Stories of impact

Stories of impact


“Good design should allow the community to flourish.”


Affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama, is hard to come by. Auburn University Rural Studio launched its 20K House project with the goal of designing and building dignified homes that a contractor could reproduce on a large scale, and that would sell for $20,000, the highest realistic mortgage a person can maintain on Hale Country's median Social Security check.

Role of design

From initial design sketches to full drawing sets, the architecture students of Rural Studio focus on designing houses that use efficient space, materials, and energy. Minimizing waste from construction onward ensures the resulting homes are comfortable to live in and easy to maintain. 


Since 2005, Rural Studio has designed 12 versions of the one-bedroom 20K House. The project expanded in 2014 to include four two-bedroom versions as well. Each 20K House can be built for approximately $12,000 in materials and $8,000 in contracted labor and profit.


With 13 houses already built and more under construction, the 20K House Project has provided housing for at least 16 families while creating an attractive, affordable alternative to mobile homes for potential homeowners unable to qualify for commercial credit. The program is now seeking contractors to turn the designs into a product reproducible on a large scale.

Learn more about Rural Studio.


Auburn University Rural Studio gives undergraduate architecture students hands-on experience through projects in underserved Alabama communities. Its requirement that students both design and build, and its focus on socially conscious design, have made it a model for architectural education.

Learn more about Rural Studio.

Donate to Rural Studio.