Every year since 2012, the AIA’s Housing Knowledge Community and the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recognize merit in affordable housing, neighborhoods, participatory design, and accessibility, according to the AIA's site. The AIA/HUD Secretary’s Award program stands by the belief that good design is not exclusive, and should extend to all incomes and backgrounds. The four categories are Excellence in Affordable Housing Design, Creating Community Connection Award, Community-Informed Design Award, and Housing Accessibility - Alan J. Rothman Award. However, only two projects were awarded this year. Step Up, in Santa Monica, Calif., by Brooks + Scarpa won in “Excellence in Affordable Housing;” and Co-op Plaza Redevelopment in Brattleboro, Vt., by Gossens Bachman Architects was awarded in “Creating Community Connection.”   

The jury included Stephen Schreiber, professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Claire Desjardins, of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Jon Dick, AIA, principal of Archaeo Architects; Kathy Dixon, AIA, principal of K. Dixon Architecture; Clair Enlow, a freelance writer covering architecture, urbanism, and the environment; Jody Mcguire, AIA, an associate at SALA Architects; and Madlyn Wohlman-Rodriguez, of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Step Up, in Santa Monica, Calif., by Brooks + Scarpa
This 30,000-square-foot development provides 46 units of affordable housing to the homeless and mentally-disabled population in Southern California, where residents have access to support services and rehabilitation. Passive design was a major concentration, utilizing sustainable features such as natural ventilation, double-pane windows, and low-flow toilets. The carpet, insulation, and concrete are all recycled. The exterior is comprised of multiple performed aluminum panels, acting as both privacy screens and a creative design element. 

John Edward Linden

Co-op Plaza Redevelopment, in Brattleboro, Vt., by Gossens Bachman Architects
Through a public-private partnership between a co-op grocery store and a local nonprofit, this development gave new life to the downtown area and created 24 affordable apartments. On the first two floors are the grocery store, administrative offices, a bakery, and open venues for local vendors. Formerly a dry-cleaning facility that was polluting nearby water sources, eco-friendly features such as a green roof, permeable surfaces in the parking lot, and a 20-foot buffer strip to treat stormwater runoff. With the combination of these features, plus natural ventilation and a photovoltaic system, the revamped building cut energy costs per square foot in half.

© Peter Mauss/Esto