ecoMOD South Wins 2013 R&D Award from Architect Magazine July 17, 2013

The ecoMOD South Project has won a 2013 Research and Development Award from Architect Magazine, in the Production category. Read about it here: http://www.architectmagazine.com/affordable-housing/ecomod.aspx

Filed under: news — John Quale @ 8:54 AM

It’s almost the end of the semester… December 7, 2012

The fantastic ecoREMOD Fall 2012 studio crew is gearing up for their final deadline for the semester – they are looking a little tired, and ready to finish this off –

Here’s a picture – with all from the studio, but none of the engineers with us today, and Tim missing in this photo –

John Quale

A little tired, and ready for the last big push....

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 6:43 PM

ecoMOD Ranch Redux December 3, 2012

Hello, All!

My name is Claire Lester and I am a fourth year undergrad participating in the ecoREMOD SoBo Project this semester. More specifically I am working on a series of ranch house designs for Southside Outreach to consider building on the remaining lots from ecoMOD South.  This past Wednesday, our studio had a review where we received a lot of valuable feedback.  From here until the rest of the semester my team will now work on developing a kit of parts to be used in the creation of many versatile ranch house options.  Below I have attached some photos from our brainstorming session in studio today.  Please excuse the mess :)

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 10:11 PM

Architecture and Engineering Student Collaboration in ecoMOD November 28, 2012

The interdisciplinary nature of the ecoMOD project is in full fruition this semester. Every semester, John Quale’s architecture studio and Paxton Marshall’s engineering course Sustainable Housing work to advance the goals of the ecoMOD project. As the respective teaching assistant this semester, my role is to coordinate the efforts of the architecture and engineering students, who are working together to support Southside Outreach Group and the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP).

Southside Outreach Group seeks to help low-income families become homeowner. They are now in the process of acquiring several apartment buildings in South Boston, Virginia that would serve as temporary homes for low-income residents during the transition to home ownership. They would like to renovate them to increase energy efficiency in a cost-effective manner.  A team of two engineers, Ying Wu and Dasha Tyshlek, and one architect, Seth Brown, are working closely with Eric Field of the architecture school to perform modeling and simulation of proposed shading interventions designed by the architects. They will also model insulation and windows choices to determine which could potentially produce the biggest energy savings. The biggest challenge of this work is the software, Energy Plus.  It has a steep learning curve and once students get the hang of it, they tend to graduate making continuity of such work difficult.

AHIP performs emergency rehabs as well as full renovations for low-income housing residents. A team of engineering students, Maddie Greenfield, Drew Barnocky, Maria Rode, and Trent Litsch, have performed several blower door tests on homes in the 10th and Page neighborhood, and will also perform thermal imaging, to support AHIP’s efforts. They will use these results to make suggestions to the architecture students, who are currently working on designing potential renovations to these homes, about material choices and what sorts of renovations will have the greatest impact on increasing the comfort and energy efficiency of the homes.

I stumbled upon the ecoMOD project my first year as a graduate student at UVA looking to get involved in solar energy research. This is my third year of graduate study in Electrical Engineering as well as involvement with the ecoMOD project. While I initially began investigating the performance of residential photovoltaic systems, I have primarily served as a teaching assistant and graduate mentor for the ecoMOD project.  Seeing the success of student projects and watching the growth of individuals has been rewarding and a great realization that students can use their education make create positive change in their community.

-Helena Khazdozian

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 5:47 PM

10th and Page/Preston Heights November 27, 2012

My name is Kate Stabler and I am a 4th year architecture student. I have been looking forward to being apart of the ecoMOD studio since my first year when I heard about it. I love the fact that we come to know and care about the people we build homes for or do renovations for. I have primarily ben working with two graduate students, which has been incredible. I enjoy learning from then as well as being able to keep up with them. We came into our project knowing the client wanted a new kitchen. After visiting the house on 11th Street in Charlottesville and learning more about the family, our team made the assumption that they need more bedrooms and certainly more storage space. We learned that before you visit a house you don’t know what you are getting into. Designers have to make a lot of assumptions and quickly  gather  information about the client’s lifestyle. We have designed under the assumption that the client doesn’t want to change much and can afford very little, even with help from AHIP. We have also designed more radical changes- adding a basement apartment, removing walls between the kitchen and living room, building and accessory dwelling unit (ADU)-that will improve the value of the home and the client’s lifestyle and future happiness. The redesign of this house on 11th Street is set to be finished by the end of the semester and hopefully built next summer after receiving more grant money from various sources.

