architecture blog

Modative Architecture Wins Homeless Housing Development Competition

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 @ 14:06 PM

If you've been following along with us here over the last few weeks, you've surely noticed that we've been bashing open architecture competitions and even suggesting alternatives to these time wasters.

So you may find it a bit hypocritical that today I'm announcing that we won a competition. That is, until you note the following differences between this competition and a typical open architecture competition.

Not Just an Architecture Competition

The competition we entered was through the Urban Land Institute (ULI)  to develop housing for the chronically homeless. As I posted back in April, it was a team development competition consisting of other young real estate and social work professionals. Architecture was only a piece of the proposal. Our team had to find a property, create a program, design a project, determine the services offered, and develop a detailed pro forma of how the project would be financed. The process simulated a real project compressed into six weeks.

homeless housing los angelesThe site we selected in Glendale.

 

The Competition Wasn't Open

Our team had to apply in order to get accepted to participate. There were only five teams competing.

homeless housing glendale ca

We even got to make our own cool logo. We were called Team HETED (Homeless Empowerment Through Efficient Development)

 

Collaboration

Each team was assigned a city to work with in Los Angeles County: Pasadena, Whittier, East Dominguez Hills, Long Beach and our sponsor city, Glendale. We also worked closely with homeless non-profit advocates and developers, Path Achieve Glendale and Path Ventures. The city and these organizations acted like our clients. By working with them we got to make real connections. Connections that could lead to future work.

homeless housing bungalows los angeles

The project concept is a hybrid of preservation of 1920's bungalows and modern intervention of adding new elements to bring the project up to code and provide services for the residents.

 

Team Aspect

Our team really enjoyed working with each other on this. I think we will collaborate again on future projects.

Exposure

The Urban Land Institute is a diverse organization. It reaches all types of real estate professionals. We prefer this type of exposure over showcasing our work to a bunch of fellow architects.

homeless housing competition win

 

Pro Bono

This competition was our launch into pro bono work. We spent 130 hours working on this competition. This gives us a real gauge as to the level of commitment required to do future pro bono projects. We already have an idea for our next pro bono project. It won't be through a competition.

permanent supportive housing

Overall view of the project

 

Whether or not you buy our arguments for entering this competition, I encourage you to check out our winning proposal. You can also view our online press release.

 

What do you think of our proposal?

Tags: Residential, Los Angeles, Multi Family Housing, Affordable Housing, Architecture Experience, Architecture portfolio, Housing, Architecture Competitions, Homeless Housing

Modative Architecture Joins Homeless Housing Competition Team

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 @ 09:04 AM

We're big believers in incorporating personality and creativity into our professional brand. In our Rethink Your Resume guide, we encouraged integration of personal interests and photos into professional resumes.

But a resume is just one step in a career. There are so many opportunities to use this strategy.

Once such opportunity was our recent team application to participate in the Urban Land Institute's 1,000 Homes Competition for Housing the Chronically Homeless in LA County.

This annual development competition asks young professionals with different backgrounds to form teams of four to eight members and submit a group application. From those applications, the judges  select five teams to participate in the competition.

Our team, called Team HETED (Homeless Empowerment Through Efficient Development), consists of five members with a variety of experience in development, construction, real estate finance, social work, and architecture. While we were confident in our chances of being selected based on our backgrounds (resumes were part of the application), we took no chances and got creative and personal with our statement of interest.

Instead of the typical, bland, corporate sounding group statement, we split our statement of interest into short blurbs about our individual personal interest in entering this competition. Our statements also include our role on the team, education background, and a small picture.

