Front Porch FAQs
Good Question

Why is it called the Front Porch Initiative?

The Front Porch Initiative builds on the applied research on housing affordability performed at Rural Studio. The Front Porch Initiative encompasses both Rural Studio and our national coalition of partners, working together to create a systems-based approach that addresses the challenges of equitable housing access.

What is the 20K House?

The 20K House project is an ongoing, student-led, iterative research project at Rural Studio which focuses on home affordability. When the 20K project began in 2005, we undertook the challenge of designing a home that could be built by a contractor for $20,000 (approximately $12,000 for materials and $8,000 for labor and profit). While we still aim to keep construction costs low, our research has shifted to focus on the total cost of homeownership. We aim to strike a balance between the initial purchasing cost of the house and the post-occupancy costs of operations and maintenance. Of the over twenty prototype homes developed through the 20K House project, four of the homes have become the Product Line homes that we are offering to partners through the Front Porch Initiative.

Q&A illustration

How much does the house cost?

Short answer: it depends. We are currently working to assess the material costs of the most recently constructed homes, though material costs fluctuate across time and markets. Our ongoing field tests will provide us with more information on how markets and home delivery methods influence the total cost of the home.

Are any of the house models larger than one bedroom?

We have developed one- and two-bedroom models. We are responding to what we see as a gap in the availability of well-designed small homes. Many other organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, have already developed larger high-performance house designs.

Do you have accessible house models?

We have investigated designed based on Universal Design principles and models that follow ICC/ANSI 117.1 code. The four models we are currently offering through the Front Porch Initiative reference Universal Design principles.

Do the homes meet code?

The homes are designed (at a minimum) to meet International Residential Code (IRC). We are developing models that also meet higher levels of performance standards including Passive House Institute US, Zero Energy Ready Homes, FORTIFIED, and HomeFree.

Will these homes work in my climate?

The current Front Porch Initiative homes are designed for a mixed-humid climate, like that of West Alabama. As the footprint of our houses expand, we will need to work with our partners to ensure that the homes respond to the climactic and socio-cultural aspects of other regions.

Are you using safe building materials?

Yes, our homes are designed to meet the International Residential Code (IRC), which is designed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public as it relates to the construction and occupation of buildings. We are also working with the Healthy Building Network to incorporate HomeFree principles of material health.

How are the homes heated and cooled?

The homes are optimized for passive comfort, but include active HVAC systems as well.

How can I get the drawings and additional information?

The drawings are not currently available to the public, but you can get on the project update list by emailing us at

Can you build me a home?

Our students build homes within Rural Studio’s service area in West Alabama. The Front Porch Initiative team is currently developing a network of partners who will be able to deliver homes within their service areas.

Can I hire you to design me a home?

Rural Studio is a research-based educational program and projects must align with our academic mission. We work with our local communities to develop projects that serve local needs. Rural Studio does not accept commissions for work outside of our education mission.

I want to learn more about how your homes are built. Can you give me any building advice?

As we continue to develop our research, we will continue to update this website with resources about housing affordability and building technology. We do not currently have the capacity to respond to individual requests.

I have an expertise that may be useful to you; how can I speak with you?

Send us an email at

How can I donate to this research?

You can donate at this link, or contact Melissa Denney at or by phone at 334.844.5436 to learn more about giving to our programs.

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