El Dorado's Habitat for Humanity prototype brings Eichler-esque style to the prairie.
It wasn't a stretch to bring California to Kansas City, according to architect Josh Shelton. When his firm El Dorado was chosen to design a Habitat for Humanity home, part of Public Architecture’s 1% for Habitat Initiative, his thoughts pivoted around the outdoors. While factoring in the cost and material constraints, Shelton also examined how design lessons drawn from more ideal climates could be applied to his own backyard. The results, as he explains, point to an affordable, more sustainable way to shape a home around outdoor space. "I was less interested in the traditional front and back yard," he says. "I was thinking about indoor and outdoor holistically, and how I could utilize those pivotal early spring and late fall moments."
Architect Josh Shelton said some of the midcentury influence that shaped the Heartland Habitat prototype in Kansas City came from a previous project, his own home, which featured slotted doors and an entry courtyard. The overall design rests on the idea of the outdoors as a social gathering space. "I've been fascinated with how you can extend the climate of a place like Kansas City into the domestic space," says Shelton. "You don’t see a lot of homes like this built in the city. Ventilation and circulation can really open up the home and add a few more months of not using air conditioning or heating."
The three-bedroom home wraps around the atrium between the garage and main building. Since the garage faces the alley, this orientation opens up the front yard and garden. The big sliding doors off the atrium help the home connect with the community, supporting sidewalk interactions. "The idea was to draw the space back out to the neighborhood," he says, "and create different levels of security and privacy."
Shelton's team also made sure sustainability went hand-in-hand with affordability. The rainscreen double-wall system with Hardie Panels and the corrugated metal roof reflect sunlight and provide a less expensive, less maintence-intensive house, while strategically placed windows aid cross-ventilation and help cool the home during the humid summer months. The sloped roofs also empty into a rainwater collection system that feeds into the garden.
El Dorado designed the interior of the ADA-compliant home with accessibility and ease of use in mind, with simple layouts and enhanced cross-ventilation.
Shelton was impressed with the way the organization opened up the volunteer labor force to new material exploration and alternative construction methods. "I was blown away by Heartland Habitat's willingness to try something new, especially when they have a model that’s not broken," he says.
Shelton looks at the finished results as more of a spec home of sorts, with lessons that can be applied to future projects. "I really appreciate the midcentury California and Eichler homes, and the attention they took to indoor and outdoor flow," he says. "It’s important in this context. The first thing that happens is people mount a satellite dish and then shut down."