Ecosa Blog

Sep 27

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Aug 11

Habitat project: Phase 3

The Habitat for Humanity project has come a long way since Phase 2. The students have since divided in to two groups, and will propose two alternate designs to Habitat at the final presentation, next week. The first proposal has brought careful consideration to the relationship of the buildings on the site. This design is for six 2 bedroom units. Each unit has a bottom story that follows the contour lines of the slope, allowing for a minimal footprint and less expense due to not excavating the rocks. The second story “bridge” will maximize living space and allows each unit a personal patio by using the roof of the bottom units.

The group has met with several neighbors adjacent to the property and want to make sure the granite rock formation is still visible and accessible from the street. The goal with this proposal is to allow for movement between buildings so the greater community is still able to reach and enjoy the rocks. 

Parking is still of primary concern for the group, and will continue to become more developed as the final week progresses. They are exploring the option of using 3’ strips of pavement for each tire to park on, reducing the pavement of an entire parking spot.

The group has created a pathway that connects to existing trails and outlines the rock areas on the site. This landscape design allows each unit to have their own outdoor living space. They calculated that 355,000 gallons of rainwater fall on this site, and there are three zones that will collect most of the runoff. The group is still figuring out the certain areas where they will create bioswale trenches to plant fruit bearing trees that will be watered with rainwater. 

The second proposal has taken an entirely different approach. This group has started by looking at the family structure of typical Habitat families and has used that information to influence their design.

They have designed very well thought out floor plans for 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedroom units. 

Their site layout includes the design of two 1 br units, three 2br units, one 3 and one 4 br units, for a total of 7 individual homes. 

Their units will be constructed on stilts with the goal of ventilating radon, which is emitted from granite rock. The floor plans are designed to stack functions, to keep pluming, AC and heating tight on the plan to minimize costs.

Group two is including the creation of bike paths integrating with existing social trails, and a community mail room that will bring all occupants to a central location. When asked if Habitat had any budget for “beautification of the site” the answer was essentially no. However, they did say that if there is a plan that makes a lot of sense and will increase the quality of life for the residents, there will almost always be a way to make it work given their dedicated volunteer base. 

The groups will both continue to address the parking issue in the coming weeks, as well as the issue of making sure homes are handicapped accessible. Given the heat in Prescott, these units will probably require an air conditioning unit. This presents a “messy” issue of where these exterior units will go. Air Conditioner units on the roof will really decrease from the whole visual aesthetic of buildings that blend seamlessly into the existing rocks. 

The tight constraints of two parking spaces per unit still may force the groups to reduce the number of housing units on their site. We will have to see which solutions these groups arrive at in the final push of the semester!

Jul 28

Sizzlin’ in Tucson

Last week our summer group loaded into the Ecosa bus to spend three jam-packed days in Tucson.

The first stop was at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum with the intention of getting acquainted with the flora and fauna of Southern Arizona. The group camped out both nights in the Gilbert Ray Campground in the Saguaro National Park. The first night they were lucky enough to observe a desert light show by mother nature as they watched monsoons pass in the distance.

The second day was a whirlwind multi-stop tour of the Tucson area with rainwater harvesting expert, Brad Lancaster. Brad took the students to many sites that demonstrated methods for passive and active rainwater harvesting. 

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Jul 18

Habitat project: Phase 2

Last week, several folks from Prescott area Habitat for Humanity came by the Ecosa studio to check out the progress on the Madison & Meaney project

The students presented information about other Habitat affiliates and the precedents set as far as energy efficiency, multi-family units, and community spaces.

They have spent extensive amounts of time getting a handle on the topography and boulders of the site, so they also went over the areas that have been determined as the best spots to build upon. 

They have begun exploring the idea of using prefabricated building panels for construction of the homes. Since the Habitat houses are built entirely by volunteers, using identical pieces will minimize the amount of training needed. Also, the buildings have potential to be as tall as three stories, so using a crane to drop large wall panels in to place could be the most efficient. 

This sector compass of the landscape will be continually used throughout the project to demonstrate the winter and summer solar aspect, the views, the noise, the prevailing winds, the flows, etc.

Each student developed their own theoretical sketch of a site layout that will be able to fit 10 two-bedroom units, with consideration for parking- at 2 parking spaces per home. The goal of these individual exercises was to get each student to really explore a “out there” idea and then pull out similarities between plans to move forward with.

While Habitat was really impressed that 10 units were feasible on every plan, it seems that the biggest issue will be parking. Habitat proposed that the students figure out the parking plan first and then they can reduce the number of housing units on site if necessary.

Community and children are large components of this project, so in many ways the more housing units there are, the more eyes there will be looking towards the community spaces. So, “dense as possible” is still the direction the students are moving towards to increase the potential for a rich and diverse community environment. 

The students had gathered inspiration from the examples that Mark Lakeman brought from City Repair in Portland, and they are exploring the idea of building community between the units on this site with the three Habitat houses across the street. 

Stay tuned as this exciting project continues to develop!

Jul 11

Community Spaces with Mark Lakeman

Last Friday, Ecosa was honored to host Mark Lakeman, co-founder of City Repair Project, for an inspiring lecture and workshop in our studio.

Mark Lakeman is a national leader in the development of sustainable public places. In the last decade he has directed or facilitated designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone. He is a co-founder of the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon and served as the Co-Director of Creative Vision from 1995 to 2008. He is presently active as a project coordinator in the annual Village Building Convergence. Mark is also the founder and principal of Communitecture, Inc, a cutting edge design firm with sustainable building and planning projects at many scales.

At Ecosa, Mark began the day with a lecture on placemaking. Mark believes firmly that “streets are for birthday parties,” meaning that in our current grid-planned neighborhoods our streets actually isolate and restrict us from valuable connection making. He believes that we must work together to take back our streets as public places which will in turn increase community, safety, education, nutrition, connectivity, and many other of our societal goals. The best part of his message is that all of this can be done with hardly any money, and it is fun at the same time!

That afternoon Mark pulled out some toys and the students got to try their hand at Placemaking. He had a prototype neighborhood for Eugene, OR, with buildings set up in a very traditional grid format.

The students took the model out in the sunlight to gather solar information about the site at certain times of the year. They then used the solar analysis to determine locations for the buildings that will maximize passive solar features. Mark was able to tell the students details about the neighborhood’s residents to make sure each home is connected to the rest of the community and what unique contribution they can bring.

This was a great exercise for the students, and all of these concepts will be an integral part of their ongoing Habitat for Humanity multi-family housing project.

For more information on Placemaking, check out the City Repair’s Placemaking Guidebook for a donation of $15. (Also available in the Ecosa library for our local readers).

Jun 24


Jun 21


Jun 17

Today our students are with local ecologist, Rob Hunt. They are hiking up Prescott’s landmark, Thumb Butte, while learning about what makes our particular region of the Southwest so unique!

Today our students are with local ecologist, Rob Hunt. They are hiking up Prescott’s landmark, Thumb Butte, while learning about what makes our particular region of the Southwest so unique!

Jun 10

The end of the trip brought a mix of emotions all around… but the consensus was “happy to be headed home!”

The end of the trip brought a mix of emotions all around… but the consensus was “happy to be headed home!”