Fans of the HBO series The Wire know that inner-city Baltimore is a land of narrow three-story row houses, many of them boarded up, interpersed with vacant land where similar row houses once stood. Fittingly, narrow three-story row houses to fill some of that vacant land were specified in a recent contest for low-carbon-footprint designs.The US Forest Service and APA, The Engineered Wood trade association, sponsored this Carbon Challenge and concurrent but very different ones in Providence (low-budget four-bedroom houses) and in Florida (suburbia homes affecting styles like Arts-and-crafts and Mediterranean).
I really admire the judges for being good sports. They got the contest’s rules hurled back in their faces by several contestants—whom they then rewarded with prizes.
The team from RM Sovich Architecture told them that the house the rules called for—1,750 to 2,500 square feet sleeping three adult roommates—is way too big to be called low-carbon. “The best way to reduce carbon footprints,” they wrote, “is to reduce the overall quantity of construction/space used per person.” Comparing themselves to Le Corbusier, who drew up 660-sq-ft units to sleep five artisans, they refused to design more than 1,260 sq. ft. for this contest. Their white cubist units, the most contemporary-looking of the six winning designs and the least row-house-like, won in the “best curb appeal” category.