Casitas Los Olmos is finished!

Learn more about our Making work!


Casitas Los Olmos, completed in October 2017, is a neighborhood of 80 single family rental units and six community amenity structures where families can thrive and have a sense of ownership of where they live.  Porches create spaces to enjoy the outdoors, shaded windows help keep the hot sun out, and energy and water efficient construction help keep utility bills low. Each home has parking spaces immediately adjacent to the front door.

The 8.72 acre site incorporates low impact development (LID) strategies such as bioswales, partially permeable driveways, and native landscaping to filter and absorb as much stormwater on site as possible. Community amenity structures (including leasing offices, a learning center, a community space with a prep kitchen, a BBQ pavilion, mail kiosk, laundry and playground) define the larger public green areas. Steel roofs encompass the amenity structures and provide large shaded areas for comfortable gathering and play areas. The shade structures take a cue from Raymondville’s agricultural history. 

From the project's inception, the design team challenged itself to create a place that engages residents and engenders a sense of community. The neighborhood was developed via a community engaged design process, resulting in a collection of sequential green spaces, varying in scale from pocket neighborhood areas to community greens. The integration of pedestrian paths allow residents to move throughout these spaces of gathering and play. 

Expanding Affordable Housing

Learn more about sustainABLEhouse, and our sAh RGV work.

Above: sustainABLEhouse clients in Cameron and Willacy Counties

sustainABLEhouse LRGV utilizes design as a tool to address issues of equity within the Lower Rio Grande Valley by providing affordable single-family housing that is durable, efficient, contextually appropriate, and community & resident informed.  Each sustainABLEhouse is the result of an inclusive design process that is rooted in  informed resident choice. Affordable housing is too often synonymous with a one-size-fits-all  approach that doesn’t offer any real choices for families most in need. Low-income families in search of affordable, well built housing rarely (if ever) have access to design services providing direct path toward shaping how their home will address their needs and preferences.

In addition to increasing affordable housing options for individual families, the sustainABLEhouse initiative works at larger scales to enhance the vitality of neighborhoods by infilling vacant lots and rebuilding existing substandard housing. Additionally, the initiative seeks to create and strengthen partnerships between home designers, builders, and community organizations engaged in community revitalization.

RAPIDO: Redefining Disaster Recovery

Learn more about RAPIDO and our work in the RGV.

Rapid recovery after natural disasters, especially returning families to safe, quality permanent homes, has traditionally been very difficult, poorly executed, and expensive. The Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest areas in the country, and often hit by massive flooding, is the pilot site for a new and innovative rapid recovery model.

Based on a grant awarded by the Council of Governments and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), along with project partners La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), ARISE, Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service and the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, [bc] is working to deliver 20 low cost, rapid deployment post-disaster housing prototypes, as well as technical manuals and a set of policy recommendations to be presented to the Texas State Legislature. Partners and experts meet monthly to discuss 4 primary components of RAPIDO: Outreach, Case Management, Design and Construction and Policy.

[bc] is leading the design for RAPIDO, with CDCB managing the eligibility and construction process. [bc] has established an engaged design process that gives low-income families choices and the flexibility to decide important characteristics of their new home.  Through two design meetings, [bc] led the families through a set of exercises that define their needs and desires. Based on these preferences personalized designs were prepared for each family.

A key part of the pilot is to explore different possibilities for the implementation and scaling of the plan statewide. RAPIDO is experimenting with the transition of a temporary unit (CORE) to a permanent house (Expanded Home).  CORE’s have being built at El Clavo Lumber Yard in Brownsville, and the first RAPIDO home expansion was built at Carolina St, Brownsville in a CDCB-owned lot. The process has helped to train local builders on the RAPIDO strategy and also was a good opportunity to share the RAPIDO plan and the program goals to local groups and the local community.          

Casitas Los Olmos

Watch for more posts about Casitas Los Olmos.

Casitas Los Olmos is a 80-unit multifamily development that follows up on the success of the La Hacienda Casitas in Harlingen, TX. Partnering with CDCB, [bc] has completed the design of the project and has completed the preliminary construction documents. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2015.

To kick off the project, [bc] and CDCB organized a community stakeholder meeting in February 2014 to gather input for the design and development. We asked 3 basic questions: what are your concerns about the future of the city, what can we celebrate about the city, and how can design contribute to a healthier city? Everyone agreed that the city is in dire need of affordable housing that works for everyone: young people, families with children, and senior citizens. People are celebrating their growing population and several new economic developments including a wind farm. Their visions for a healthy and vibrant community include porches that look over walkable streets with plenty of trees and landscaping, safe areas for children to play, and single family houses with plenty of windows. In addition to this feedback, the design is also incorporating low impact drainage (LID), material reuse, wildlife habitat restoration, and energy efficient construction

One Day in LRGV

Learn more about our Storytelling efforts, and the Colonias LID program.

On April 26, 2014, filmmakers, non-profits, and citizens from across the region went out to talk to folks about the future of the Lower Rio Grande Valley as part of One Day in the LRGV. We chatted with residents of the Linda Vista Estates Colonia about issues surrounding stormwater management and drainage.

Welcome Jay Ranaweera!

Jay Ranaweera is a designer who has lived, worked and studied in a variety of cities throughout his life. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, he moved to the United States as a teenager, and studied architecture at the University of Maryland and Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. Most recently he lived in Seattle while completing his Master of Architecture degree at the University of Washington and focused his work on understanding how architecture can contribute to socially, culturally and economically empowered communities. In addition to his interest in community oriented design work, Jay also enjoys working on design-build projects and teaching architecture. At bcWORKSHOP, Jay hopes to carry his interest forward while making a valuable contribution to his new community.