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 Choice in Affordable Housing

Learn more about sustainABLEhouse, and our sAh RGV work.


sustainABLEhouse 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.

The sustainABLEhouse design process is broken down into simple steps so that a family can confidently make decisions about their home. The design of each home begins with a family filling out a Design Starts Here homework booklet. The simple questions in the homework helps a family think about the factors that will go into the design of their home. [bc] staff meet the family at their property and together measure the property to fully understand how to work with existing infrastructure, trees, and other important factors. This interactive early step helps to build trust between [bc] and the family, an important part of the sustainABLEhouse process.

Since beginning sustainABLEhouse in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in late 2012, [bc] has worked with Community Development Corporation of Brownsville to build homes with 63 families. Each of the families designed their home via a custom design process, or via a customizable catalog process. You can watch a short film documenting our process here!

sustainABLEhouse has fit into four different funding programs and sources in the LRGV. Three of these programs are administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) - Colonia Self Help Center, HOME Homeowner Rehabilitation Assistance, HOME Persons With Disability, and the City of Brownsville’s HOME Homeowner Rehabilitation Assistance program.

sustainABLEhouse acts on the belief that choice empowers, and a home designed by the family that lives in it will work better for that family, and help to maintain and build viable neighborhoods.

ACD40 Conference Report

Learn more about the Association for Community Design and #ACD40!

Thank you to everyone who attended the Association for Community Design annual conference in June. ACD40’s theme, CommUNITY, sought to ignite conversations about the different models of practice that the field of community-engaged design uses to operate successfully. We envisioned a conference that would connect people from across the country who are working in and around public interest practices.

You can read our ACD40 Conference Report here. It contains a recap of the schedule, speakers, and sessions. It also includes results to the ACD40 Post-Conference Survey, the ACD 2017 Questionnaire, the Fellowship Survey, the Gender Equity Survey, and the Community Design Survey.

A big thank you to all of our funders, partners and supporters that made this conference possible: 

Funders - Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. & Surdna Foundation

Supporters - UT Arlington, College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs, Mallory Baches, Jessica Blanch, Thor Erickson, Gilad Meron, Nikia Hill, Theresa Hwang, Mark Matel, Kevin Singh, Edward Orlowski, Stephen Goldsmith, & Alex Salazar

Venues - AIA Dallas / Dallas Center for Architecture, CallisonRTKL, Dallas Public Library, HKS, & Thanksgiving Square

Promotional Partners - AIA Austin, AIA Dallas / Dallas Center for Architecture, APA North Texas Chapter, LRGV AIA, SMU Design Council, & USGBC Texas

Volunteers - Bi’Anncha Andrews, Farida Rafique, Hannah Plate, Shani Dixon, Victoria Brown, [bc] Staff & Fellows, & Neighborhood Design Center

Building Equity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

See more posts about LUCHA and our work in the Rio Grande Valley

Building equity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a critical part of many of our projects. Together with our partners we are working to increase housing opportunities for low-income residents and to build adequate drainage infrastructure for new and existing neighborhoods, civic engagement, and capacity through design. We invite you to learn more about four of our specific projects: sustainABLEhouse, Drainage Equity, LUCHA, and Public Design Impact Initiative, all of which are working hard to achieve these goals. 

Casitas Los Olmos Nearing Completion

Learn more about Casitas Los Olmos

Casitas Los Olmos is an 80-unit multifamily development currently under construction in Raymondville, TX, built in partnership with Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB). The design of the project incorporates Low Impact Development (LID) strategies, including vegetated swales and permeable driveways to manage stormwater, single family units, and shaded community amenity buildings. Casitas Los Olmos is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.


See more posts about sustainABLEhouse our work in the Rio Grande Valley

MiCASiTA offers an alternative approach to providing housing to some of the hardest to reach and most  challenged communities across the country.  The Rio Grande Valley, like many other communities in Texas and nationally, suffers from extreme poverty and lack of quality, affordable housing.  With limited financing and design options, many housing and community development organizations are forced to either turn away or maintain long waiting lists for would-be homeowners who do not qualify for traditional affordable housing delivery models. MiCASiTA, a collaboration between the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), the Rio Grande Valley MultiBank (RGVMB), The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC), and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc] seeks to change that by offering innovative financing, and design options, tailored to grow with the homeowners needs.  

MiCASiTA offers personalized design options that empower individuals though choice while also improving sustainability and overall quality of housing. "Starter homes" are built focusing specifically on the client's needs;  they can choose to initially build their home with a kitchen, living room, and one bedroom while keeping in mind that in the future they will have the option to make additions to their home. Homeowners who qualify for smaller loan amounts begin with a 600 square foot "starter home". The “starter home” is specifically designed to expand as the family's savings and financial stability grow.  This approach builds on the the success of the CDCB/ [bc] RAPIDO project which created a temporary to permanent disaster recovery housing solution that starts with a small core that can be put in place immediately after a natural disaster and can grow as government assistance is available for the area.

