Home 2.0 Blog Archive

Thursday, December 29, 2016


GableFront Beginnings

With 2016 coming to a close and the end of December being a natural time for reflecting on the past, I decided to go with a 'Throwback Thursday' theme for today's blog post and look back to 2010 at what I feel is the origin project for what has since become the Starter Home 2.0 series.

The Summer of 2010 was a bitter-sweet time for me. I had just completed a grueling 6-year Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati that resulted in a long anticipated Master of Architecture Degree. However, the excitement of that accomplishment was short-lived when I was faced with the harsh reality that I was graduating into one of the worst job markets ever for architects and college grads and that I was transitioning from being a student to being unemployed. 

While my job at that time was finding a job (which I eventually did a couple months later), I decided that I would make an effort to continue to develop my design and technical skills by entering a home design competition ironically called 'FreeGreen (a company since acquired by Houseplans.com) Who's Next 2.0 Competition'. Below is a video intro for that contest for some context.

The design problem for the competition was to design a home for 1 of 2 profiles, a “modernist retreat” profile that calls for a lake house for an empty nester couple, or a “traditional family” profile that calls for a contemporary spin on a traditional family home, which is what I chose. What was interesting about the profile selection was only 40 of the 400+/- entries were designed for the "traditional family" category, for which there is a lot more opportunity for architects to design housing for than the "Modern Retreat". While my design certainly could have been better and wasn't a winning entry, it was good enough to be named a 'finalist' and more significantly, laid the groundwork for a lot of the concepts that would later emerge in the Starter Home 2.0 Pleasant Ridge and Oakley Home 2.0 projects.

My entry in the competition was titled, 'The GableFront' and is summarized as follows: Designed for the family looking to purchase a traditional home with contemporary interiors, The GableFront looks to minimize material and labor costs while maximizing energy efficiency. The GableFront Home is designed to accommodate the long narrow lot lines populating many of the nation's pre World War II suburbs. These neighborhoods are highly desirable in that while they offer the privacy, yards, and schooling that draw many families to suburbia, they are much closer to city centers and more walkable than their contemporary counterparts. The problem is the aging housing stock in these areas tends to be out of sync with the demands of the modern homebuyer and few house plans are designed to accommodate the growing number of infill lots in these neighborhoods. The GableFront Home offers a desirable solution to this problem.

Does this all sound pretty similar to the Starter Home 2.0 mission that aims to provide contemporary new homes in the context of established, walkable neighborhoods, with the flexibility to accommodate growing households in future years? Highlights of the FreeGreen Who's Next 2.0 Design Competition 'GableFront' entry can be found on my Mike Benkert, AIA | Architecture + Development website here.