Affordable Housing Design Stars

Winners in a unique competition

Affordable Housing Design Stars

Over 50 students participated, six finalists presented at the Pappajohn Center on April 20th, and three won awards in a competition to design an affordable home for a fictional Des Moines family.  Pictured are the winners - Devin Robbins, Kullen Neyons, Joseph Bahnsen and Sirina Reed. What did the students win? And exactly what was the challenge? 

Joseph Bahnsen (pictured center/glasses), a Des Moines East High School and Central Academy student won first place and received a $2,000 scholarship from The Homebuilders Association of Greater Des Moines’ Professional Women in Building. Bahnsen is a senior and plans to attend Iowa State University this fall. We talked with Joseph and gave him “The Floor” for this eNewsletter so you can read more about how he came to be passionate about design and what he learned from doing this project.   

Devin Robbins and Kullen Neyons of Dallas Center-Grimes competed as a team and won $500 provided by ASK Studio of Architects Schipper Kastner.

Sirina Reed of Ankeny also won a $500 prize provided by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. 

The Design Star event, scheduled for the last day of Affordable Housing week, was the culmination of three months’ work with each of the finalists having up to five minutes to present their designs followed by a question and answer session with a panel of six judges. 

The competition was launched in February when the students of participating schools were given the biography of a working family of six in need of affordable housing. Interests and needs of various family members were outlined as well as limitations on costs. A vacant, in-fill lot in Des Moines was also provided as the site. Within these limitations the students were asked to design the most appropriate affordable home for the family.

Part way through the design process local architects from ASK Studio of Architects Schipper Kastner, who coordinated the competition, visited classrooms to provide feedback and answer questions.  Jamie Malloy of Improve Consult also assisted in the classroom critiques. 

Participating schools included Ankeny, Dallas Center-Grimes, Des Moines Central Academy, Johnston, North Polk, and Urbandale.  

Judges for the final presentations at the Pappajohn Center in Des Moines included: 
Brent Schipper, ASK Studio
Carrie Norris, Home Builder’s Association
David Kruse, Home Builder’s Association
Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund
Justine Bangert, ASK Studio
Sam Erickson, Community Housing Initiatives 

“This competition made it possible for the students to become educators as they shared their insights, design decisions and considerations for creating affordable housing,” said Eric Burmeister of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. “Our judging panel was impressed with not only the ingenuity of space utilization and budget realism, but also the depth of understanding and sensitivity the students gave to how families live and what all of us, regardless of income, deserve – good, safe, affordable housing.”   

“As soon as I heard the concept I knew we would lend our support,” said Creighton Cox, Executive Officer of the HBA of Greater Des Moines.  “This was more than a design competition, it was a real-life education and partnership on the challenge and importance of providing affordable housing.”

To see photos, click here.

A special thank you to ASK Studio for their leadership on this project and making the inaugural year such a success!