Community Engagement Report Release

The CDRC and [bc] facilitate table discussions at Districts E Community Meeting. Photo: HCDD

The CDRC and [bc] facilitate table discussions at Districts E Community Meeting. Photo: HCDD

In response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Congress allocated $5.204 billion to the State of Texas for recovery efforts. In a departure from past recovery efforts, the City of Houston was given local control over $1.15 billion of these funds—and a short window of time in which to create the Local Action Plan, which outlines how federal funds will be used. The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) sought to increase the role of community engagement in informing their final Local Action Plan and Disaster Recovery Programs-- its their largest Engagement effort to date. buildingcommunityWORKSHOP was pleased to collaborate with HCDD, the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC), Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the UT Public Health Department to expand community engagement activities in the disaster recovery process.

Beginning in June 2018, HCDD reached out to local organizations to plan a series of meetings with different groups to understand their issues and expectations, receive recommendations about next steps, and identify potential partners. Then, local and community organizations were contacted to build partnerships for a community engagement process that would inform Houston’s Local Action Plan for the allocation of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds and understand the needs of communities prior and after Harvey.

Due to the rapid turnaround desired by the Mayor’s office, the Engagement process took place over the course of six weeks. [bc] and the CDRC worked together to craft a methodology, design interactive activities that would engage diverse communities, facilitate conversations, and build the department's capacity to facilitate and implement community engagement activities. [bc] and CDRC provided support to HCDD and other partner organizations by developing meeting materials, facilitator guides, and conducting facilitator training. See below the city wide meeting locations:

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The findings of the engagement process were clear. Houstonians voiced their desire for increased transparency and community participation in the recovery process. Improved drainage and long-term planning for future disasters—Harvey was the third disaster to strike Houston in 5 years—were also priorities.

The Community Engagement Report detailing the methodology was initially prepared as an internal report from [bc] to the HCD Department, but given the lessons learned and reflections included in the report, the City wished to turn it into a public guide for potential use by other cities looking to enhance their Engagement efforts. It was published online in November of 2018—to learn more, we invite you to read the Report in its entirety.

Expanding RAPIDO for Gulf Coast Recovery

We are excited to report on our progress in bringing the RAPIDO model of temporary-to-permanent housing to families affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

On July 26, the first RAPIDO Core unit in Houston opened its doors to visitors and stakeholders. Also in attendance was the family who will call the Core home. On September 20, the family moved into the first RAPIDO Core in the city of Houston, TX. The family will remain there throughout construction of the Expansion, transforming the temporary Core unit into a permanent three-bedroom home. Construction on the expansion began in October.

Our efforts have also included design for RAPIDO Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can act as temporary housing during the home repair process, and then provide a source of extra income as a rental unit after reconstruction.

The design and partnership work with Covenant Community Capital and Texas Housers to realize RAPIDO units in Houston was supported by funding partnership with Enterprise Community Partners.

We are excited to announce that we are working to design and build 15 RAPIDO Core Units in Gulf Coast communities through a new grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund. Through this grant, we are also conducting research and development for mass production of RAPIDO Cores. This will serve 15 additional families affected by the storm, while also advancing progress toward the mass production of RAPIDO Cores.

New Home Development Program Breaks Ground in Acres Homes

On September 4, the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department broke ground on 8 homes in the Acres Homes neighborhood that were designed by [bc] as part of the New Home Development Program. Drawing from the engagement done as a part of the City of Houston's Disaster Recovery Round 2, the designs were updated to improve resiliency and accessibility. [bc] staff were in attendance for the event, in addition to Mayor Sylvester Turner and representatives from HCDD.

Check out our photos from the event below!

Welcome Christine!

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We are excited to welcome Christine Nguyen!

Christine Nguyen is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. She works on disaster recovery and other projects in and around the Houston area. 

Christine graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor or Arts in Architecture and a minor in Energy and Sustainability.

Learn more about Christine here. 

Acres Homes: New Home Development Program

Healthy, viable communities rely on strong interpersonal ties at the neighborhood level—and the preservation of affordable housing is crucial to this equation. With that in mind, we are excited to announce a partnership between buildingcommunityWORKSHOP and the City of Houston focused on creating affordable single family homes for sale using lots available from the Houston Land Bank.

