Narrow Starter Home fills in under-utilized urban lot in New Orleans

Will Crocker
© Will Crocker

Skinny houses seem to combine a lot of those TreeHugger favourites: namely, small space creativity along with addressing issues like maximizing density in under-utilized spaces and the lack of affordable housing in urban areas. In New Orleans, the local firm Office of Jonathan Tate (OJT) has created a narrow and tall home in the city's Irish Channel neighbourhood, adjacent to the Mississippi River.

Dubbed the Starter Home, it sits on St. Thomas Street and is part of a larger program that has been designed to make first-time homeownership more accessible, by constructing entry-level, "right-sized" homes that have been carefully designed urban infill to fit on "overlooked" urban lots. This particular lot sits near a warehouse, a historic two-family house and has a maximum building height of forty feet, which the design takes full advantage of.

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

Built to accommodate a couple or a single person who might have found it difficult to find such a house in this area, the home includes one bedroom, one and a half bathrooms, as well as an office. The front door has been placed on the side of the home to save space, while an elevated wooden deck stretches from the street, connecting the front to the terrace at the back. The interior is relatively simple, with wooden flooring, white-painted walls and a loft-style layout seen on the second floor, like we've seen in many smaller homes.

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

As the firm tells us:

One major aspect of the Starter Home program is to create housing that is low- to no- maintenance so new homebuyers are not straddled with additional concerns over upkeep, itself a form of resiliency. [The Starter Home on] 3106 St Thomas utilizes many energy-efficient components specified to reduce overall power consumption. These include on-demand water heaters, mini-split mechanical system, Energy Star rated appliances, LED lighting throughout and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

In addition, the Starter Home been built to require less energy to maintain:

The envelope was designed to be over-insulated, exceeding the local energy code requirements. The choice of finishes for the cladding conform, in spirit, with cool roof performance criteria and will effectively reduce the heat load on the building. And, perhaps most importantly in our climate, the section of the house and the window type and positioning were designed to promote the use of natural ventilation throughout the year.

The 975-square-foot (90-square-metre) home makes the most of its skinny lot, which measures 16.5 by 55 feet (5 by 17 metres) and was previously the backyard of an adjacent dwelling. Due to setback rules and the regulations governing this historic district, the building footprint was limited to 10.5 by 45 feet (3.2 by 14 metres) and ultimately had to conform to specific rules about its form and scale.

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

As a result of these constraints, the wood- and steel-framed Starter Home comprises three storeys, wrapped in an easy-to-maintain and recyclable corrugated metal envelope that is topped with a distinctive roofline that manages to seem scaled-down at the front-end, but rises up toward the rear to give more interior space.

Will Crocker© Will Crocker

Office of Jonathan Tate© Office of Jonathan Tate

Office of Jonathan Tate© Office of Jonathan Tate

Built for USD $250,000, the home sold for $315,000 -- which seems a bit high for what is supposed to be an affordable starter home, but will likely be lowered once the team completes more houses. As the firm writes, their ultimate goal is to open up homeownership to more people by using these under-used parts of the city:

The Starter Home program is fundamentally about using inventive land strategies coupled with design to develop home ownership opportunities in urban neighbourhoods that, due to upward economic pressures, are no longer assessable to large parts of the population.

To find out more, visit Office of Jonathan Tate.

Narrow Starter Home fills in under-utilized urban lot in New Orleans
This three-storey house is built as urban infill on an overlooked urban property.

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