‘Real Projects’ initiative produces new home for Bryan subdivision

Student-designed home takes shape.

By the time the weather turns cool this fall, a Bryan, Texas family will be settling into a new home designed by Texas A&M environmental design student Catherine Florece.

The home was designed as part of "Real Projects," a Texas A&M College of Architecture community outreach initiative engaging students from multiple disciplines in enterprises benefiting Brazos Valley residents.

In addition to designing the residence, students developed construction costs estimates for the project, created landscape designs for the home and surrounding subdivision and even wielded hammers and toted lumber to help frame the structure.

“Real Projects is a way to involve our students in community service while teaching them a tremendous amount about all the disciplines in the college,” said Mark Clayton, professor of architecture, at the April 19 groundbreaking ceremony for the home, located in the Falls Creek Ranch subdivision, approximately three miles northwest of downtown Bryan.

Scheduled for completion this fall, the home was made possible through financing secured by the Brazos Valley Affordable Housing Corporation. Representatives from the housing corporation joined Texas A&M students and faculty, Bryan mayor Jason Bienski, and other state and local government representatives at the groundbreaking event.

Florece’s 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1300 square-foot Craftsman design was selected by the BVAHC from 17 residential design proposals created by students in Clayton's sophomore architecture studio.

“Every corner of space in the house is utilized,” said Florece, who packed the home with as many features as possible while adhering to a minimalist theme to keep costs low. “Even the closets are back-to-back so they won’t take up any extra space.”

The main living area features sliding glass doors with exterior views that "give the illusion of a larger community area," she said, "and provide access to more community space.”

The outdoor common area faces a nearby lake and is situated behind a wall that blocks the setting sun during the hot summer months.

Falls Creek Ranch was marketed in the late 1990s as a modular home subdivision, but its developer went out of business after selling only three homes, leaving a mostly undeveloped area with a rural ambience despite being so close to downtown Bryan.

Exploiting the area's natural beauty, landscape architecture students developed five alternative master plans for the subdivision as part of the Real Projects initiative, each incorporating a wide range of amenities including signage, nature trails, a community orchard, a zip-line leading to a swimming pool adjacent to a subdivision lake, a pedestrian/fishing bridge, and a forested buffer zone between the subdivision and surrounding roadways.

To prepare the plans, students conducted a site inventory, analyzed the subdivision’s relationship to the surrounding community — its distance from schools, retail centers and hospitals, etc. — and made case studies of other similar subdivisions in the area.

A few days after the groundbreaking, with the slab in place, student volunteers helped frame the structure. Construction science students, who provided cost estimates for the project, joined environmental design students, measuring, cutting wood and raising the home's outer walls.

posted May 29, 2013