Building off of our work with the Disaster Recovery Round 2 (DR2) program, [bc] is partnering with the City to design 18 new, single-family homes in the Acres Homes neighborhood. Through DR2, we had the opportunity to work with local designers in developing a Community Engagement process to set contextual and programmatic design preferences for the targeted neighborhoods and to produce informed schematic home designs, including floor plans and elevations. Taking into consideration lessons learned from our affordable housing projects and the recent changes to the floodplain ordinance in Houston, [bc] worked to adapt the designs to pier and beam foundation as well as to increase their spatial efficiencies. These home designs are based on the feedback received during the DR2 engagement process, individual design meetings with over 300 households, and our recent participation in the Acres Home neighborhood design charrette through the Complete Communities initiative.

A Unique Approach to Housing Affordability

By building on lots owned by the Houston Land Bank, this program establishes a long-term strategy for affordability in the Acres Homes neighborhood. The Houston Land Bank relies on the use of strategic relationships between developers, builders, community organizations, and other stakeholders to stimulate the revitalization of vacant, abandoned, and/or tax foreclosed properties.

Why New Home Development?

The City of Houston’s New Home Development Program concentrates on bringing infill homes built on vacant lots, adding options for healthy affordable housing that increase neighbor proximity and give more families the opportunity to become first-time homebuyers.

Building new homes increases a community’s physical assets, encouraging future development and investment. Furthermore, partnerships between home designers, builders, and community organizations engaged in community revitalization are strengthened when the affordable housing stock is developed.

Here’s the Master Plan for Acres Homes:

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Stay tuned for more updates on the Acres Homes development. We look forward to sharing more with you here on our website and in our newsletter!

Rapido CORE Accessory Dwelling Unit

We have developed a series of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), exploring different outdoor design layouts that allow for adaptation and flexibility of placement in multiple lot configurations. All of our ADU designs utilize [bc]'s RAPIDO CORE, a disaster recovery housing modular unit, designed for durable and fast rehousing post disaster.  Check out more information about this initiative and the details for each ADU design option at [bc]'s People's Design Library.

There are many reasons a property owner would want to invest in a RAPIDO ADU: disaster preparedness, temporary housing during repairs or reconstruction, increase affordable units in the city and provide extra income to homeowners.  

These structures can be built quickly using standard materials and construction methods and are designed on raised platforms in order to avoid damage from flooding. A RAPIDO ADU can also be used as a safe house during a storm, especially if your home sustains serious damage. Because RAPIDO COREs can be built quickly,  the ADU can act as temporary housing and allow homeowners whose houses are in need of repairs to remain on their property while their home is repaired or rebuilt. ADUs are also often rented out to individuals, and this extra structure can give the homeowner an extra source of income once they have returned to their repaired home. 

Welcome Alison!

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We are excited to welcome Alison Katz, our Houston bcINTERN this summer!

Alison is from Saratoga Springs, NY and currently pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University as part of the class of 2020. You can read more about Alison here

Alison has been supporting our RAPIDO work in Houston. This summer, she will be working on marketing for upcoming projects, as well as assisting with community meetings that are happening here in Houston regarding the local needs and priorities for recovery since Harvey.

Alison says, "So far, my experience at [bc] has been really eye opening. Houston is a new city to me, and talking to people who have lost everything because of Harvey has been really impactful. In a short amount of time I have learned a lot about the way policy has specifically affected the way the city has recovered (or not) from the hurricane, and the ways community centers are advocating for people in need."

Welcome bcINTERNs!

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This summer, for the first time ever, [bc] will host an intern in each of its 4 offices.

Our Summer 2018 bcINTERNs are:

Ucha is currently pursuing a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights and Environmental Studies from Southern Methodist University.

Sara is working on her Bachelor of Environmental Design, specialization in architecture, at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Alison is pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University.

Lilith is a recent graduate of Tulane University with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Policy and Practice, Political Science and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine and Studio Arts.

We are excited to welcome these four new interns to our team! Follow the links to their bio pages to learn more about them and what they'll be working on this summer!

