Institute of Classical Architecture & Art



The Money Pit

21st November, 2008
(Radio Interview Transcript)

ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Rheem water heaters. For dependable, energy-efficient tank and tankless water heaters you can trust Rheem. Learn more at Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, your design dilemma. We’re here to help you get the job done at 888-666-3974.

LESLIE: Well you know, Tom, I think it’s so interesting this time of year. Everybody is so interested in giving to the community and really thinking about their fellow neighbors and, you know, you’ve really, I’m sure, heard about Habitat for Humanity. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a worldwide organization that builds houses from the ground up for families who are in need. It’s a great cause, but the only bad rap that these homes may sometimes get is that they can be kind of basic looking; you know, very cookie cutter-type designs. But that really has been changing lately.

TOM: Absolutely. Now armed with the best architects out there and some new funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, Habitat for Humanity is building beautifully designed homes on a Habitat budget. And why not? This way we can match the character and style of the neighborhood that the house appears in.

LESLIE: Yeah, it’s so great and joining us to tell us more about this fantastic new project and to give us some great design ideas for your house is Eric Osth who is the architecture studio director at Urban Design Associates and author of the pattern book for the new Habitat homes.

Welcome, Eric.

ERIC: Well thank you for having me on the show.

LESLIE: Well geez, Eric, this is such a wonderful program. I mean it really is nice to see, finally, a wonderfully gifted architecture firm designed with Habitat. What really is this program that you’re working on with them?

ERIC: Well thanks. It’s a pattern book which is really a book that details techniques for building and renovating neighborly houses and, as you mentioned, it’s a – it was made possible by an NEA grant to Habitat for Humanity and Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. And the direction of the book was really based on a number of national research studies that told us that a large percentage of Americans would actually accept affordable housing in their neighborhood if it fit in. So really, this document is really kind of a vehicle to help transform the existing habitat designs and help create new ones to fit into our existing neighborhoods where – and these are neighborhoods that it may never have been imaginable for Habitat to actually be working in prior to this document.

So, there’s really an underlying social mission here to change the perception of affordable housing from what some may consider as an ugly necessity to something that’s seen as a tool to help rebuild neighbors and rebuilding people’s lives.

TOM: So Eric, you guys have created something that you call a pattern book that’s going to help Habitat create homes that are more stylish and have a better design and can fit into more areas. Can you just tell us what a pattern book is and how it’s going to be helpful to the projects?

ERIC: Sure. A pattern book, it’s really a book that details techniques to help people bring people together in a design process. So it really starts with the kind of – the general structure in a community pattern, how a building is oriented towards the street, and then it goes all the way into what style your house may be and then helps you select details and materials and windows and doors to help you put your house together in a way that follows a general structure.

TOM: So rather than have just a set of plans that kind of works for everybody, it’s more of a process that gives you choices and the end result is kind of drilling down to the design that’s going to make both the homeowner happy and the community happy. Is that correct?

ERIC: Absolutely.

LESLIE: Well that’s really interesting because, generally, I mean you’re right. Previously these low-budget homes have really stood out like a sore thumb and now, being involved in the design process, you’re giving the homeowner an opportunity to really choose details that work with the neighborhood. And now all of a sudden everybody sort of fits in better and feels more like a team and you’re right; I love what Habitat does in the way that the homeowner has to work a certain amount of hours on their own home and a certain amount of hours on someone else’s home. So it really is such a nice concept to finally make it work, you know, on so many levels.

TOM: We’re talking to Eric Osth. He’s the principal and architecture studio director at the Urban Design Associates and the author of A Pattern Book for Neighborly Houses: Details and Techniques for Rebuilding Neighborly Houses.

Eric, is green construction and green remodeling projects part of what this book is all about? Are your – are the folks that are going to be using this tool going to be focusing on ways to make their homes a bit greener in the process?

ERIC: Yes, and I think that’s one of the sections that everybody is very proud of; is that we’ve assembled a set of easy-to-follow instructions that introduces people to green building. And there’s two – there’s obviously two characteristics that we feel are important. Obviously there’s a social responsibility about creating sustainable construction on a large scale, but the second is really that it gives the ability for a Habitat family to save money in the long run in the operations cost of their home.

And I think that one thing that’s important to mention is that I know that there’s a lot of people out there that may think that when you say green or say sustainable that automatically means that it’s going to cost more money upfront and what we’ve put in this book is a couple of – several opportunities where you don’t need to do that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to cost money on the – immediately and that will – and a couple of ways we can do that is you can handle – you can use it to your ideal building orientation; longer walls facing north and south to maximize solar energy; and minimizing solar heat gain in the summer months and using your landscaping the appropriate way to shed yourself from winter winds and locating porches where you can enjoy cool breezes.

TOM: Great idea.

LESLIE: That’s really nice, yeah. Because these are all ideas that you can incorporate, you know, whether you’re doing a new construction at any budget or just rehabbing your own home.

TOM: Absolutely.

Eric Osth, author of A Pattern Book for Neighborly Houses: Details and Techniques for Building and Renovating Neighborly Houses.

Eric, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit. Where can we go for more information?

ERIC: Thanks. You can access it online at which is the website for the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America or you could reach them by phone at 212-730-9646 to buy a hard copy for $30.

TOM: Thanks, Eric.

ERIC: Thanks.

LESLIE: Alright, well here at The Money Pit we get tons of questions and you know, the number one topic people are always asking us about is flooring. Well, if there’s some flooring in your future and maybe you’re getting ready to install vinyl flooring, don’t start yet. We’re going to give you a very important warm-up tip, after this.