Virginia Governor Kaine Praises ecoMOD3's Focus on Affordable Housing and Sustainability

December 10, 2007
Dec. 10, 2007 — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the University of Virginia's ecoMOD3 project held Monday, Dec. 10. Kaine applauded the project goals of historic preservation, affordability, ecological sustainability in both construction practices and use, and the incorporation of universal design to address issues of aging-in-place.

"I feel very excited about any project like this where we are merging the talents of our universities and the energies of our students with true community need,” Kaine said. “… The idea is to do it as a little bit of an experiment, a laboratory. We do this, we learn some things, we then share the lessons with those who are doing modular homes, with other civic organizations, like the P.H.A. and others can pick up the lessons and replicate them in communities all across the country." 

To the crowd that included U.Va. students and faculty, deans of the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Delegate David Toscano, Charlottesville City Manager Gary O'Connell, representatives from the Piedmont Housing Alliance, other dignitaries and guests, U.Va. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge welcomed the Governor and praised his initiatives and commitment to the environment, which includes the state's first energy plan, developed in 2006 with stakeholder input and incorporates energy conservation recommendations for state government, businesses and individuals.

Kaine attended the event as part of his "Charlottesville Cabinet Community Day" activities, which included visits to five other Charlottesville-area locations. After the formal speech-making and ribbon cutting, Kaine and his cabinet members had an opportunity to tour and discuss the project with students, who worked to make the design, build and evaluation initiative a reality.

The ecoMOD3 project, a partnership with Piedmont Housing Alliance, provides the community with two affordable housing units — a renovated two-bedroom historic house with a contemporary, modular addition, soon to be put up for sale; and a detached studio apartment rental unit behind it. The modular units, addition and restoration of the historic house incorporate ecologically sustainable materials and construction practices.

ecoMOD, a joint, multi-year project at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and School of Engineering and Applied Science, empowers students to research, design build and evaluate a series of ecological, modular and affordable house prototypes. Interdisciplinary teams of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, historic preservation, business, environmental science, planning and economics students are all participating.

The scope of the ecoMOD project includes three prototypes for Piedmont Housing Alliance. Two have been completed. Another prototype was developed for Habitat for Humanity. The designs, licensed to Modern Modular of New York City, will be made available to affordable housing organizations, modular builders and individuals to build in the coming year.

The third iteration of the initiative, ecoMOD3 — known as "the SEAM house" — addresses both the need for housing for an aging population and the renovation of a mid-19th-century historic property.

The house on 4th Street, believed to have been built as slave quarters, was designated as a historic property by the City of Charlottesville, but was in a state of serious disrepair when the Piedmont Housing Alliance purchased the property. As part of the historic preservation effort, the team explored and documented the history of affordable housing for African-Americans in Charlottesville since the antebellum era.

A modular, highly energy-efficient addition designed and built by the ecoMOD3 team is attached to the historic house. Envisioned as a contemporary structure, the project provides a highly flexible modular prototype system that can be added as an addition to any home.

The highly energy-efficient studio unit that sits behind the historic house is comprised of two modules, and is topped by a "green" roof covered in plants that will provide environmental benefits, such as storm water management, building insulation and help improve air quality. The unit also includes sustainable cork flooring, on-demand hot water, highly energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling system, as well as a trellis/shade structure. The team is aiming for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design "Platinum" rating for the unit within the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes certification program.

The unit's design explores the concept of the 'seam' between new and old — and inside and outside — while incorporating principles of "universal design," a philosophy that advocates design solutions for products, communications and the built environment that benefit people of all ages and abilities at little or no extra cost.

ecoMOD3 is the second ecoMOD project in partnership with the Piedmont Housing Alliance, a central Virginia affordable housing organization that offers fair housing education, low-interest loans and affordable housing project development. ecoMOD1, a two-unit condominium, was completed in Charlottesville's Fifeville neighborhood in 2006.

In the summer of 2007, ecoMOD2 — designed and built for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast — was completed. The design has been included in post-Katrina rebuilding effort exhibits nationally.

A variety of non-profits, corporations and the U.S. Environmental Project Agency have funded the ecoMOD project. The American Institute of Architect's Committee on the Environment recognized ecoMOD as one of a handful of exemplary sustainable design curriculum initiatives in the country. The project is also the only effort to sweep all three major architectural education awards: the 2007 National Council of Architectural Registration Boards' Grand Prize, the 2007 American Institute of Architect's Education Honor Award and the 2006-07 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture's Collaborative Practice Award. In 2006, ecoMOD1 was named Best Residential Project by the Virginia Sustainable Building Network, and the design of ecoMOD3 received the Honor Award in 2007 in the Go Green Competition from the James River Green Building Council.

Details about the ecoMOD initiative are available at

Additional contacts:

• John Quale
U.Va. assistant professor of architecture
(434) 924-6450 or cell (434) 906-1034

• Paxton Marshall
Associate dean, U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science
(434) 924-3164

• For information about the Piedmont Housing Alliance, visit