RAPIDO in Houston

With the support of a funding partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., [bc] is working to bring the RAPIDO model to Houston, working with families affected by Hurricane Harvey in collaboration with Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and Covenant Community Capital

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We've worked to adapt RAPIDO's temporary-to-permanent housing model for this new geography and have designed a temporary-to-permanent unit for a family. RAPIDO’s housing model deploys a temporary CORE unit to family’s property weeks after a disaster, which can be expanded into a permanent home through a system of semi-custom designed additions. The purpose of the RAPIDO CORE is to bridge the gap between relief and recovery housing and provide a pathway to meet long-term family needs and preferences.

Our first RAPIDO prototype in Houston will provide the process and the means for a Houston family to become homeowners and allow us to pilot RAPIDO in Houston.

We're also working to design and build an Accessory Dwelling Unit prototype (ADU), which will pilot additional possibilities for post-disaster housing and pre-disaster planning. After a disaster, RAPIDO's ADU allows homeowners whose houses are in need of repairs to remain on their property while the repairs are made. After the homeowner moves back into their primary home, the ADU can be rented out as affordable housing, providing an extra income. The RAPIDO ADU unit can also play a role pre-disaster by providing a safe space on a homeowner's property.

Check out photos below!

Disaster Recovery Round 2

See more posts about Disaster Recovery Round 2 here!

Disaster Recovery Round 2 has nearly come to an end, over 240 homes have been built to date across 6 neighborhoods throughout the city of Houston. In August the program was extended with an additional 44 homes. [bc] has met with 33 of those homeowners to select their new homes, 21 home designs have been submitted for permit to date. 

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A Guide to the [bc] Request for Qualifications

Learn more about projects with Design Partners: PDII, Activating Vacancy, and Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres.

This year we've revamped our Request for Qualifications.  Below is a full look at the Request for Qualifications form, so that you know what information you will need to have ready before you begin.

Important things to note:

  • You cannot save your work while filling out the form. Draft your answers and materials before you start.
  • Active projects seeking designers will be listed in Question 1.
  • If you are applying for a specific project, the application may have more or fewer questions that the application form shown here. 
  • There are two (2) uploads required for most applications (Questions 7 & 13): 
    • Question 7 is a short narrative that describes your interest, experience, and qualifications for working with community groups. 
    • Question 13 is a document that contains photo or graphic samples of your work. 
  • References (Question 8) are not required for the general application, but strongly encouraged!
  • You may not hear back immediately. Projects and volunteer opportunities occur throughout the year at various times and frequencies.
  • If you have questions, email us at inform@bcworkshop.org or give us a call at 214.252.2900.

Community Design Lessons at Structures for Inclusion 2015

Learn more about RAPIDO and DR2, our solutions to post-disaster recovery housing.

From April 11-12, [bc] presented at the Structures for Inclusion conference in Detroit, MI and learned from other examples of public interest design. Elaine Morales-Díaz contributed to the discussion on the role of resiliency in public interest design by presenting the disaster recovery housing program, a context-based, innovative model for disaster relief housing that encompasses all of the tenets of resiliency. Resiliency not only includes recovering from a disaster, but preparing for recovery in a comprehensive way (also known as "pre-covery") that allows local teams to respond & adapt to current or sudden adversities without sacrificing community engagement, home design, or home quality.  Projects from Detroit and other resilient cities were presented to practitioners of public interest architecture & design, who were challenged to incorporate community engagement principles into questions of urban revitalization and resilience.

Structures for Inclusion is an annual conference hosted by Design Corps that features SEED Award winners. The SEED Award is given to design and architectural projects that have exceptional social, economic and environmental impact.

There were also lessons we took from the context of Detroit.  The Impact Detroit Community Development Guides have resonance for [bc]'s three geographies given that they all face the challenge of dealing with vacant urban in-fill. The guides provide a way for citizens and community members to participate in revitalization and development efforts. Detroit's location also provided valuable takeaways on engaging people outside the design community in public interest design work. A solid methodology is key to engaging various stakeholders, as well as reflecting on what went well during the design process & what didn't.  [bc]'s six core methods of work -- informing, analyzing, activating, mapping, making & storytelling -- are designed for that purpose. Understanding the relationship between design & other elements in the built environment requires seeking knowledge outside of our field. 

