Sustainable by design 2050

An initiative of the UIA

Velux model home 2020




$20K House IX, MacArthur's House

$20K House IX, MacArthur's House
$20K House IX, MacArthur's House
$20K House IX, MacArthur's House
$20K House IX, MacArthur's House
Auburn University Rural Studio (student team: Will Holman, Pernilla Hagbert, Clem Blakemore; faculty team: Andrew Freear, Danny Wicke)
Joe Farruggia, Paul Stoller, Xavier Vendrell
The Americas - USA - Faunsdale, Alabama
Climate Zone
Design status
Date of completion
Footprint (m²)
GFA (m²)
NFA (m²)
Gross Volume (GV) (m³)
Building Costs
12455 USD
Building Costs / m² GFA
Building Costs / m² NFA
Building Costs / m³ GV
Cooling / Heating-System

cooling: natural ventillation, ceiling fans
heating: natural gas radiant heat

Use of renewable ressources - low tech
natural cross ventilation
Renewable, recycled, recyclable and innovative materials

The home is typical wood frame construction because wood is an abundant local material. Galvanized metal is used for the roof; it could be recycled at the end of the building's life cycle.

Key Sustainability aspects
solar building integration, vernacular building strategies, renewable building materials, integrated planning process, low cost design, use of innovative design tools
Sustainability rated
Social and ethical responsibility

Since its inception in 1993, Rural Studio has focused on instilling in its students the value of socially-conscious design by integrating projects into the context of an underserved population. The Studio exists to educate architecture students, emphasizing the importance of creating appropriate design solutions within the context of the local community. The $20K House program specifically addresses the lack of decent, affordable housing options in Alabama's Black Belt region.

Ressource efficiency and environmental impact

When designing the home, the student team based their dimensions on standard material modules to minimize construction waste. By constructing the home on piers, the team not only addressed issues of building in the area's expansive clay soil, but also reduced the amount of concrete used. Also, by using piers, barely any impervious surface was added to the site. The home is small yet adequately sized, which allows efficiency in heating and cooling the spaces, decreasing the amount of energy consumed.

Economic lifecycle perfomance

The $20K House program gets its name for the highest mortgage a person on median social security can maintain. Traditionally, the lack of conventional credit for low-income individuals means that, for many, trailers offer the only chance for home ownership. Unlike a house, trailers deteriorate very quickly and depreciate in value over time. By keeping the home small and efficient, the $20K House can become an affordable option and a financial asset for the owner. For example, MacArthur's house now appraises at a much higher cost than the value of the materials used to construct it.

Contextual performance and impact

The $20K House seeks to become a viable alternative to the ubiquitous trailer in the rural American landscape. Trailers are designed solely for transport and give no weight to the local context and environment. Alternatively, the $20K House takes into account both the region's climate and social context. Based on the Southern "dogtrot house" typology, the home has taken cues from its precedcessor's passive systems as well as its vernacular style.