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The Architect

Architect Ed Binkley knows what it's like to live in a small home without a lot of space or money for conveniences.

When he entered residential architect magazine's "The Ultimate Challenge" contest to benefit Habitat for Humanity, the restrictive criteria reminded him of a home he lived in when he first graduated from college. It was an older house, one that had few frills and space for himself, his wife, and their three young children.

The Habitat for Humanity home allowed for only 1,200 square feet in a two-story building. Binkley also had to fit the home into a narrow urban lot, but provide a covered front porch and a back yard. The design had to demonstrate energy efficiency, and stay within a small budget of $50 per square foot.

As an architect with the Evans Group in Orlando, Fla., Binkley has mostly worked on high-end, luxury housing for celebrities.

"It's really the opposite end of the spectrum from what I work on typically, but it's the type of project that really deserves a lot of attention," says Binkley.

However, the contest called for the house to use at least one innovative building technology that Binkley has seen used in luxury construction - structural insulated panels, or SIPs.

Click here to see blueprint.
While SIPs have been around for at least a decade, the product has only recently become more widely available across the country. As a construction product, SIPs are very strong and durable. Because they dramatically cut down building time and save on energy by up to 30 percent, they can be more cost-efficient in the long run, housing technology experts say.

Binkley incorporated other energy-efficient technologies into the home's design, including photovoltaic shingles, which convert sunlight into electricity.

Thinking back to when he and his family were cramped into close quarters, Binkley designed built-ins for the home. These included a desk, a dining booth, bunk beds for the children's room, a TV entertainment center, and shelving.

"If you consider that mayb the family moving in probably doesn't have a lot of furniture of their own, it's kind of a thoughtful touch," says Susan Bradford Barror, editor of residential architect. "It means that you've already got some places to put your belongings."

Binkley says he and his wife, Sherry, were "all wrapped up in this project."

The couple spoke to Michelle Hayes, the owner of the Habitat house, weeks before construction. Sherry, an interior designer, helped Michelle pick out colors for the walls, counter tops, exterior, trim, and floors.

For Binkley, being able to help a family in need, and to speak with Hayes directly, was "wonderful."

Although Binkley's design was the final winner, Barror was impressed by the volume and quality of the submissions the contest received.

"I think Habitat for Humanity is such a worthy group that people just wanted to help a good cause," Barror says.

Echoing the fundamental beliefs of Habitat for Humanity, Binkley says that a comfortable home is a basic right every person should enjoy.

"Everybody deserves a good house. Anytime you design a house, you want the people who live there to be happy," Binkley says.

Written by Benita Green with graphic design by V.A. Burcop.
Copyright 1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Sponsored in part by Louisiana-Pacific Corporation and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing.

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