CEA Unit 3: Habitat for Humanity House

Design an affordable home


Architects and civil engineers have a big job when it comes to designing the buildings we work in and the houses we live in.  Sometimes they have unlimited parameters and budgets, but most of the time they need to keep their designs constrained within a group of reasonable parameters.  Here in this unit, you’ll learn what kinds of limitations are often placed on the design of residential homes as you get to plan, design, and create a home in Revit for “Habitat for Humanity”.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that builds homes with volunteer labor and sells them at reasonably low prices to families that could otherwise not afford a house themselves.  It’s a great program that operates world-wide.  What you’ll be doing in the next two units (Unit 3 & Unit 4) is putting together a complete home for Habitat for Humanity following the design and building parameters defined by that organization and a potential family.  In this unit, you’ll do three main things:

  1. Learn about what it takes to design affordable housing using sustainable processes
  2. Plan your home to meet the needs of the family within the guidelines of the Habitat for Humanity program
  3. Build your home in Revit and brainstorm elements that need to be added later

At the end of this unit, you’ll be ready to finalize the Habitat for Humanity Affordable Home in the next unit when you’ll add a correct foundation, electrical, plumbing, and site planning elements.


(20 pts)  About 3 days

This unit starts with an overview of affordable housing design as we look at what needs to be considered when developing housing within tight constraints.  We’ll also look at good building practices that can help make a home more ‘green’ and more sustainable.  These ideas go quick, but they’ll guide the work we do throughout the development of our Affordable Home.


(40 pts)  About 4 days

Here you get to look at the different elements that need to go into your home.  You’ll start by identifying key features that you know need to go in any home before talking to a potential family that might use a home like the one you design.  You’ll interview the person to find out basic info about their family needs, and then sit down to make a bubble diagram of your home.  Then, you’ll get started in Revit with a basic design.


(20 pts)  About 2 days

Finally, you’ll take a look at home efficiency and something called LEEDS accreditation.  When buildings are constructed, it’s possible to make careful choices so that the building is as efficient as possible.  In the final part of this unit, you’ll consider your own home as well as your Habitat for Humanity home and how it might be made more efficient.

PART 1: Affordable Design

Review the parameters of designing affordable housing

When architects sit down to design a new home, they need to consider a variety of factors:  how many people will the home fit?  What parameters need to be met so the house is usable by everyone?  What limitations are placed on budget and space?  How can I make the home efficient?  By taking all these questions into mind while designing, a good architect can create a home that will fit people’s needs and budgets.

In the first part of this unit, your job is to learn about the parameters associated with the Habitat for Humanity housing project.  These design parameters will be used by our Lathrop Designs Architecture Studio as we design affordable homes of different types.  Then, you’ll get the time to brainstorm various home layouts and think about which elements need to be included in a home.


 Use your Engineering Notebook to take a page of notes on Affordable Design and the Habitat for Humanity project as you watch the presentations.

 Continue your notes with a full page of notes on sustainability in design.  You might also include details and ideas you had while trying to reduce the heat loss from your utility shed!

 In your engineering notebook, design and draw scaled layouts for two different homes:  one for a family of 2, and another for a family of 5.  Make sure your drawings are clean, precise, and to-scale!

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your working wiring when its all soldered and ready to go!

Affordable Housing Design

Habitat For Humanity Projects

Green Building & Sustainable Design

Solar Options in Housing Design

What’s Due In Habitat for Humanity House Part 1: Design Parameters

  • Affordable Design Notes
  • Sustainability Notes
  • 2 Design Drawings
  • Benshoof’s Check-Off

Here’s what’s due in Part 1: Wiring

  1.  Notes on Affordable Home Design
  2.  Notes on Sustainability in Design
  3.  2 Residential Layout Sketches
  4.  Have Benshoof check-off your diagrams

PART 2: Residential Design

Designing an affordable home to meet client needs

Example Bubble Diagram

Our next job is to look into what it’s going to take to design a complete home for the Habitat for Humanity project.  The home will need to be efficient in both space and materials, as well as meeting the needs of the home owner and the constraints of the building codes.  To do this, we’ll look at how bubble diagrams can help us plan out our designs and how building codes impact those designs.  We’ll then also look at accessibility issues, since all Habitat for Humanity homes need to be ADA compliant.  Once this is done, we’ll interview a potential home owner to see what their family needs for space.  All this will lead to you designing two different home layouts before the client gives approval for you to start your Revit designing!


