Architecture students show designs for Habitat

SALEM – Future homes built by Habitat for Humanity of Northern Columbiana County will take on a different look, with designs by Kent State University students as the guide.

Fourth-year students in the KSU College of Architecture and Environmental Design at the Kent campus created 22 potential home designs last semester for the Habitat board to consider.

All the designs were on display this week at the Salem campus, with some of the students, their professors and the dean of their college present for a reception with representatives of Habitat and the public Thursday night. About half of the Habitat board traveled to Kent in December for a presentation of the designs.

“We were so impressed at the results and their enthusiasm. They understood who they were building for,” Habitat Executive Director Barb Loudon said.

The project came about through a local connection to KSU and a desire for a community project for the students to tackle. Habitat board member Judy Sicilia is the mother of George Bigham of the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology Construction Management Program.

Loudon and Habitat construction manager Scott Craven met with students in the construction management program and in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design to outline the parameters or limitations they would have to consider in their home design. They also explained what Habitat is, how the families are the clients and the need for energy efficiency and affordability.

A group of 44 fourth-year architecture students were split into pairs and came up with 22 designs for three actual lots -lots Loudon described as a challenge due to their layout. Habitat owns two of the lots, one which drops off from front to back on Ridge Street in Leetonia and one which is shaped like a piece of pie on Southeast Boulevard in Salem. The third lot hasn’t been purchased, but was described as long and narrow.

Lots used by Habitat are normally about 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep, but Loudon said they’re having a harder time finding lots that fit the current footprint of space in the home design they’ve been using.

Students had to keep in mind the following Habitat house design criteria: living space not exceeding 1,070 square feet for a three-bedroom or 1,230 for a four-bedroom; each house must have a covered, primary entrance; no garages or carports; and one bathroom unless the size of the family and the number of bedrooms qualifies for more bathroom space.

Their goals for the designs included comfort, cost efficiency, flexibility, having them be user friendly and recognize that volunteer labor would be building the homes. The designs also had to “address different site conditions, orientation, architectural character, and options for passive and renewable energy for both site and building,” according to the outlined project goals.

Architecture instructor Lee Goodman said the students had to present one plan with both a traditional design and a contemporary design and incorporate ways to cut energy costs.

Assistant Professor Joe Ferut said the students found the project to be rewarding – they were doing something real. It has also provided an opportunity for collaboration between different departments. He called the project “successful – a blending of theory and practice.”

“We teach our young architects social responsibility,” Adjunct Professor Jack Hawk said, adding this type of program is a good teaching tool because the students have to work with client needs.

Students Trevor Donnelly of Boardman and Ryan Genther of Richfield both said the design parameters were challenging. Most of their projects are more theoretical and they thought more about what went into the design because they had an actual client this time and could visualize being in the homes. They were able to utilize the applications they were learning.

Douglas Steidl, Dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, said there’s something about designers and architects and social service and this project fits right into that. It’s good for the students and good for Habitat.

Plans called for the Habitat board to select up to four designs, but Loudon said they’ll also possibly look at incorporating elements of other designs. Architecture students will spend this semester refining the chosen designs and students from the construction management program will determine the costing options for building the designs.

The ultimate goal is for the designs to be used for construction of Habitat homes.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at