solutions for truly sustainable housing applications, in contrast to the norm that calls for ‘green architecture’ being a PR statement for large corporations and wealthy individuals,” Tolios says. “As soon as the industry realizes the potential of affordable solutions, the demand for low-cost, high-performance buildings will maximize the benefits for both our natural environment and the quality of our everyday life.”
During spring quarter, a new group of students in La Roche’s elective course in sustainable systems built and tested prototypes of the insulation, ventilation, waste management and lighting systems. This summer, HMC will hire two interns to work on construction documentation. Construction on the two homes is expected to be complete by this year. After homes are built and ranchers move in, students will measure the performance of their energy-saving designs and systems.
For more details and updates about the Pamo Valley Project, visit https://pamovalley.com/.
(Top photo: A conceptual drawing of the MOD5 house. Middle photo: A mock-up of the P+Dzn house. Bottom photo: Professor Pablo La Roche talks about the Pamo Valley project with his design studio students.)