Architecture students unveil MODESTEhouse, a study in sustainable living



At a reception behind Fletcher Hall Thursday evening, July 27, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette School of Architecture and Design faculty and students finally unveiled their 15th Building Institute Project: a microscopic house.

The MODESTEhouse project started with 15 students midway through the spring semester. The students designed and built the 216-square-foot house in only 8 weeks.

“It was nice to build this hands on,” said Alexandra Carr, a first year graduate student. “It helped me understand construction better than seeing it on paper.”

The house’s modest size comes with a massive value: the house was designed and built for a survivor of the August 2016 flooding event, who lost their home. With the help of Habitat for Humanity, the project was designed for easy and affordable living.

Geoff Gjertson, a UL Lafayette architecture professor and head of the project, described the house as “modest in size, but grand in the quality of life. It’s a Swiss Army knife of living.”

The house is 8-and-a-half feet wide by 24 feet long, standing 13 feet and 10 inches tall. Habitat for Humanity will finance the $30,000 home, and the owner will pay a mortgage of roughly $100 per month.

“This was about helping the community, but most importantly about learning the architecture and design,” Gjertson said. “Everything was about trying to make a building you can reproduce.”



Meredith Guidry, a senior architect major, said the experience helped her learn things she never thought she would be able to do.

“I got to use a lot of shop tools, and I was nervous in the beginning,” she said. “But, as I started building and learning how to use things correctly, it became really fun.”

She added the project gave her confidence in her building skills.

Carr agreed the project taught her new skills.

“It definitely made my perception of architecture more personal and real,” Carr said.  “It has a lot of potential to spread and grow.”

Multiple architecture and design students said they believe small, affordable houses can become a beneficial trend for the Lafayette area.

“I feel our culture has been aching for more tiny houses, especially here in Lafayette,” Guidry said.

The primary partners and financial sponsors from the university include Gordon Brooks, dean of the College of the Arts; Dean Michael McClure, associate dean of the College of the Arts; Tom Sammons, SOAD’s director; Professor Chad Aldridge; Joey Pons, director of public safety for the university; Bill Crist, director of Facility Management; and Terry Jenkins, manager of Facility Management. The UL Lafayette Foundation was also a contributor to the project.

Several Lafayette organizations donated to the MODESTEhouse project, such as Habitat for Humanity, which donated $15,000; the Community Foundation of Acadiana donated $15,000; the Love Acadiana Foundation donated $9,000; Acadiana Home Builders donated $5,000; and Construction Specifications Institute donated $5,000.

Discounts on supplies and services were given by E. P. Breaux Electric, Bernhard Mechanical, Gulf Coast Air, Stacy’s Air, Amerilux, Raiders Installations, Bollich Distributors, Louisiana Solar, Gauthier’s Rentals, Ragin Trailers, Bayou Electric, More Core Roofing and ABC Supply.

The Acadiana Roller Girls will also sponsor the MODESTEhouse at their match at the Blackham Coliseum Saturday, July 29.