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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Buildings, Real Estate and Facilities > Green Building Practices for Sustainable Facilities

Green Alley Flats for Student Housing

Green alley flats are a new approach to urban infill for student housing in Austin, TX.

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Students support green building with enthusiasm. Student housing is a prime target for university students who are very aware of green, who need urban housing, and who need to tap into a "system" of affordable and easy maintenance -- features that green building with natural light and good insulation can support.

Alley Flats for Student Housing

Alley flats are small, detached secondary residential units, often accessed from Austin’s extensive network of underutilized alleys. They are carefully designed to use 40% less energy and 20% less water, minimizing the ecological footprint of the building.

The Center for Sustainable Development at The University of Texas at Austin will prove that green housing and affordability can be successfully merged during the unveiling of “The Alley Flat Initiative” exhibition from 6-8 pm. on March 26 at Austin’s City Hall.

The Alley Flat Initiative, conceived in 2005 as a challenge for architecture students to design sustainable, affordable housing in East Austin, grew into an award-winning collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Development, the Austin Community Design and Development Center and the Guadalupe Development Corporation.

The initiative simultaneously addresses issues of sustainability, high cost of living and urban sprawl in Central Austin neighborhoods through the provision of green affordable infill homes that connect with the smart grid model of distributed infrastructure, while retaining the neighborhood character.

Urban Sprawl Solutions with Infill Density

The Sierra Club recently identified Austin as one of the most ‘sprawl-threatened’ cities in the country, meaning that it is crucial for future land use patterns to find ways to increase density without losing the character of the neighborhoods or doing further harm to the environment.

“In the last 10 years, housing prices have increased nearly 85% while the median family income increased only 25%,” said Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant director of the Center for Sustainable Development. “As a result, families in Austin are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live within the city limits and are moving further out, threatening Austin’s diversity and character.

Alley Flats for Multigenerational Housing

“In addition, we’ve found that alley flats are ideal for families wanting multigenerational housing options. For instance, one of our family’s wheel-chair bound grandmother now lives safely, independently and with dignity, but engages directly everyday with her grandchildren.”

Alley Flats for Affordable Housing

The two flats completed under the program to date both received the highest rating from the Austin Energy Green Building Program are already being rented to low- and moderate-income households in East Austin. Ten more of these green, affordable units are in some stage of design or development.

Neighborhood Green Building System | Design, Technology, Financing, Ownership

The initiative includes not only efficient housing designs constructed with sustainable technologies, but also innovative methods of financing and home ownership that can benefit neighborhoods in any city in the United States.

In 2008, the Alley Flat Initiative received an award for Excellence in Green Building Pedagogy from the United States Green Building Council. In May 2009, the initiative received the Envision Central Texas Community Stewardship Award for Redevelopment and the Greenlights Award for Excellence in Collaboration.

The exhibit runs from March 26-April 9 at Austin’s City Hall.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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