Here's a sampling of our statement of interest page for the competition application, reformated for this post:

1,000 homes homeless housing competition

Team HETED homeless housing competition
The decision to enter this competition is very personal for each member of Team HETED. While our goal is to combine our skills to create an innovative solution for the homelessness issue in Los Angeles, we feel compelled to share our individual motivations for entering this competition.
Jed Tarr Developer
Jed Tarr  Development + Project Feasibility
William Warren Group
Development Associate

Arizona State, B.A. Economics + Real Estate, 2007
I think this competition will be a great exercise and experience working together as a team and with the various city agencies to confront a serious issue that not only affects city budgets but more importantly people’s lives.  I personally expect this program to inspire my career as a developer, to include non-profit and low-income projects. I bring to the team experience in overall development, including project feasibility & management.
 
Connor Humphreys Finance
Connor Humphreys  Finance
Budget Finance Co.
Director of Acquisitions

Emory University, B.A. Sociology, 2006
This competition provides a chance for me to expand on the real estate related community work I have been involved with in Los Angeles. The competition will allow me to use my expertise and experience in order to provide a valuable service to a section of the community that often goes overlooked. Through my work in residential mortgage finance, I have been involved in efforts to provide counseling and housing solutions to Los Angeles communities that have been hardest hit by the recent wave foreclosures stemming from the mortgage crisis. I have done extensive work building financial models and projections related to real estate and mortgage investments. I hope to bring this skill set to my team to strengthen our project through building a solid financing foundation for our development. I am excited at the opportunity to work with other young professionals across different professional disciplines to bring positive change to the problem of homelessness in the Los Angeles area. I think that the wide array of expertise that each member of my team brings to the table will allow us to create a strong, comprehensive plan that will not only provide shelter for the homeless, but will provide empowerment for members of the community who have, in many cases, been forgotten.
 
Laura Leavitt Social Work
Laura Leavitt, MSW  Social Work
Columbia University School of Social Work, Masters of Social Work, 2009
                                                      
Kenyon College, B.A. Psychology, 2005
With over five years of experience as an advocate for disadvantaged communities, I have seen the life changing effects of providing housing and social services to individuals and families in need. For the homeless, housing does not simply imply having a roof over one’s head.  Housing means safety, health, community, job productivity, educational opportunity, and most of all, hope. With the same vigor that I organized a nationally recognized campaign against homelessness for survivors of domestic violence, I will use my skills in program development and community outreach to establish an innovative, comprehensive and sustainable program that will change the lives of the homeless community in Los Angeles.  My complex understanding of homelessness will strengthen our inspired multidisciplinary team and help guide the project towards a model that is both relevant and tangible, as well as effective and efficient.

derek leavitt architecture
Derek Leavitt, AIA  Architecture + Development
Modative, Inc.
Principal + Founder

University of Southern California, B.Arch + Minor Business, 2000
I love being an architect, but often feel that something is missing from my professional life. My industry is primarily geared towards designing buildings for the wealthiest sector of our population. One of the reasons I became an architect was to use design to make a difference in the lives of people whom need my help the most. This competition is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to use my design and development skills to assist both the people that lack the basic human need of shelter and the communities that seek creative solutions to homeless issues. I am enthusiastic about the diverse skills of Laura (my sister), Jed, and Connor and our ability to create an innovative and appropriate concept for the competition.
 

Our fifth team member, Idalia Santos, was added to our team after this original application was submitted. Her knowledge of development and construction combined with her passion for homeless issues makes her a highly valuable part of our team.

Going creative and personal can be difficult. The easier approach is to play it safe and go with what's been done before. However, for Team HETED, the creative route worked as we were selected as one of the five teams to participate in the competition. Our team is now  partnered up with the City of Glendale and Path Achieve Glendale and over the next six weeks we will develop a proposal for a permanent supportive housing project in Glendale.

 

What are your thoughts on professional applications?

 

 

Tags: Announcements, Innovation, Communication, Affordable Housing, Housing, Inspiration, Architecture Competitions, Homeless Housing

12 Incredibly Obvious Things I Like About Small Homes

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 @ 06:06 AM

In the spirit of the recent Los Angeles Times article discussing the downsizing of the average American home from 2,629 square feet (last year) to 2,419 square feet (this year), I thought I’d touch on my reasons for liking small homes:

1. Simple Math: If You Build Less, It Costs Less


Tight lending means that loans for big, expensive homes are difficult, if not impossible to come by. Every square foot you build costs more in construction materials, labor, permits, city fees, and dare I say it, architecture fees.