CDCB will take clients and their families through an educational program that will prepare them to make important financial decisions with a new mortgage. In addition, RGVMB will conduct one-on-one financial and credit score counseling to ensure that the client is ready to take on the initial loan for their new home. The initial loan will cover the cost of the "starter home" and payments on this home will begin at this time. Once the client is ready, additional loans will be given in order to make additions to the home. The client's loan payments will grow accordingly with the addition of each new phase of construction. This financial program is structured and designed specifically with the client's success in mind, focusing on allowing for low interest rates, low monthly payments, longer loan terms, and deferred loan amounts. 


Abriendo Las Puertas

See more posts on AVAI and our work in the RGV.  

On December 3rd,  Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator will celebrate the work of Artist in Residence Celeste De Luna, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Nancy Guevara and the future of arts, culture and civic engagement in Historic Downtown Brownsville.

De Luna’s large scale wood-cut prints about resistance and rebellion in the valley will be displayed throughout the Historic Market Square.  Her works include portraits of the Buffalo soldiers, Americo Paredes and visualizations of corridos written by Brownsville residents. Guevara will display two large fabric murals made of ropa usada that portray female grassroots activists from the Valley.  Gonzalez will reveal a 14 foot long movable mural to be displayed in the street, that addresses challenges experienced by the homeless in Brownsville.   

Additional programing will include live music performances by Caldo Frío, photographs from the Taquerías of Southmost exhibit, , produced by Texas Folklike and the Brownsville Historical Association and the dance, #soyBrownsville, choreographed by Caty Wantland. Screen printing workshops will be held by Nancy Guevara and Celeste de Luna throughout the event.  All programing is free and open to the public.  

Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator is an art and public interest design initiative in Market Square  in Historic Downtown Brownsville. Artists collaborate with community members to create art that explores the cultural, social, political and economic life in this region. The project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Brownsville and BCIC and produced by buildingcommunityWORKSHOP.

For more information on AVAI or Abriendo Las Puertas follow up on Facebook!


Learn more about RAPIDO and visit!

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) is pleased to announce the launch of in conjunction with our presentation of RAPIDO on Next City's World Stage at UN Habitat III in Quito. RAPIDO is a holistic approach to housing recovery that enables communities to recover for disasters within months instead of years. Through understanding and redesigning the entire U.S. disaster recovery housing process, alongside people who are affected the most, RAPIDO fosters resilience within Texas, empowers local communities, and abates the social and economic impacts of disaster. makes it easy to learn more about the RAPIDO model, view work from the RAPIDO Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Pilot Program, and keep up to date with RAPIDO advocacy efforts in Texas.

AVAI Artist Proposals

See more posts on AVAI and our work in the RGV.  

Playing with Production: Walking tour    Photo by Elaine Morales

Playing with Production: Walking tour

Photo by Elaine Morales

[bc] is excited to share the project proposals for our three Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator Artists-in-Residence. Celeste De Luna, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Nancy Guevara have been hard at work in their studios and throughout the city of Brownsville; meeting local stakeholders, longtime residents, historians and academics. In June & July, they synthesized the knowledge they have collected to generate an exciting series of proposals for projects for the City of Brownsville.

Their projects will unfold from August through November. Learn about each artist’s projects below and join in the workshops and programming that they have designed over the upcoming months. Be sure to stay connected with us on Facebook for future updates and opportunities to participate in forthcoming events!


Celeste De Luna   (R) sharing her prints and collecting stories about Brownsville with an attendee at   Playing with Production,   Photo by Tom Hill

Celeste De Luna (R) sharing her prints and collecting stories about Brownsville with an attendee at Playing with Production, Photo by Tom Hill

Celeste De Luna’s project will center around historical and contemporary narratives of strength and resistance native to the Rio Grande Valley. Over the past months she has identified central figures from Brownsville history, including Americo Paredes and Juan Cortina. In partnership with members of the community, she will work to identify how local stakeholders connect with their stories and collaborate with them to generate visuals representing their own stories of protest.  

De Luna will conduct a series of workshops beginning in August that will include a steamroller printing workshop, a storytelling workshop and a kite making workshop in Lincoln Park. In November she will exhibit 5 large scale prints representative of the stories shared with her by local residents and the history of the region. Prints from the large woodcuts will be wheatpasted throughout the downtown and the final carved blocks will be exhibited at the conclusion of the residency.  

