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American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design Awards

The Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in conjunction with the Residential Knowledge Community of The American Institute of Architects (AIA), recognizes excellence in affordable housing, community-based design, participatory design, and accessibility. These awards demonstrate that design matters and provide examples of important benchmarks in the housing industry. Awards are offered in four categories: Community–Informed Design Award, Creating Community Connection Award, Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award, and Housing Accessibility— Alan J. Rothman Award.

Awards American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design


Community-Informed Design
The Community-Informed Design award recognizes design that supports physical communities as they rebuild inner city social structures and relationships that may have been weakened by outmigration, disinvestment, and the isolation of inner city areas.

Tierra Linda: Chicago, IL

With a focus on healthy living and wellness, Tierra Linda offers 45 affordable apartments in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods and includes the first passive house constructed in the city. The project was guided by the developer’s commitment to green and sustainable housing and its mission to broaden neighborhood access to those frequently displaced in Chicago’s rapidly shifting housing market.

Sitting alongside the 606 Trail, a 2.7-mile elevated park built on the bones of an industrial train line, Tierra Linda was envisioned by a development team comprised of architects, maintenance staff, tenants, and neighbors. The process included a number of charettes to better educate the participants about the benefits of green housing. These community engagement efforts also spurred a number of design responses, in particular the project’s vibrant buildings that serve as a visual reminder that Latinx families are both welcome and seen as vital to the success of the city’s neighborhoods.

The hallmark of the project is Passive House, home to six low-income families overcoming homelessness or recovering from the effects of climate change-fueled weather events such as Hurricane Maria. The design team employed an integrative design approach to explore the best technologies and components to ensure the house was to code. The developer consulted with the Passive House Institute to ensure feasibility and, later, with the city’s departments of buildings and housing for administrative relief on several critical HVAC configurations. Tierra Linda also includes a sister building that was designed to comply with code-minimum Energy Star requirements, allowing the team to compare energy use between the two structures. Tierra Linda is a prime example of an exceptional, sustainable project that greatly benefits the community it serves. Its resounding success has set a new bar for future Chicago developments and ushered in a new era of passive housing for both affordable housing and for-profit developers.

Housing Accessibility—Alan J. Rothman Award
The purpose of this award is to recognize exemplary projects that demonstrate excellence in improving housing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Plymouth on First Hill: Seattle, Washington

In Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, this project focuses on residents and their recovery from the trauma induced by their previously unstable lives. Plymouth on First Hill is the 14th building for Plymouth Housing and provides 80 units for formerly homeless people and live-in staff. Durable, sustainable, and cost-efficient for both developer and resident, the project actively transforms the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Plymouth on First Hill employs the Housing First model, with round-the-clock on-site services and no set rent payment. All residents pay 30 percent of their income as rent, the rest of which is covered by Section 8 housing vouchers. Located just a few blocks from Harborview Medical Center, the project also reduces the reliance on intensive services, namely hospitals and jails, through its agreement with the center to provide on-site medical care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment. In addition, 30 units are reserved for referrals from the medical center, and the building’s clinical space features an examination room staffed by a medical center nurse 32 hours each week.

The site’s steep slope and unusual shape presented the team with a number of design challenges, which resulted in its concept: a floating box atop a transparent base that emerges directly from the hill. As the slope rolls down Cherry Street to 7th Avenue, the transparency is gradually revealed. At the ground floor, the pedestrian environment is improved with floor-to-ceiling windows. Tenant amenities, such as a kitchen, computer lounge, and case management offices, are also found there. Common rooms can support group and staff meetings and provide direct access to outdoor spaces.

To soften the harsh transition between Interstate 5 and the neighborhood, the team partnered with the First Hill Improvement Association to plant cherry trees and improve the landscape along Cherry Street’s 20 percent grade. Seating along the slope also provides spots for respite and eases the climb for pedestrians. As a whole, the exterior has greatly enhanced the neighborhood and serves as its newest gateway.