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.

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!

Rafting the Resaca

Learn more about our work in the RGV!

As one of the many events along the Cyclobia route, the Resaca Raft and Regatta was an event set up to re-engage Brownsville residents with one of their most under-utilized natural resources, the resaca.  Resacas are abandoned channels of the Rio Grande River that were left behind as centuries of silt build-up and flooding forced the river to jump its banks and find a new path.  This pattern of natural erosion and sediment build-up has left Brownsville with a beautiful but neglected necklace of waterways that flow throughout the city.  

For this event, [bc] completed a "resaca raft," a donut shaped floating platform with a submerged internal platform built from recycled lumber and plastic drums.  The lowered platform and surrounding bench condition encouraged people to do one simple thing:  get  their feet wet!  For nearly every  resident that came to experience the raft, it was their first time floating, boating, or touching a resaca.  Accompanying the raft was a series of educational signs, explaining the resaca's natural ecology, history, and what is next for the future of our resacas.  Kids got involved by building their own plastic boats out of recycled materials.  

Outside of the direct physical experience, [bc] wanted to give resaca raft users the opportunity to ask the question, "Why wait years for the multi-million dollar park construction that is planned along the resaca? Why not do something fun now?" It doesn't have to be expensive, and it doesn't have to take years to bring our underutilized urban spaces to life.

Welcome Tom Hill!

Thomas Hill joins the bcWorkshop Fellows Program after working in design/build and organic farming in Virginia, and studying at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, TX. Since graduating from Architecture school at the University of Virginia, Thomas has become increasingly interested in low-tech sustainable solutions that re-connect people with nature and rehabilitate damaged landscapes. Thomas is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the ethical, holistic, community design process for which bcWorkshop is so highly regarded.