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Sustainable Housing Innovations

UEPP 356, Western Washington University

Enroll Summer 2023, June 20 - July 28th 

UEPP 356 (CRN 30997)

M/W 9:00 - 11:50am

Online - Synchronou

James Miller, PhD, Registered Architect, NCARB

Students will explore sustainable housing innovationsthrough an investigation of housing design, policy, and regulations. Studentswill develop housing proposals that respond to the housing crisis.

Course Description

Housing is seen as an essential facet of our daily lives, but why has it become increasingly inaccessible for much of the population in the United States and Globally? Of the basic necessities of life: food, water, shelter, and clothing, shelter is seldom guaranteed through governmental programs, but why? In today’s housing crisis, a critical investigation into these questions is necessary in order to address affordable and accessible housing solutions.

American housing typologies fail to provide models for a diverse population, leaving us with one size fits all solutions. In the United States the logic of housing design is fundamentally flawed because the system of housing is built on values and norms from over a century ago, slow to evolve and even resistant to meeting the needs of household demographics (Dolores Hayden). Thus, housing as we know it is not supportive of its inhabitants. In this class, we will explore a variety of building typologies, land use apparatuses, building regulations, and housing policies that are responsive to the needs of an evolving population.

This course introduces students to sustainable housing innovations through a critical investigation of housing policy, housing design, land use and building regulations, and overarching logics of human settlement. We will explore housing innovations that present effective solutions to these issues, historically and today, while seeking creative modes in transforming discriminatory logics. 

Historical Overview

History of housing logics in the US and the coinciding policies & typologies - land use, building regulations, and design.

Housing Processes

Production, technology, standardization, privatization, materials, financing, and more. How is housing designed and delivered to its occupants? What models of housing design and production are supportive of diverse communities?

Housing Policy

In the United States, housing policy is designed to prioritize the single family home as a primary source of financial stability and generational wealth building. Historically, housing policy has reinforced segregation. How do we transform policies and regulations to create just futures?

Course Structure

This is course will be taught as a studio. We will meet twice per week for three (3) hours each day with the goal of applying knowledge to action. The course will include lectures, discussions, presentations, reviews, and studio time for group projects. 

Students will work in learning groups throughout the term.


Reading Reflections

To engage with critical perspectives of housing, students will reflect on a series of readings from literature on housing design, policy, financing, technology and production.

The Housing Toolkit

The development of a design solution for a particular real-world problem connected to housing. The selected problem and site will be selected by learning groups in conference with the instructor. The toolkit is one part analysis, one part writing, and three parts ideation / design. 


Attendance, asking and answering questions, discussing in small groups, commenting on each other’s weekly reading reflections, participating in in-class activities. Co-construct a space for knowledge production. 

Using Format