Initiative to address issue of housing affordability in Salt Lake City

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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is launching a new initiative aimed at addressing the growing issue of housing affordability.

Under the newly formed partnership called Design+Build Salt Lake, students in the U.’s School of Architecture will develop, design and construct affordable, energy-efficient residential buildings — from the first sketch to the final construction, along with local neighborhoods, explained Jörg Rügemer, director of the program and an associate professor of architecture.

The program is designed to give participants an immersive experience, he said.

“Designing a building is one thing. Transforming the design into a real and resilient building that is affordable is a very different challenge though,” Rügemer said. “This program offers participants the opportunity to explore the consequences of their ideas in direct relation to the built environment, social equity, global climate change, and feasibility, where each step has to withstand the critical arguments of a real client."

As part of a design studio, taught in combination with architectural history and architecture technology courses, students have already completed the process of subdividing a city-owned plot of land measuring roughly 20,000 square feet into three individual lots with high-performance houses at an affordable cost designed for each parcel, he said.

“We have teamed up with Salt Lake City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Department to design, develop and build the Montgomery Triplets — three 1,500-square-foot single-family residences on a vacant lot in Poplar Grove in west Salt Lake,” Rügemer said. Another program partner, Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, will play a vital role in the realization of the studio projects, he added.

Architecture research assistants are working to support efforts to secure a planned development and building permit in order to begin construction next summer, he said, with Habitat for Humanity’s professional contractor to act as the team’s supervisor.

“Design+Build Salt Lake is an important partnership that will encourage the next generation of housing innovations,” said Todd Reeder, capital asset development manager for Housing and Neighborhood Development. “Taking small and odd shaped lots from the city inventory and envisioning innovative housing solutions will not only improve access to housing opportunities but will also advance design standards in the community.”

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