Rigoberto Gonzalez   (L) speaking with an attendee and collecting stories about Brownsville with an attendee at   Playing with Production,   Photo by Tom Hill

Rigoberto Gonzalez (L) speaking with an attendee and collecting stories about Brownsville with an attendee at Playing with Production, Photo by Tom Hill

Rigoberto Gonzalez will work over the upcoming months on a large scale, moveable mural based upon a series of interviews he will conduct with Brownsville residents. As a longtime resident of the Rio Grande Valley, he is particularly interested in the cultural traditions of the region and the stories that accompany them. At the recent AVAI Open Studio event, Playing with Production, Gonzalez invited attendees to sketch their ideas for the mural and to share stories of their experiences downtown.   

During his forthcoming workshops Gonzalez will hold personal narrative workshops to record oral histories and create portraits of the people whose stories he collects. The recordings will become sound installations to accompany Gonzalez’s murals in filling vacant spaces with the stories of Brownsville.

Nancy Guevara   (center) speaking with an    attendees at    Playing with Production,   Photo by Tom Hill

Nancy Guevara (center) speaking with an  attendees at  Playing with Production, Photo by Tom Hill

Nancy Guevara’s project, Intersections of Transformation on the Border will investigate the experiences that lead people to become activist leaders. Throughout the residency Guevara will work with local women and community leaders to create portraits using fabric from local ropa usada stores that reflect the leaders’ experiences of personal transformation, self-actualization and empowerment. By working closely with community leaders to create designs based on their experiences of struggle and complexity, Guevara hopes to engage aspiring artists and activists in using art as a tool for social justice.

Leading up to the presentation of these works to the public, Guevara will hold a series of workshops and discussions about catalyzing change and cultivation of leadership. Included in this series will be a manta workshop, in which participants will decide upon an issue that has deep personal importance to them and then make a banner representing a cause.  

Playing with Production: Walking tour, Photo by Jesse Miller 

Playing with Production: Walking tour, Photo by Jesse Miller 

AVAI will continue throughout the Fall and will culminate in mid-November with installations, performances and exhibitions throughout the month. Follow AVAI on Facebook for updates on the Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator, important information on our monthly events and more details about the artists’ upcoming workshops.  

Activating Vacancy Fall Calendar


8/27 Rebel Corridos: Corrido Writing Workshop with Celeste De Luna

8/27 El Círculo de Mujeres: Manta Workshop with Nancy Guevara



9/24 Make your own Chingona Outfit: Costume Making Workshop with Nancy Guevara

9/24 Kites Sin Fronteras: Kite Making Workshop with Celeste De Luna



10/7 Day in the Neighborhood: Brownsville’s first 24 Hour Film Festival begins

10/8  Painting Class Part 1 with Rigoberto Gonzalez

10/8 Work it Out: Open Lab Q and A for 24 Hour Film Festival

10/22Painting Class Part 1 with Rigoberto Gonzalez

10/22 Films from 24 Hour Festival Screened in Collaboration with the First Annual Brownsville International Film Festival

10/29 Steamrolling to the Future: Steamroller and Printmaking Workshop with Celeste De Luna

10/29 Platica Mujeres Líderes en Brownsville with Nancy Guevara



11/5Painting Class Part 1 with Rigoberto Gonzalez

11/9 Noche de Filosofía y First Brownsville Story Share: A Brownsville Symposium

11/12 Steamrolling into the Future: Steamroller and Printmaking Workshop with Celeste De Luna



12/3 Abriendo las Puertas: Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator Bridge Event with Artist Exhibitions, Charrettes, Panel Discussions, Performances and Live Music





Cooper Hewitt to Present "By The People: Designing a Better America."

Learn more about RAPIDO.

RAPIDO will be one of the exhibits presented in the "By the People: Designing a Better America" at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum this fall.

[bc]’s Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Program, RAPIDO, redesigns the existing disaster recovery system. Relying on a local approach to outreach, case management, procurement, and housing design, construction, and delivery; RAPIDO returns residents to their neighborhoods and onto their land within weeks of a disaster instead of years. Its temp-to-perm housing design responds to the social, cultural, economic and environmental context of the place the system is deployed. RAPIDO partners include Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, La Unión del Pueblo Entero, A Resource in Service Equity, and Texas Low Income Information Services.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present “By the People: Designing a Better America,” the third exhibition in its series on socially responsible design, from Sept. 30 through Feb. 26, 2017. The first exhibition in the series to focus on conditions in the U.S. and its bordering countries, “By the People” will explore the challenges faced by urban, suburban and rural communities. Organized by Cynthia E. Smith, Cooper Hewitt’s curator of socially responsible design, the exhibition features 60 design projects from every region across the U.S.

Smith conducted more than two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, along border regions, areas impacted by natural and man-made disaster and places of persistent poverty—in search of collaborative designs for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable communities. The exhibition will highlight design solutions that expand access to education, food, healthcare and affordable housing; increase social and economic inclusion; offer improved alternative transportation options; and provide a balanced approach to land use between the built and natural environment.

