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Archive for Sunday, August 8, 2010

Student-built homes idle in down market

Kansas University’s Studio 804 and architect Dan Rockhill have finished their latest energy-efficient house in Kansas City, Kan. Walking the the living room, Rockhill shows the louver covered windows on the south side of the home.

Kansas University’s Studio 804 and architect Dan Rockhill have finished their latest energy-efficient house in Kansas City, Kan. Walking the the living room, Rockhill shows the louver covered windows on the south side of the home.

August 8, 2010

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— Kansas University architecture professor Dan Rockhill used a small fan to blow air inside Studio 804’s latest creation — a 1,700-square-foot home in Kansas City, Kan.’s Prescott neighborhood.

Student-built housing still on market

Energy-efficient houses built by KU architecture students aren't selling well in the down economy. The Studio 804 program, which is a non-profit, will have to seek out community funding for its next projects. Enlarge video

KU Studio 804’s latest green house project is in the Prescott neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. A combination of a bad economy and a lack of interest in the environmental home market is making it hard to sell the house.

KU Studio 804’s latest green house project is in the Prescott neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. A combination of a bad economy and a lack of interest in the environmental home market is making it hard to sell the house.

Shadows spill on a wall from slats on the front eaves over the deck of Studio 804’s latest green house project in the Prescott neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. The home is designed to be highly energy efficient.

Shadows spill on a wall from slats on the front eaves over the deck of Studio 804’s latest green house project in the Prescott neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. The home is designed to be highly energy efficient.

Architect Dan Rockhill attaches a red seal cover over the front entrance to test for air leaks Friday at his latest home project with Kansas University’s Studio 804 in Kansas City, Kan. The test Rockhill is doing will help ensure that the home is certified as a Passive House, an energy-efficiency standard that only a few homes in the country attain.

Architect Dan Rockhill attaches a red seal cover over the front entrance to test for air leaks Friday at his latest home project with Kansas University’s Studio 804 in Kansas City, Kan. The test Rockhill is doing will help ensure that the home is certified as a Passive House, an energy-efficiency standard that only a few homes in the country attain.

The long, narrow two-story house with charred Douglas Fir cladding and a massive row of windows on the south wall stood out among the mostly brick bungalows.

Just outside the front door, Rockhill’s computer calculated how much air was leaking from the home.

The tests will help ensure that the home is certified as a Passive House, an energy-efficiency standard that only a few homes in the country attain.

For that attention to green building, the home — like previous ones built by Kansas University architecture students in Rockhill’s Studio 804 class — has received national recognition.

But it’s not attracting attention from those who matter most: buyers.

A few years ago, the houses that Studio 804 built sold like hot cakes in Kansas City, Rockhill said.

The recent decline in interest could be a combination of the depressed economy, lack of demand for top-of-the-line green homes and building in neighborhoods that Rockhill described as “areas of transition.”

“I think that everybody understands that the housing market has been decimated over the last year. So I can’t take it too directly,” Rockhill said. “In some way, the fact that these houses are different may account for some of the concern.”

The homes are different in both design and their focus on energy efficiency.

The Prescott home, which was finished in May and is priced at $190,000, has yet to find a buyer. Energy-efficient features include Austrian windows with airtight seals, a rain collection system, walls crammed full of insulation and a driveway that allows water runoff to seep through the concrete. The house was built with one wall of windows facing the south to gather more warmth in the winter.

The annual energy bill shouldn’t be more than $400.

For more than a year, a $325,000 home in Kansas City’s Rosedale neighborhood also has been for sale. That home has solar panels and a wind turbine. It is expected to generate all the energy its residents would need.

“I think clearly there are enlightened people who see the value of this. And like anything else, it is going to take time to appreciate what is here,” Rockhill said. “I think we are ahead of the curve.”

But in a down economy, green homes can be a hard sell.

Unless buyers see an immediate payback, many aren’t interested in energy-efficient upgrades to homes, said Calli Schmidt, who is a spokesperson for the National Association of Home Builders. Buyers are more likely to go with what they can see, such as granite countertops or Whirlpool tubs over expensive home insulation.

Schmidt noted that there is a market for high-end, ultra efficient green homes — but it isn’t a very large one.

For Studio 804, the longer the homes sit on the market, the lower the nonprofit’s bank account gets. Right now, Rockhill says, Studio 804 has about $250 to its name.

“We are pretty well tapped out. We aren’t bankrupted in that we don’t have loans,” Rockhill said. “We basically used money that I have been sort of shaving off every year.”

The lack of funds means Studio 804 will have to return to its roots, working with community development corporations to help finance the project.

This fall, Rockhill is looking at a different kind of project — one with a prefabricated home.

However, Rockhill isn’t ready to give up constructing green-minded homes.

“This only increases the resolve to just keep going. We’ll figure something out,” he said.

Comments

Newell_Post 3 years, 8 months ago

“We basically used money that I have been sort of shaving off every year.”

Shaving off from what?