2. Resale Value


What? The Realtor rule has seemingly always been, that the larger the home, the better the value. But things have changed.

Building more can now price you out of the market.

Instead, try building only what you need, not what you perceive some mysterious future buyer will need.


3. Quality Over Quantity


About 10 years ago, Sarah Susanka introduced an idea to build better, not bigger, homes in her popular book, The Not So Big House.

Her philosophy is relevant today as the economic shift has lessened the appetite for McMansions in favor of more compact, better built homes - the type of home that you'll want to live in for a long time.

4. Energy Efficiency


Aside from the energy you'll save in construction, a small home is far more efficient over its' life span. The mechanical systems needed to heat and cool your home will cost less upfront and will have to work less to keep you comfortable inside.

5. Think About Trading Space For Power


At a construction cost of $250 per square foot, if you were to build just 80 less square feet, you would have the $20,000 it takes to add a very decent solar power system. And in most places, government rebates will help put a big dent in that $20k price tag.

6. Sustainability


This is a much broader topic that is tough to summarize in a quick list; so simply put, small homes use less resources.

7. Affordable Land

Like many major metropolitan areas, in my home town of Los Angeles, the difficult challenge of finding affordable property makes it tough for many to make that first key step towards building a new home.  If you're willing to go small, new opportunities present themselves in the form of more affordable undersized and odd lots that others may ignore.

8. Subdivide

You can also consider becoming a micro-developer by subdividing a larger lot and building a few homes: one for you and the others to sell to help pay for yours.

Small Lot Subdivision, which we have here in Los Angeles, is spreading as other municipalities realize its potential.

9. Keeping It Clean


A simple concept: small homes are easier and faster to clean. If you hire someone to clean, it will cost you less.

It's also not much fun cleaning rooms you never use.

10. Don't Forget the Furniture


Larger home = more furniture you have to buy.

Nice furniture = expensive.

Small home = less furniture needed = can afford better furniture.

11. Less Room For Junk


Quick Quiz

If I had less space in my house to store (fill in the blank), I would:

a) Pull it out of the closet and put it on display
b) Use it more often
c) Give it away to charity
d) Sell it on ebay or craigslist

The correct answer is that these are all good answers.

I love storage as much as anyone, but having too much can have some disadvantages as well.

12. You Can Always Add-On Later

Build what you can afford (& need) now. Plan for what you want later.

 

By no means is this a complete list. I would love to get some thoughts on this.

What spaces in your house do you not use?

What areas of your home do you wish were bigger? Smaller? 

 

At Modative, we're fans of small modern homes. We like designing them, even on tight budgets. Feel free to contact us if you're thinking about a small home. We can even help you find property.

Download a PDF of 12 Incredibly Obvious Things I Like About Small Homes

Tags: Property, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Affordable Housing, Subdivisions, economy, small homes

LA & Enterprise Launch $100 Million Fund for Affordable Housing

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Jul 23, 2008 @ 12:07 PM

Developing affordable housing in Los Angeles just got a bit easier as the City of Los Angeles and Enterprise Community Partners announced this week a $100 million fund aimed at providing financial assistance to non-profit and for profit developers of affordable housing projects.

More information on this fund can be found in this MarketWatch Article as well as through Enterprise.

Here at Modative we are interested in the opportunities this fund can provide for innovative affordable housing projects in Los Angeles. Although much of affordable housing is geared towards the rental market, we have always had an interest in providing home ownership possibilities for people of all income levels utilizing the small lot subdivision ordinance. More info on  Small Lot Subdivision in L.A.

Tags: Development, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Affordable Housing