April 25, 2023

UMass DesignBuild (UMDB) is a new interdisciplinary program that brings together architecture and building construction students to design and build small, affordable, low-carbon houses for local affordable housing providers. Our mission is twofold: first, to provide students with transformative, experiential learning opportunities that prepare them to be leaders in their chosen professional fields, and second, to directly address the affordable housing crisis and associated issues of social and climate equity through the construction of houses for those experiencing housing insecurity.

In 2022, UMDB completed the construction of a 350-square-foot, net-zero ready accessory dwelling unit. After being showcased at the Green River Music Festival, the “Hygge House” was donated to OneHolyoke Community Development Corporation (CDC), a not-for-profit community housing provider in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

In 2023, UMDB continued working with OneHolyoke CDC to deliver innovative, small-scale, affordable housing. This year, students were challenged to design a small, complementary house to be co-located with the first house on a small, urban infill site in the Flats neighborhood in Holyoke.

The students’ proposal—named the “Paper House” in reference to Holyoke’s heritage as the Paper City—is an approximately 500-square-foot house that includes two small bedrooms to maximize the utility and flexibility of small-scale housing. Designed to be low-carbon and energy positive, the student design exceeds the Massachusetts stretch code performance standards and provides a compelling vision for contemporary affordable housing.

For more information, please follow along at the UMDB blog.