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HBEER: Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences Project

January 7, 2010   |   Faculty, School, Projects, Students

Houseboat to Energy Efficient Housing (HBEER), a joint College of Design-Center for Applied Energy Research project led by Michael Speaks in the College of Design and Rodney Andrews in CAER, and significantly involving large numbers of architecture graduate students, will address two important concerns; low-cost housing and energy efficiency. This initiative will design and develop concepts, prototypes, and manufactured housing units that are highly energy-efficient and cost under $100,000. Ultimately, it is hoped that these units will supplant existing energy inefficient mobile homes. With loans and subsidies, actual consumer cost will be considerably below $100,000.

The project will retool and redirect Kentucky's houseboat manufacturing industry, which has been decimated by the recent economic downturn. Most houseboat manufacturing facilities in the four-county-area around Somerset, Kentucky, have ceased operation or drastically reduced output, producing dramatic, long-term job loss. The project will design energy-efficient, low-income housing units to be manufactured in Somerset, Kentucky and carry a "Kentucky Proud" label. This initiative will create a manufacturing value chain using Kentucky components where possible. Manufacturing will occur in redesigned, refitted houseboat factories using local retrained workers. Ultimately, the project will produce energy-efficient housing benefitting Kentuckians manufacturing these units as well as those living in them.

Phase One, completed in December, 2009, conducted research on housing unit, community unit, and factory retrofit designs and presented them to stakeholders including Kentucky and federal officials, investors, industry leaders and housing experts. Second stage review and refinement of these occurred in January 2010. Phase Two began with that review and will end with refined designs. Spring 2010 will see final housing unit, community unit, and factory retrofit designs.

Phase One and Two have been supported, in part, by two additional partners: The Kentucky Housing Corporation, which underwrites an endowed chair in the School of Architecture; and, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, a not-for-profit organization created to aid in Appalachian economic viability, which has provided financial and research support.

Expected Actions and Outcomes

The objective is to retool houseboat factories to produce energy-efficient housing, creating new jobs and producing more energy-efficient, affordable housing alternatives for consumers. Creation of a "Kentucky Proud" manufacturing and value chain will have an economic multiplier effect on the creation, manufacture, and consumption of Kentucky products. But the most significant effect will be greater economic stability for communities achieved through significantly reduced energy costs and greater job security.

The project has attracted significant national, state and local governmental interest. On that basis, it is expected to expand beyond its current scope and to become a multi-year initiative.

A publication entitled "Sustain and Develop," will be produced. The publication, a yearly book-length study, will be edited by the architecture journal, 306090, and published by Princeton Architectural Press. In addition, HUD has sought help from the project leaders in conducting a series of workshops in other communities. Those, too, will be formalized and published as templates.

University of Kentucky president, Lee Todd designated the HBEER project as one of the 2010 Commonwealth Collaboratives. This designation is given to research projects that meaningfully improve the health, education, economic development, the environment and quality of life in Kentucky communities. The Commonwealth Collaborative designation means the projects will receive $10,000 from the president and provost's discretionary funds in addition to other funding they already may have from other sources.

This project is part of the College of Design's Design + Energy Initiatives portfolio, which includes, among others, the Henderson Project, Fly-ash Furniture, and the Solar Decathlon. Dean Speaks describes the value of these initiatives, "The development of renewable, cleaner, and more efficiently produced and consumed forms of energy, is among the most important challenges we face today. The problem is global but the solutions and their implications are more often discovered and experienced locally."