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 9:24 AM

Almost There

It would be no exaggeration to say that ecoMOD is a significant reason that I came to the architecture program at UVA, so imagine how excited I was to continue working on the project after graduation as a member of the ecoMOD South team.  It has been a great opportunity to work through a project from trace paper sketches to estimate line items with all the excitement and difficult decisions that are to be expected in an ecoMOD project.  If we say that we will absolutely, under no circumstances, never in a million years do something, chances are not long afterward we’ll be eating our words.  It’s kept the team on our toes and ready to be flexible while still keeping our primary goals in mind:  affordable, energy-efficient, sustainable modular homes that will serve our clients well.

The challenges of this project are many:  Passive House standard-reaching insulating and air sealing details and calculations, two clients with different goals – one focused on the rental market and the other on sale, working with our modular builder Cardinal Homes to execute the highest levels of sustainability and energy performance, and always, always staying within budget.  Through it all, we’ve created a new variation of the ecoMOD4 design, further underscoring the adaptability of ecoMOD designs and modular building, and a compelling research comparison between a Passive House and “code-compliant” house while meeting our clients’ wants and needs.

At this point in the project, much of the UVA team’s work has been done and now we await the beginning of module construction.  This is where our painstakingly created Passive House details will be put to the test and the success of our energy conservation efforts will begin to be measured.  There are still details and final touches to be resolved, but it’s exciting to finally be (almost) ready to see our hard work realized.

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 9:23 AM

Decisions, decisions…

Prototypical decision diagram evaluating design phases. Image c/o Michael Britt

With the design for ecoMOD South in its final stages and slated for construction in January, my research has come to focus mostly on the growing database and graph application that is being developed to follow the ecoMOD “decision web” tool.

Our interest in this end of the project is both to create a widely useable software application to assist in the visualization of the many parameters that go into a decision, and to accumulate data which evaluates materials, specific designed assemblies, and broader design challenges using the application.

An exciting test for the tool will come this Spring, when we plan to implement the software during a summit meeting with the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, to allow interaction between attendees via a mobile interface and real-time surveying.

-Erik de los Reyes

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 9:20 AM

AHIP Partnership November 25, 2012

Since January, ecoREMOD has been partnering with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) to work on a neighborhood-scale rehab project.  I got involved with the project in it’s early stages, when AHIP was just beginning to wrap its head around what it would take to try to do comprehensive rehab for a few City blocks, all at once.  This project, called “Block-by-Block,” is something that AHIP hopes will be a model they can use in many neighborhoods across the city, but for now, we’re focusing on the area around 10th and Page.  Specifically, we’re looking at 10th, 10 1/2, and 11th streets between Page Street and Grady Avenue.  I was lucky enough to intern with AHIP this past summer, where I surveyed homeowners and began to compile a list of potential rehab projects.  AHIP is currently working to compile a funding package that will allow this project to move forward– we’ve identified about 35 homes with an average estimate of $49,000 in rehab costs, so there’s a pretty huge price tag associated with this project.

This semester, with the ecoREMOD studio, we’re focused on 3 of the homes, trying to look at quality of life and overall livability in addition to basic safety, soundness, and energy efficiency.  AHIP doesn’t get to focus on this type of repair, with limited funds and over 300 people on their waiting list.  So it’s been an amazing experience getting to work with the ecoREMOD class, watching them carefully considering different options and techniques that will maintain the general feel and look of these houses– some of which the families have lived in their entire lives– while at the same time coming up with innovative ways for space to be used more effectively.  There’s a constant conflict between the potential the homes have, and the limits that, realistically, constrain the projects.  We are faced with limited finances, and homeowners who are emotionally attached to their homes, some of which were built by family members, or have passed been passed down through their families for generations.  These constraints have been frustrating to work within, but I can feel that there is huge potential in these projects, and that makes it worthwhile.  These homeowners have been waiting for rehab services for up to 10 years, and the chance to have their homes renovated for not just safety, but livability, is a life-changing opportunity.

I came to the Planning program at UVA to learn the skills that would allow me to go into non-profit affordable housing.  The chance to work with ecoREMOD and AHIP together has been an amazing learning experience for me, where I am able to apply my knowledge and learn on my feet, interacting with homeowners, non-profit partners, and students of other disciplines in a real-life scenario.  I can’t wait to see these projects proceed– our plan is to get our hands dirty and do some construction this coming summer!

Margot Elton

Filed under: project updates — John Quale @ 4:13 PM

ecoREMOD BxB Featured in Hook Green Homes Edition October 15, 2012

The ecoREMOD BxB team, working with Albemarle Housing Improvement Program, was featured in the Fall 2012 Green Home Edition of The Hook.


Filed under: news — John Quale @ 11:15 AM

ecoMOD4 Project appears in “Designed for Habitat” July 23, 2012

The ecoMOD4 project appears in a book written by David Hinson and Justin Miller, published by Routledge Press in 2012.


Filed under: news — John Quale @ 11:02 AM