If entrepreneurship and artisanry are the future of work in America, perhaps this is the future of housing.
Designed by Clemson University architecture students Eric Laine and Suzanne Steelman, this housing concept, called LiveWork, takes sustainability beyond solar panels. "Being ‘green’ is very en vogue," Laine says, "but people primarily focus on the environmental aspect of being sustainable. We wanted to expand on that notion."
So Laine and Steelman developed a single-family housing design for Athens, Georgia, that makes life more economically sustainable for its residents by using the second floor for the living area and the ground floor for commercial space that could serve as a source of income. If you have an Etsy shop, now you have a physical storefront, too. Do you paint? Use the space as an art gallery. Good with bikes? Set up a repair shop.
This idea seems to fit well with our changing economy. The stable, sequential career paths of a few decades ago are less common, unemployment is high, and starting a business is cheaper than ever. "This would give an even greater opportunity to entrepreneurial residents," says Laine.
But you don’t have to be a budding small-businessman for this mixed-use house to pay off. Residents who don’t want to run their own venture can simply lease out the commercial space for some extra money. Who wouldn’t want a cafe, deli, or bike shop downstairs?
The LiveWork concept, which comes in two-, four-, and six-person variations, has all the traditional elements of sustainable design as well. It uses daylight efficiently to minimize energy use, incorporates passive heating and cooling strategies, and has a water collection system. Solar panels on the roof could supply 179% of the house’s energy needs.
Laine and Steelman didn’t estimate the construction cost, so it’s unclear whether these houses would be affordable as well as sustainable, but the LiveWork concept has been garnering attention. It just won the international Dow Solar Design to Zero competition. The pair hope to take the idea into professional practice after they graduate in May.