American Institute of Architects chapter lauds tiny houses serving vulnerable Vermonters and sited in Barre, Vermont


Norwich University’s Design + Build Collaborative earned an Honor Award from the Vermont chapter of the American Institute of Architects for a project to design and build LIFT, a pair of tiny homes for vulnerable populations sited in Barre, Vermont.

Norwich’s entry, in the Small Projects category, was one of 37 entries from across the state.

Norwich’s Design + Build Collaborative partnered with Downstreet Housing and Washington County Mental Health Services to create safe, healthy, affordable and sustainable homes for vulnerable Vermonters. Two new, custom-designed energy-efficient small homes (approximately 360 square feet) now occupy a once-vacant downtown Barre City lot where blighted, deteriorating housing once stood.

“The story is just really compelling, and to me, it’s just sort of a manifestation of how I think architectural education should work.”Juror, Vermont chapter, American Institute of Architects

“The story is just really compelling, and to me, it’s just sort of a manifestation of how I think architectural education should work, where you have a group of students that are looking at something that’s very mission-driven and then figuring out how to apply architectural knowledge to help solve a larger community and societal problem,” one AIAVT juror said.

A different judge said: “Just thinking about what these students accomplished, I really feel like this is worthy of pretty high recognition.”

The first LIFT house was sited and occupied in January 2020. Grant support from the TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank® and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board enabled both LIFT Houses. Former Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon and his wife, Karen, donated the land.

lift house siting 2020 2
Ben Carlson, now a senior in Norwich University’s School of Architecture+Art, and Washington County Mental Health Services Executive Director Mary Moulton stand inside LIFT 2.0 during the house’s Dec. 17, 2020, siting in Barre, Vermont. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Housing vouchers are paired with the dwellings to serve people who have mental illness and/or are at high risk of homelessness or are now homeless. A Washington County Mental Health Services clinic stands less than a mile away.

Norwich architecture professors Tolya Stonorov and Danny Sagan led a group of students in designing and building the first home to meet Downstreet, Washington County Mental Health Services and residents’ needs and provided the construction documents to Downstreet for future buildings. Civil engineering professor Mark Atwood and a group of construction management, architecture and engineering students used these documents to build the adjacent second home, which was completed during the fall semester.

For this project, Downstreet provides project development and property management, maintaining and ensuring that the home environments meet the residents’ needs. Washington County Mental Health Services works with colleagues and partners to maximize wrap-around services and ensure residents have a thriving living experience.

“I am proud of our students for receiving this honor and grateful to the university and AIAVT for supporting and recognizing work that addresses the underserved,” said Stonorov, the School of Architecture + Art’s associate director.

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About Norwich University’s Design + Build Collaborative
As the only university in northern New England to offer integrated professionally accredited programs in architecture, business, engineering, construction, cybersecurity and nursing, Norwich’s Design + Build Collaborative calls on students to “act as well as conceive” and create solutions for local, regional, and global challenges. For more than 20 years, our students have been addressing Vermont community needs through the construction of full-scale projects. Building on the eight different affordable housing prototypes Norwich has developed since 2011, the collaborative not only continues to design and prototype regionally informed, resilient housing, but also organizes and coordinates related research and programs between the schools comprising the College of Professional Schools and partners with community organizations. The collaborative was created through a $200,000 grant from TD Charitable Foundation in February 2019. In fall 2020, TD Charitable Foundation contributed an additional $20,000 to produce the second LIFT house.

About Norwich University
Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six Senior Military Colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

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