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Newell_Post 3 years, 8 months ago

LJW:

He cannot legally use the title "architect" in Kansas, since he is not licensed to practice the profession. He probably did not use that title, but you should not ascribe it to him either. It is legal for you to call him a "house designer."

http://www.accesskansas.org/roster-search/index.html

74-7001. Technical professions; unlawful practice; representation and use of title. (a) Except as otherwise provided in this act, it shall be unlawful for any person to practice or to offer to practice in the state of Kansas, any profession included within the term technical professions, as such term is defined in the provisions of this act, unless such person has been duly licensed to practice such profession under this act or holds a certificate of authorization issued under K.S.A. 74-7036. (b) Any person practicing any technical profession in this state, or calling or representing such person as a licensed practitioner of such technical profession, or using the title of a licensed practitioner of such technical profession shall be required to submit evidence that such person is qualified to practice such technical profession and is duly licensed under this act or holds a certificate of authorization issued under K.S.A. 74-7036. History: L. 1976, ch. 334, sec. 1; L. 1978, ch. 326, sec. 1; L. 1980, ch. 244, sec. 2; July 1.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Did a cool front blow through?

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notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

zstoltenberg (anonymous) says…

" ... 804 is a great learning experience for the students that take it and it's wonderful for their portfolios."

Perhaps the "learning experience" should include the principle that you can build the best gee-whiz-neato house in the world, and it doesn't matter one bit if nobody will buy it or live in it. Kind of like writing a book that your literature professor thought was fantastic, but nobody will buy or read.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 8 months ago

One of the most renowned architects in the KCK area didn't have an architecture degree and was able to design and have built the King Louis Bowling Alley.

Robert Sixta is still alive and was astute enough decades ago to build his modern home which is now only yards away from The Legends.

The Journal world should interview this guy and to top it off, he is a Democrat so hardly no one in Lawrence could dislike him.

He and his late wife Betty were very close friends of my family.

He was way ahead of Rockhill.

*as a side note, he had people with money to back him years ago!

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LogicMan 3 years, 8 months ago

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, on any planet.

"Right now, Rockhill says, Studio 804 has about $250 to its name."

Do they need to pay taxes, insurance, and utilities on those two houses? If yes that $250 won't go very far.

Maybe they should rent them out for now?

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macon47 3 years, 8 months ago

not sure why they had to make it so butt ugly it doesnt cost anymore to build a nice looking one

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usernameunknown 3 years, 8 months ago

yep that is one ugly house, i wouldn't pay 20000 for it.

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Keith 3 years, 8 months ago

Hey, I remember reading about this in the Pitch, back in late May. Still haven't sold it. Didn't studio 804 quit building houses in Lawrence because they couldn't sell them and moved to KC because they could? Looks like KC caught on.

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madhatter 3 years, 8 months ago

Studio 804 homes are great designs for the money, the only problem here is most likely location.

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pfeifer 3 years, 8 months ago

I LOVE the designs that 804 puts out. Modern is definitely my thing.

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Hoots 3 years, 8 months ago

I love the energy concept but the home looks like a poorly designed Jiffy Lube.

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woodscolt 3 years, 8 months ago

well, svenway, see what the truth can get you.

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50YearResident 3 years, 8 months ago

Too bad the neighborhood watch didn't stop the building permit. This is not only the ugliest house on the block but probably the ugliest house in KCK.

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imastinker 3 years, 8 months ago

I am sure that there are people out there that are interested in that style of house, but I would think that a nonprofit would make it one of the design criteria that the house have appeal to a wide audience to help it sell at or near market value. They might have to discount this one to get started on the next house.

It's a sad case of "tunnel vision" on those involved. I am sure that it's a neat place and has some pretty neat things involved in it, but I wouldn't be interested. Even if I did like it I would be concerned that I would have a hard time selling it, and insist on a lower purchase price.

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jstthefacts 3 years, 8 months ago

"The recent decline in interest could be a combination of the depressed economy, lack of demand for top-of-the-line green homes and building in neighborhoods that Rockhill described as areas of transition......”

Or, maybe it's not so top of the line green and looks like an out building on a dairy farm. There might be an upside to this house not immediately attracting a buyer. Maybe it could help the so called designers snap out of this ghastly "uglier is better" architecture rut they are in. Uglier is easier and cheaper and if they can keep marketing it as style it makes their profit margin much better. Its a cop out. Put a little effort in aesthetics for a change. Just look how many structures around Lawrence have Barn sheeting and rusty metal for a finished surface!!!! Come on, how about a little more effort.

While overall , it may add up to a learning experience for the students, it is also just breeding more of the notion that mediocre bad design is good design". I think its taking advantage of the students .

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svenway_park 3 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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kawvalleybulldog 3 years, 8 months ago

No wonder it hasn't sold. Can't somebody build a "green home" that looks nice and inviting? This place, like most modern "green" buildings, looks like a prison cell. just sayin'

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oldvet 3 years, 8 months ago

When the market is hot, a "Dan Rockwell" might be the thing to have... when the market is down, you realize that the structure is ugly... BP called it right...

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Zachary Stoltenberg 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, yes and no. A Proffessor of architecture is not required to be licensed in order to practice as part of an educational setting. However, Rockhill got into some trouble for going beyond just the classroom. I think that's all done and over now, all you have to do is tick off one person for them to file a complaint with the state and I think Dan has probably done that to quite a few different people. I hope the houses do move though, 804 is a great learning experience for the students that take it and it's wonderful for their portfolios.

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BigPrune 3 years, 8 months ago

"Farm shed over carport" might not be a big seller during a good market.

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tony88 3 years, 8 months ago

he doesn't need a license... also, your link is dead

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LogicMan 3 years, 8 months ago

Too bad they aren't selling. Bad timing, and probably too expensive for this market.

"Architect Dan Rockhill attaches a red"

Did he get his architecture license? E.g., Page three of:

http://www.kansas.gov/ksbtp/KS%20Tech%2010_08%20w-out%20ads.pdf

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