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Graduate architecture students at the University of Louisiana are using lessons learned in their architecture courses to help a Lafayette woman rebuild her home, which was destroyed by fire in 2008.

Their class project for Fall 2010 was to design a small, affordable house with some unique spatial qualities and energy-saving features. This spring, they are involved in the home’s construction.

They’re working with Lafayette Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry, to replace Louida Fuselier’s house on Carver Street, near Dorsey Park, off of Martin Luther King Drive. This historic African-American neighborhood is one of Lafayette’s oldest.

Melinda Taylor, executive director of Lafayette Habitat for Humanity, said the organization usually relies on stock house plans that meet residents’ basic needs. "We don’t normally say to our homeowners, 'What do you want in your house?'" she said. But the opportunity to collaborate with architects-in-training was appealing.

The UL students began by talking at length with Fuselier. "In their conversations, some interesting things came out, things that are beneficial for us, as an affiliate, to consider more carefully," Taylor said.

The creative use of natural lighting is an example. Architecture student Josh LaBorde explained that the class was able to vary ceiling heights, "allowing light to come in from above. This helped create natural lighting in the house and it created a feel for a bigger space."

The students learned that Fuselier is a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church. She manages the sacristy, a room where vests used by priests during services and sacred vessels are kept. So they designed a special prayer space for her new home.

"We plan to use some of the siding from her old house on the walls within the prayer space," LaBorde said. "This will give the walls some texture and it will also be a reminder to her of her home she lived in before."

The students are also planning to use the front door from Fuselier’s former home. Taylor said the architecture students considered outside space as well. "They looked at something we really haven’t paid much attention to: the side of the house. They created a focal area where the homeowner can pull up his car and park."

An outdoor living space adjacent to the home’s kitchen and living room can be used for entertaining. Matt Heidel, another architecture student, said Fuselier’s house was his first opportunity to be engaged in a real-life project: "real budget constraints, real needs for the homeowner and for the community."

Geoff Gjertson is an associate professor of architecture at UL and director of the university’s Building Institute. The institute gives architecture students a chance to get start-to-finish building experience, as their designs are transformed into tangible structures. "The project offers an intense and immersive educational experience for our architecture students while giving back to the community," Gjertson said.

It is anticipated that the Realtor Association of Acadiana and the congregation of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church will provide funding for Fuselier’s home. Church volunteers and UL students are providing the labor.

Matt Heidel, another architecture student, said Fuselier’s house was his first opportunity to be engaged in a real-life project: "real budget constraints, real needs for the homeowner and for the community."

Three-dimensional renderings of a Habitat for Humanity home designed by UL architecture students.


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