Construction Starts On New Vlock Home

Allison Park PhotoIn the thick of a heat wave, the Yale School of Architecture first-years came together this week to start building a two-story home on 41-43 Button St. for a homeless family and a single renter.

In the thick of the heat on Tuesday afternoon, the Yale School of Architecture first-years came together to build a two-story home on 41-43 Button Street. The project is part of the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project and is sponsored by Columbus House.

Columbus House’s “mission is to end homelessness” through efforts like these, CEO Alison Cunningham said as she supervised a crane carefully lowering wooden stresses onto the roof of the structure.

As a first-year requirement, the housing project is structured as a semester-long competition amongst the class who were split up evenly into nine groups. First-years Emily Cass, Christine Pan, and Thomas Mahon formed half of the six-person winning team that designed the house.

“It’s a defining program,” said Cass in her neon green hard hat. Mahon agreed that the program sets Yale apart from other institutions: “People come here often for the building project.”

The building will feature separate units and outdoor spaces for the family and individual respectively. The design allows for the residents to “choose how much they interact,” Pan said. The first years were required to incorporate donated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels into the design.

Rather than resort to placing the CLT panels as exterior decoration, the group made the creative and practical decision to put the material’s “extraordinarily structural” properties to work to support the center of the house.

The eight-week planning process started with initial ideation amongst the group, with the bulk of the physical designing placed in the last month. “We saw each other constantly,” said Pan.

Working in a team of equals who all have individual and disparate styles posed a “challenge” but also made it “exciting,” Mahon said.

Prior to the physical assembly of the rooftop trusses via crane, the team designed the structure using the 3D modeling program Rhino, then created a wooden prototype of the house.

“It’s life-saving [for the homeless] and life-changing for us,” said Cunningham.

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posted by: robn on July 5, 2018  8:32am

clever plan

posted by: JCFremont on July 5, 2018  11:07am

So is it better to be homeless than be in a lousy rental unit?

posted by: Hill Resident on July 5, 2018  9:00pm

@JCFremont - you’re joking right? The rental units on these Yale-Vlock houses are anything but lousy. I own one of these houses and my tenant of 8 years moved out out and came back after a year she liked it so much. Anyway, when you come from homelessness being able to move into a rental ... no matter how much someone else might think it’s lousy ... is a life changing and momentus occasion!!!

posted by: JCFremont on July 6, 2018  9:00am

@Hill Resident. No I’m talking about if your designated as homeless you will be eligible for this house versus being in a lousy probably lead laden apartment your paying rent on. If this model of house can be constructed quickly and at a reasonable cost, maybe the city should study if it would be cheaper to demolish older contaminated houses and replace, rather than trying to rehabilitate.

posted by: ctkeith on July 6, 2018  4:37pm

They are TRUSSES not Tresses. Tresses are something you do to a woman’s hair. Trusses are used in construction of roofs and are usually made of wood.

posted by: Hill Resident on July 6, 2018  5:09pm

@ JCFremont - sorry - I misinterpreted your comment. I hear you. I believe that (if the program is the same as the last house built in partnership with Columbus House), the tenants are clients of the Columbus House programs who are in a financial position to be able to pay rent ... less than market rate of course. But enough to pay the taxes, keep up with maintenance, and pour some $ into the next home they build. If you have the opportunity to see the home once finished (they hold a public open house) you should. You might find that the rooms may have a small footprint and a few built-ins. These features are tailored for the individual/family that doesn’t have much or anything. But they are well made and quite contemporary. The features also do something for uplifting the spirits of the tenants because they get a ‘brand new’ space!