Asee peer logo

Changing the Course Design to Include Habitat for Humanity Improved Course Outcomes and Broadened Students' Perceptions of Community Service

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Construction Education Topics in Architectural Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.272.1 - 24.272.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Laura Elizabeth Leach Western Kentucky University

visit author page

Laura Leach, M. Arch., is an architect and an assistant professor in the department of architectural and manufacturing sciences at Western Kentucky University. She has 11 years of experience in teaching and research, including architectural design, drawing and documentation, studios, modeling, construction methods and materials, and management. She also has three years of professional experience in the architecture and construction industry.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Changing the Course Design to Include Habitat for Humanity Improved Course Outcomes and Broadened Student’s Perceptions of Community ServiceThe preparation of architectural working drawings represents one of the major core competenciesof architects. The work requires knowledge of principles, conventions, standards, applications,and restrictions pertaining to the manufacture and use of construction materials, components, andassemblies (American Institute of Architects, 2008). The course discussed in this paper focuseson architectural documentation and specifically on the construction drawings portion ofconstruction documents.Architectural Documentation I is a course that introduces students to the complexities of creatingworking drawings with a particular focus on constructability, sizes of materials, reducingmaterial waste, efficient space design, and clearly illustrated construction drawings. To achievethese goals in a semester, the project size is kept small, focusing on residential, wood framedconstruction.Initial offerrings of the course resulted in several issues: (1) Difficulty keeping projects small insize and scope; students wanted to design their ‘dream homes’. (2) Increased square footage for‘dream homes’ reduced student concerns for efficient space design. (3) Resulting designsincreased the complexity of the construction drawings and production time. (4) Due to theincreased time allocation on design, the quality of the construction drawings suffered. (5)Imposed square footage limitations resulted in disappointed and less motivated students.After analyzing the complexities of the course and the issues that were occurring, a decision wasmade to use Habitat for Humanity as a model for the course. Habitat for Humanity describestheir houses as simple, decent, and affordable homes (Habitat for Humanity International, 2013).Using this model would control size, but more importantly, provide motivation, incentive, andcompetition for the best design and construction drawings.Using Habitat for Humanity as a model benefits the class in several ways: (1) It keeps projectsto managable sizes and complexity. (2) It introduces students to thoughtful design practices forsmall spaces as discussed in Sarah Susanka’s book “The Not So Big House”, and forces studentsto utilize every square foot to its maximum potential. (3) Student’s learn that they have skill setsthat can be used to help families in need by donating their project to their home town, or acommunity in need. (4) If the student’s house design is chosen to be constructed by Habitat forHumanity, the student can volunteer to construct the home they designed. (5) The student hasthe potential to have a built project before they graduate.Quality work, commitment to their projects, and pride in giving of their time and skills are just afew outcomes of the changes in the course design. Future expected outcomes are built homesdesigned by these students, and volunteer hours toward the construction of their design.Potential internal philosophical changes in our students is the spirit of using their specific talentsto help those in need.SourcesAmerican Institute of Architects. (2008). The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, Inc.Habitat for Humanity International. (2013). What We Build. Retrieved from Habitat for Humanity:, S. (2001). The Not So Big House. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press Inc.

Leach, L. E. (2014, June), Changing the Course Design to Include Habitat for Humanity Improved Course Outcomes and Broadened Students' Perceptions of Community Service Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20163

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015