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Tiny homes to offer refuge during COVID-19 & beyond

See how an innovative, sustainably designed, village of tiny homes will offer a safe space for families who are homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.

Dan Rockhill, founder of the University of Kansas Architecture Studio 804 program, will discuss Construction of Tiny Homes at the Lawrence Community Shelter at a free Earth Care Forum from 9 – 10:10 a.m. on Sunday, January 3 on Zoom.

Since 1995, KU graduate students in the Studio 804 program have designed and built sustainable, net-zero energy homes and structures as an advanced class project. This year’s student project is different than most. Instead of building one residential home for sale, Rockhill and his students are building 12 tiny homes to donate to the Lawrence Community Shelter to help people who are homeless in Lawrence, KS.

Using 12 recycled shipping containers, the Monarch Village project will provide families with a 160-square-foot, private living space to help stabilize them until they can move out of the shelter and into permanent housing. The village will be located on the shelter grounds at 3655 E. 25th St. and is scheduled to open in March 2021.

Monarch Village was designed as a solution to several community problems. Initially, it will offer a safe, less dense space for people to isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will allow those who contract the virus to recuperate without compromising the health of others in the shelter. Additionally, it will be used as a temporary housing space for families, specifically single mothers with children.

“On our journey towards identifying the right solutions for our guests during the COVID-19 pandemic, what remains clear is what we’ve known all along: homelessness is a public health crisis,” says Renee Kuhl, LCS executive director. “Shelter and housing are basic needs and important prerequisites for good physical and mental health for all.”

Each tiny home is paired and anchored on the east and south sides surrounding the existing community vegetable garden and future monarch butterfly trails. The interiors are designed to be ADA accessible and include space for four people with two private sleeping areas, a bunk bed and a pull-out sleeper couch, a full bathroom and small kitchenette.

The Monarch Village community was designed with many energy-efficient and sustainable features.

  • Re-purposed materials are used throughout the units.
  • Passive-energy strategies help supply ventilation and natural heating.
  • A wire-screening system for native plants and vines provides shade for the container and acts as a unique, exterior-feature wall.
  • A southwest facing louver system brings in natural light, heat in the winter and shade in the summer.
  • Three solar panels on each roof will provide a majority of the energy needs.

There are also plans for a new 900-square-foot, open-sided commons shelter just north of the garden and a covered concrete pad between each of the units. These will create gathering spaces for those at the shelter.

Studio 804 designed Monarch Village and will donate in-kind contributions for at least 40-percent of the project costs. The Lawrence Community Shelter is working to raise an additional $500,000.

Studio 804 is a not-for-profit program that designs and builds sustainable, affordable and creative buildings, including many single-family homes and five public buildings — three buildings on the KU campus, one at Johnson County Community College and the Greensburg Art Center. Students provide the building designs, zoning applications, site layout, framing, roofing, siding, solar panel installation and landscape design. Almost all of their projects have received Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification and several have been Passive House US (PHIUS) certified. The Monarch Village homes are in the LEED Platinum certification process.

This Earth Care Forum event is sponsored by the Lawrence Ecological Teams United for Sustainability. For more information, contact Thad Holcombe at [email protected]. To learn more about the KU program, visit Studio 804.

Photo: Studio 804

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