99K House Competition

Even in our lingering, softening recession, it’s a given that housing costs too much in Seattle, that there’s not enough buildable land, and don’t even start talking about detached mother-in-law units, or people will get all Town Hall on your ass. But as real-estate prices will surely again rise, now’s a good time to survey the entrants and local winner of the national 99K House Competition. Think about it: a five-figure house. Is it even possible? And what about design—does that go out the window? (And do these houses even have windows?) Many of the two-dozen plans, plus a few models, come from Texas and other parts where land, labor, and materials are cheap. Designs are meant to be sustainable and adaptable to the Gulf Coast, where, as we know, Katrina destroyed much affordable housing stock. Flat roofs, small footprints, and recycled materials predominate here. The winning entry, by Seattle firm Hybrid/ORA packs four bedrooms into two levels comprising about 1,200 square feet. There’s no air conditioning, but a solar-powered fan to extract warm air up a chimney. Rainwater is collected for the toilets and garden. If you want to see the winner (of 182 entries), you’ll have to visit Houston, where Hybrid/ORA’s prototype was built this summer. Excluding land costs, the budget was $82 bucks a square foot. Unicorn not included. BRIAN MILLER

Aug. 19-28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 2009

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