Advertisement

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

Advertisement

— 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

LogicMan 4 years, 4 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

LogicMan 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks, here's a better link. Strange characters in that site's URL for the pdf.

Go here and chose October 2008, Page three:

http://www.kansas.gov/ksbtp/Archive.html

He doesn't need a license? Don't physicians and attorneys, for example, have to be licensed to use those official titles? Or maybe the LJW needs to correct in some places that he's a professor of architecture, and not an architect.

Why hasn't he gotten his license, if that's the case? It seems an obvious need in that field. His designs are often interesting so I'd think he'd want to offer his services to those willing to pay him.

rabb 4 years, 4 months ago

Way to break the case, Columbo. Good work.

sweetd 4 years, 4 months ago

You are correct LogicMan - in order to legally use the title of Architect he would have to have passed all of his examinations and be licensed.

ssakcaj 4 years ago

Status: Since signing the Settlement Agreement, Rockhill and Associates has paid the fine and costs in full and have applied for and received a Certificate of Authorization to practice architecture in the State of Kansas.

overthemoon 4 years, 4 months ago

Anybody can design and build a home without a license as long as it passes code reviews. Only about 2% of homes are designed by architects. Architectural Stamp is required on Commercial and Public buildings over 30,000 sf.

Zachary Stoltenberg 4 years, 4 months ago

Nope, wrong again. It depends on the jurisdiction. Lawrence doesn't require it, however, all parts of Kansas City do. Even if it's just a house, it has to be stamped by a licensed architect. I'd love to see your source for your 2% statistic, pretty sure you pulled that out of no where. The rest of your statement is just as wrong. Square footage has nothing to do with it. All commercial, educational, office, etc. must be designed and stamped by an architect. Additionally, the city can also ask for engineering and special inspectors as well. Even a 500 s.f. cafe on mass street requires stamped plans.

BigPrune 4 years, 4 months ago

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

Zachary Stoltenberg 4 years, 4 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.

oldvet 4 years, 4 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...

kawvalleybulldog 4 years, 4 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'

svenway_park 4 years, 4 months ago

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

livin4life61 4 years, 4 months ago

So please, do tell what your idea of "a little effort in aesthetics" is. The Oread, oh or what about one of those beautiful homes in the lovely Johnson County. You like most on here have no idea what good taste is nor anything about good design....please figure it out before you get left behind.

imastinker 4 years, 4 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.

50YearResident 4 years, 4 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.

woodscolt 4 years, 4 months ago

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

svenway_park 4 years, 4 months ago

It took Johnathon a month or three of hard experiences before he figured it out. This new LJW forum lady will too. She has no idea how the non-educated archy-tech conducted a long slander campaign against Rockhill, and used the LJW and its forum as his tool in the process.

If she would read the now disappearded postings of him (Cool, Spiderman, Ariadne, Bronze, etc) she would understand.

Hoots 4 years, 4 months ago

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

pfeifer 4 years, 4 months ago

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

pfeifer 4 years, 4 months ago

Contrary to your belief, just cause you think it's bad doesn't mean it is. Some people like industrial, rigid houses. I happen to be one of them. Deal with it.

Keith 4 years, 4 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.

LogicMan 4 years, 4 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?

notajayhawk 4 years, 4 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.

pfeifer 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe they're learning how to building techniques that they can then use on houses that they design in their career. Maybe they're trying a whole bunch of new things on this one house that way they don't have to try them on like 50 separate houses.

notajayhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

Which is great - in some kind of a lab. Not for a house that you have to sell in order to build the one next year's students are going to design.

And it's great to try new techniques and new technologies. It's better to try ones that people want to buy.

When I was in marketing classes, they talked about the ages of marketing in terms of cars. First it was the Model T - which, as the saying goes, you could get in any color you want as long as it's black. They had the product, they had no real competition, and the only real marketing you had to do was to tell people where they could get one.

Next came the 50's - everyone was trying to differentiate their product by putting on different bells and whistles. Outrageous tail fins, acres of chrome, etc., to make them look distinguishable; push-button transmissions, along with some options that were really helpful like air conditioning, power seats, etc. All kind of things that said "our car is different than their car" - but based on what the manufacturer, not the customer, thought would be good ideas.

Then it was the 70's, and the Japanese. The Japanese talked to people. They'd go to car shows and similar places where new cars were on display, and ask people 'What do you like about that car? What don't you like about that car?' And the answers they got were what the next year's models looked like.

I understand that building things like this are a great exercise - but don't expect them to be commercial successes, and don't forget to teach the students that if they're going to be successful, it's the homebuyers' opinion of what makes a house great that matters, not the architect's. As some people have mentioned, why do ecologically-sound houses have to look like dairy barns? The same problem existed in electric cars, until recently - now we have this:

http://www.teslamotors.com/

People will BUY that. You can develop the new technologies and still make it attractive to the people that have to spend their money to make your efforts worthwhile.

puddleglum 4 years, 4 months ago

hey pfeifer, never mind notajay. he just likes to throw sand in his sandbox and call people names and talk like elmer fudd. much slobbering about nothing-and nothing at all to contribute.

puddleglum 4 years, 4 months ago

you mean a jaguar running through the yard? does this house have a bronze door knob? is that spiderman crawling around on the outside? I wonder if the roof is made of oregano?

Newell_Post 4 years, 4 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.

ssakcaj 4 years ago

Status: Since signing the Settlement Agreement, Rockhill and Associates has paid the fine and costs in full and have applied for and received a Certificate of Authorization to practice architecture in the State of Kansas.

Newell_Post 4 years, 4 months ago

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

Shaving off from what?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.