The rainscreen is low-maintenance and brings color to the exterior.
Mike Sinclair The rainscreen is low-maintenance and brings color to the exterior.


As the sloping metal roofs of this bungalow and its detached garage meet over an intimate enclosed courtyard, its half-scissor trusses and tri-tone cement board exterior clearly state: “Architects were here.”

Yet as one considers the rough surrounding neighborhood, where most of the houses have either fallen on hard times or been demolished entirely, that statement turns into a question: “But how did they get here?”

The 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house is a Habitat for Humanity prototype designed by principal Josh Shelton, AIA, and project architects Brandon Froelich and Steve Salzer, AIA, of the Kansas City, Mo.–based firm El Dorado, and built by Kansas City, Kan.–based Heartland Habitat for Humanity on the Kansas side of the border.

Reconfiguring the typical Heartland Habitat house layout allowed El Dorado to create an outdoor room between the house proper and the detached garage.
Mike Sinclair Reconfiguring the typical Heartland Habitat house layout allowed El Dorado to create an outdoor room between the house proper and the detached garage.


It is a result of the 1% Habitat Initiative, a partnership between San Francisco–based Public Architecture and Habitat for Humanity International. The initiative paired seven of the affordable housing group’s most successful chapters with local architects whose design expertise and commitment to pro bono work were well established. Their mission was to improve the quality of homes built by Habitat chapters.

The partnership between the Kansas Citians wasn’t without a learning curve. “We are all about simple and affordable,” says Heartland Habitat’s president and chief executive officer Tom Lally. “El Dorado learned our process, needs, and desired outcomes, and we learned a tremendous amount from them.”

What Shelton observed of Heartland Habitat’s standard attached-garage plan was how the layout of the houses could influence family dynamics. “It has two basement bedrooms and one on the main level,” he says. “It makes sense from a cost standpoint but it’s difficult, especially for a single mom.”

Inside, the house was designed to be both accessible and durable. The kitchen, which opens onto the living and dining area at the front of the house, features Formica countertops and Whirlpool appliances.
Mike Sinclair Inside, the house was designed to be both accessible and durable. The kitchen, which opens onto the living and dining area at the front of the house, features Formica countertops and Whirlpool appliances.
He also wanted the house to better connect its owners to the outdoors. “We put everything on one level, moved out the garage, and added an outdoor room between them,” Shelton says, “so you transition from one aspect of the house to another, extending the front porch, and providing space for a garden.” It is a Joseph Eichler house, Kansas City–style.

“This was a major experiment, and it was a real risk for Heartland,” Shelton says. “We’ve worked with severe budgets before, but designing with volunteer labor in mind was something new for us.”

The house and garage are clad in a cement board panel rainscreen.
Mike Sinclair The house and garage are clad in a cement board panel rainscreen.
But designing a project with “prototype” in the name didn’t go to their heads. “The measure of success of this project isn’t necessarily that they build 50 more of our houses,” says Shelton. “The important thing is that the conversation left an impact on Habitat, and the way they do things left an impact on us.”
The garage is connected to the house by a set of canted metal roof planes, formed from Firestone Metal Products Una-Clad and Galvalume.
Mike Sinclair The garage is connected to the house by a set of canted metal roof planes, formed from Firestone Metal Products Una-Clad and Galvalume.


A ribbon-cutting ceremony to present the keys to the new owners attracted members of the community, as well as representatives from Heartland Habitat for Humanity and El Dorado.
Mike Sinclair A ribbon-cutting ceremony to present the keys to the new owners attracted members of the community, as well as representatives from Heartland Habitat for Humanity and El Dorado.


The owners of the Habitat for Humanity Prototype house stand on their new porch.
Mike Sinclair The owners of the Habitat for Humanity Prototype house stand on their new porch.


Drawings

Courtesy El Dorado


Courtesy El Dorado



Project Credits Project  Habitat for Humanity Prototype, Kansas City, Kan.
Client  Heartland Habitat for Humanity
Architect  El Dorado, Kansas City, Mo.—Josh Shelton, AIA (principal architect); Steve Salzer, AIA, Brandon Froelich (project architects)
Structural Engineer  Bob D. Campbell & Co.
Electrical Engineer  PKMR Engineering
Construction Manager  Heartland Habitat for Humanity—Steve Thompson (vice president of construction & project management)
General Contractor  Heartland Habitat for Humanity—Matt Trusty (site supervisor)
Size  1,300 square feet (excluding garage)
Cost  Withheld