“As America’s design museum, Cooper Hewitt empowers visitors to see themselves as designers—not just of objects, but also of ideas, strategies and solutions that improve our daily lives,” said Director Caroline Baumann. “‘By the People’ will showcase the innovative and impactful actions generated through design, and inspire creative  problem-solving at local, regional, national and even international levels.”

On view in the third floor Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery, the exhibition will be divided into six themes: act, save, share, live, learn and make. To orient the visitor, the complexities of poverty, prosperity, innovation and design in the U.S. will be addressed in an introductory section that will feature a captivating video by Cassim Shepard, an interactive data visualization, “Mapping the Measure of America” and graphics that chart social and economic inequalities.

The exhibition will continue in the museum’s groundbreaking Process Lab, which offers immersive experiences for visitors of diverse ages and abilities, from families with small children to design students and professionals. Cooper Hewitt will invite visitors to address challenges in their own communities using design thinking and propose solutions.

The accompanying 256-page book, By the People: Designing a Better America, will be published by Cooper Hewitt and distributed in the U.S. by Artbook | D.A.P. and worldwide by Thames & Hudson. Designed by Other Means, By the People will contain essays and interviews with featured designers and architects, in addition to highly illustrated project profiles. Retail: $29.95.

In fall 2016 and winter 2017, a series of public programs will inspire conversation about innovative and systemic approaches being developed through design. Planned events include a lecture focused on affordable housing and design (Oct. 13), Designing Resilience (Nov. 10) and Defiant Jewelry with Rebel Nell founder Amy Peterson and a participating artisan (Jan. 26).

“By the People: Designing a Better America” is made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation. Additional support provided by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. [read more about the upcoming exhibit here]

To see "By the People" visit the Cooper Hewitt from Sept. 30 through Feb. 26, 2017 at:

2 East 91st Street 
(between 5th and Madison Avenues)
New York, New York 10128

Weekdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.


Kickoff! Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator

Learn more about Activating Vacancy.

Kickoff AVAI

[bc] is excited to announce a kickoff for the Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator (AVAI), a new art and public interest design initiative in Market Square, the center of Historic Downtown Brownsville. This program will create a viable means for artists to thrive in a region where attaining basic needs can be a struggle. The incubator will provide a catalytic hub for Downtown Brownsville and the arts, creating a platform for artistic production and collaboration between artists and the community. AVAI begins Spring 2016 and is produced and curated by [bc] in partnership with the City of Brownsville.

Come hear about the new Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator and other exciting new initiatives happening in Downtown Brownsville. Share your downtown stories and help us envision the future of arts and culture in Downtown! We'll start off with a social hour, including some creative activities and refreshments, followed by a panel discussion with local artistic and cultural leaders. 

where: 609 E 11th Street

when: friday, april 8th, 5pm social hour , 6pm panel discussion. 




Call for Artists! Announcing the Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator

[bc] is excited to announce the launch of the call for artists for the Activating Vacancy Arts Incubator (AVAI), a new art and public interest design initiative in Market Square, the center of Historic Downtown Brownsville. This program will create a viable means for artists to thrive in a region were attaining basic needs can be a struggle. The incubator will provide a catalytic hub for Downtown Brownsville and the arts, creating a platform for artistic production and collaboration between artists and the community. AVAI begins Spring 2016 and is produced and curated by [bc] in partnership with the City of Brownsville.

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Rapido wins SXSW Eco Place by Design Award

Learn more about RAPIDO and other SXSW Eco award winning projects.


We are very excited to have presented RAPIDO, our disaster recovery housing pilot program, at the SXSW Eco 2015 conference this past Monday, and we are very honored to have been awarded 1st place in the Social Impact category of the Place by Design Competition

[bc]‘s Elaine Morales shared how the work of RAPIDO has created a great impact in the Rio Grande Valley, and how it can be implemented as a holistic approach to disaster recovery in other communities. The RAPIDO team designed and built 21 prototype homes with families affected by Hurricane Dolly in 2008, as well as designing a comprehensive system that empowers local teams to better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters without sacrificing home design and quality. The audience feedback to our work was amazing and we were thrilled to have been part of the event and share experiences with entrepreneurs, designers and the general public on how to better serve the places we live in and work with. 


The Rapido model starts recovery activities prior to a disaster. We call it precovery. Precovery means pre-designing to increase the variety and quality of home designs available, pre-procurement to allow housing recovery to start at the earliest, and preparedness and training to build reliable teams that support local jurisdictions and assist families through the recovery phase. By investing in precovery activities communities will be better prepared to recover.” - [RAPIDO Place by Design Competition pitch]

The SXSW Eco 2015 Place by Design Competition validated the need of changing the culture of design practice and academia by implementing an experience based learning approach within the design process through listening to what communities have to say, learning to ask the right questions, and measuring impact.  

You can see all of the award finalists here and learn about some great place making efforts from around the world.

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.


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


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