In particular, the El Guadual Youth Development Center in Colombia is an example of how architecture can provide appropriate facilities for young children in an educational context while incorporating students into the design process. However, the buildings themselves were a catalyst for social improvement, and their design/construction programs increased the local community's skill set.  In Brownsville[bc] has developed a house design to be built by participants in the Youthbuild program, which aims to teach low-income youth construction skills in the Rio Grande Valley

Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis Magazine, was also a keynote speaker on Saturday night.  She provided sharp insight on how architects can better engage stakeholders and communicate their intentions more clearly through the showcase of projects like Via Verde in New York City.  Via Verde is an example of how affordable housing can be beautiful, low-cost, and provide dignity & choice to its residents. Projects where we strive to encompass these principles include Congo St. in Dallas and DR2 in HoustonDR2 in particular has incorporated housing choice among residents as a key component of the post-disaster housing recovery process.  Szenasy also mentioned how Metropolis' relative lack of architectural jargon and commitment to storytelling makes design more accessible to the public. [bc] strives to make sure its informing & storytelling efforts are relevant to a wide range of audiences both inside and outside the design community through the use of web posts, social media, community engagement events, and neighborhood research.

Overall, SFI 15 was a positive experience, especially for the seven bcFELLOWS in attendance -- it provided networking opportunities and showcased examples of public interest design in a variety of contexts. The conference allowed fellows in particular the opportunity to engage with a variety of practitioners & observe different models for practicing public interest design.

Improving the Recovery Process

Learn more about our disaster recovery projects RAPIDO and DR2.

In Texas, disaster recovery takes far too long and is marred by inefficiencies and high costs. Instead of re-inventing disaster recovery programs after every disaster, we need to plan for recovery before a disaster strikes, allowing for faster recovery time with less money invested to build greater value. In 2009, the Texas State Legislature passed legislation creating a demonstration project to design a better system. The Legislature needs to act again to expand this Texas solution.

Given our work with the RAPIDO Demonstration Project in the RGV and Disaster Recovery Round 2 in Houston, we joined with our partners and created a video outlining what needs to change in our Texas disaster response programs.

DR2 Design Meetings and Construction

See more posts about Disaster Recovery Round 2 here!

As a part of Round 2 of the City of Houston’s Disaster Recovery Program (DR2), the design team, led by bcWORKSHOP and supported by Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Unabridged Architecture, and the University of Houston Community Design Resource Center, is working to deliver single family infill home designs. 

The team is committed to delivering high-quality cost-effective sustainable designs that respect the communities interests and character while offering individual homeowner choice through individual design meetings. These design meetings allowed each family to further customize their chosen design from the Home Design Catalogue in order to ensure it fit their needs and site constrains for construction.

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More information about this program can also be found at the Disaster Recovery Round 2 project website. You can also download our DR2 Design Guidebook to find out more about the six neighborhoods involved in this process.

Celebrating Local Heroes

Learn more about our MLK Day of Service projects here.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play in that effort. For our 2015 service project in his honor, [bc] set out to recognize some of those who serve their communities by releasing the Second Edition of buildingcommunityHEROES trading cards.  By creating a fun, tactile, and pocketable way to learn about those working to improve our communities, we hope to encourage those of all ages to honor their heroes and engage in the causes that speak to them.

We put out the call for local hero nominations at the beginning of January and received just over 100 nominations for those working tirelessly in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  Nominations included selfless family members, state senators, founders of schools, advocacy group members and fearless neighborhood leaders.  It was not easy, but from here we researched and curated the nominations to get a final group of heroes with a diverse range of causes, ages, backgrounds and levels of impact.  After the final selections were made, the cards were printed, sorted, packaged and ready for a January 19 distribution.

We distributed the cards on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and throughout the week in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  We hope that the stories of these 24 heroes will inspire people to be more active in their communities.  We also hope that the cards will encourage people to think about and honor their local heroes.  If you were not able to pick up a pack, check out all 24 heroes plus 2014's at www.buildingcommunityheroes.org.


 

Who is your hero?  Share them on social media at #bcHEROES2015 and nominate them for the third edition of trading cards!

Welcome Corey Browder!

This week we are welcoming our newest Fellow, Corey Browder, to [bc]!

Corey is the newest bcFellow in the Houston office where he will be working with Ann Panopio and Jonathan Mann on DR2. He is a native Texan and hails from Dallas. He earned his B.S. in Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and is also receiving his Masters in Architecture from his alma mater with focus in Community Development. He has a passion for acknowledging cultural significances and natural elements through research development and responsive design.