 Take a full page of notes on Planning & Sketching and Building Codes.  Both of these aspects to design will help us in our work.

 Take a full page of notes on Universal Design and the parameters outlined in the four Accessibility presentations.

Interview your potential home owner about what their family would need in a new home.

Make 2 Bubble Diagrams in your notebook of potential home layouts, then have your client approve (or suggest edits) one design.

Start your Revit design with walls, windows, doors, ceilings, floors, and roof!

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your bubble diagrams & Revit design

Planning & Sketching Floor Plans

Introduction to Building Codes

Universal Design

Accessible Bathing

Accessible Toilets

Accessible Doors

Wheelchair Maneuvering

What’s Due In Habitat for Humanity House Part 2: Residential Design

  • Planning & Codes Notes
  • Universal Access Notes
  • Client Interview
  • Bubble Diagrams
  • Revit Design
  • Benshoof’s Check-Off

Here’s what’s due in Part 2: Residential Design

  1.  Notes on Planning & Building Codes
  2.  Notes on Universal Access in residential homes
  3. Interview your potential client
  4.  Create 2 Bubble Diagrams of possible home designs
  5.  Create Revit model of approved home layout
  6.  Have Benshoof check-off your diagrams and Revit model

PART 3: Green Design

LEEDS Certification and Home Efficiency

In the final part of our unit, you’ll look at two different energy efficiency systems – Energy Star and LEEDs.  Each of these systems was designed to make it easier for designers to create new buildings that are energy efficient and more environmentally friendly.  While both systems have their own focuses, they each provide reasonable pathways to better design.  Here you’ll learn about both, and then dig into the details of the LEED certification parameters and look for ways to improve both the design of your Habitat for Humanity home, and also places that your own home could be improved to make it more efficient.


 Take a full page of notes on Energy Star and LEEDs certification processes.  Include notes on what can improve efficiency.

Consider the LEEDs checklist for your Habitat for Humanity home and suggest improvements.

Consider the LEEDs checklist for your own home and suggest possible improvements.

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your LEEDs checklists and proposed improvements!

Energy Star


LEEDs Part 2

What’s Due In Affordable Housing Part 3: Green Design

  • Efficiency Notes
  • LEEDs Checklist #1
  • LEEDs Checklist #2
  • Benshoof’s Check-Off

Here’s what’s due in Part 3: Green Design

  1. Notes on both Energy Star & LEEDs presentations and efficiency ideas
  2.  Complete LEEDs checklist for Habitat for Humanity house and possible improvements
  3.  Complete LEEDs checklist for your own home and possible improvements
  4.  Have Benshoof check-off your finished checklists!

Double Check: Unit Expectations

Check what you need to have completed by the unit deadline

The purpose of this unit is to consider the constraints placed on residential design by building codes, client needs, and program parameters.  Here you get to start designing a Habitat for Humanity home as a way to learn how to combine the needs of the home owner with the expectations of building codes.  When you’re done, you will have planned out a home design, built it in Revit, and then considered ways to make that home more efficient.

Engineering Notebook:

 (Part 1) Notes on Habitat for Humanity design and building codes

 (Part 1) Notes on Sustainability in design

 (Part 1) 2 Residential sketches in your notebook that are drawn to scale

 (Part 2) Notes on how to plan out floor plans and building codes

 (Part 2) Notes on universal access and how to make facilities handicapped accessible

 (Part 3) Notes on Energy Star & LEED energy efficiency programs

Building & Making:

 (Part 2) Home owner/client interview

 (Part 2) 2 Bubble diagrams of possible home layouts

 (Part 2) Complete Revit design of your Habitat for Humanity house including basic elements

 (Part 3) LEED energy efficiency checklist and suggested improvements to Habitat for Humanity house

 (Part 3) LEED energy efficiency checklist and suggested improvements to your own home

Benshoof Checkpoints

 (Part 1) Benshoof should have seen your 2 residential layout drawings

 (Part 2) Benshoof should have approved your Revit design

 (Part 3) Benshoof should have confirmed your LEED checklists and suggested improvements