Yale School of Architecture brings renowned student building project to West Campus

Each year, as part of the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project, first-year students at the Yale School of Architecture design and build a single-family house in an economically challenged neighborhood in New Haven.

Students work initially independently, then in teams, and finally in a studio-wide collaboration to solve the spatial and technical challenges of building affordably, efficiently, and with environmental consideration.

Since its establishment in 1967, the project has evolved significantly. Traditionally, students build the houses onsite using conventional construction methods. This year, however, the Yale School of Architecture, in collaboration with Yale’s West Campus, embarked on an innovative approach to the project.

Adam Hopfner, building project director, contacted Rebecca Brandriff, lead administrator at West Campus, about prefabricating the structure at Yale’s 136-acre West Campus. Located seven miles from New Haven, West Campus offered 250,000 square feet of flat surface in its storage and receiving warehouse.

“Each year the project evolves,” said Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture.  “This year with prefabrication, the project reaches a new level of innovation, providing the students with extraordinary opportunities to test new techniques for building and design.”

“West Campus is a great resource for all aspects of the university — housing scientific research institutes, the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, and most recently the Yale School of Nursing” said Scott Strobel, vice president for West Campus Planning and Programs. “The Jim Vlock First Year Building Project gave us the opportunity to further expand how we use our spaces.”

The team of 50 students prefabricated the prototype for the home at West Campus, preassembling roof rafters, floorboards, stairs, and exterior walls. The sections were then shipped from the warehouse to the 116 Greenwood St. site in New Haven, where the project was completed.

The reception and dedication of the house will take place 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30 at the Greenwood Street location.

A second house, located on 32 Lilac St., was designed by the architecture students and is being built using conventional construction methods, with funding from Yale and the City of New Haven, in collaboration with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.