How much does it cost to build the 20K Home? Is it really $20,000?

Photo Credit: Rural Studio

Imagine a home design that is beautiful, affordable, efficient, durable and well built, and costs only $20,000. Rural Studio has been experimenting since 2005 and prototyping a new locally-built rural home, known as the 20K Home. They are eager to make their work more relevant to the needs of west Alabama, the Southeast, and possibly the whole country. They have looked at the omnipresent American trailer park, where home designs, depreciate for each year they are occupied. They want to create a beautiful, small, and efficient tiny house that would appreciate in value while also accommodating residents who are unable to qualify for credit.

The 20K Home is just one of the projects that the Rural Studio is a part of. Other design projects they have worked on include 20Kv21 Buster’s Home which is a two-bedroom dwelling that is focused on accessibility, active and passive energy systems, and keeping the footprint of the design small and economical in the spirit of the original mission of the 20K Home project. Due to the vast wealth of both research and construction knowledge that is passed down from the twenty iterations of the project, there was an opportunity to study both the construction techniques from previously built student designs and exactly how the clients adapted to and lived in their home designs. The Faunsdale Community Center, and Johnnie Mae's Home to name a few.

You might wonder just how much it costs to build the $20,000 home, and whether or not it is $20,000. Their initial goal was to design a market-rate model home design that could be built by a contractor for $20,000, with $12,000 for building materials and $8,000 for labor and profit. They have discovered that while they can easily predict the cost of building materials, utility installation, the cost of labor, and applications for building permission by region, community, local municipality, and even neighborhood, can change drastically. They are currently working to move from a $20,000 project to a $20,000 product. While also continuing to research the target clients and how to deliver the home product to them, they are taking steps to move the projects out of the research area. This includes activities such as conducting complete architectural design reviews, including code review and FHA compliance, placement, discussions of the need, and method of completing model home designs and a branding and marketing plan.

You will find more about this tiny house design on the Rural Studio site. Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program at Auburn University. The program was established in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, giving architectural design students a more hands-on educational experience while also assisting an underserved population in the West Alabama's Black Belt region. In its initial years, the Rural Studio became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. In 2001, after Samuel Mockbee passed, Andrew Freear succeeded him as the director. Since that time, Rural Studio has expanded its scope and complexity of its projects, focusing largely on community-oriented work. The philosophy of the Rural Studio suggests that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good home design. To fulfil this ethic, the Rural Studio has evolved towards more community-oriented design projects. Projects have become multi-year, multi-phase efforts while traveling across three counties. The students who work within the community to define solutions, design, fundraise, and, ultimately, build remarkable design projects. The Rural Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built, both for the performance and the operation of the design projects. To date, the Rural Studio has built more than 170 projects and educated more than 800 Citizen Architects. **

Learn MORE at Rural Studio


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