C O - M O D seeks to bring mixed-use, medium density housing to the intersection of 5 Detroit neighborhoods. CO-MOD is designed for residents who match the current demographic of the surrounding neighborhood: low to moderate income (LMI) Detroiters who may vary from the traditional nuclear family. Therefore, we are targeting an affordable, flexible, and energy efficient design through the use of modularity across various scales. CO-MOD ultimately seeks to give its residents agency in the design via the use of a kit of paneling, partition, and wall systems, which the residents themselves have the opportunity to create, thus returning their agency in the spaces in which they live.
Level: M.Arch, 601, Studio
Project Prompt: Detroit Housing
Classification: Architecture, Graphics
Methods: Rhino, Revit, Grasshopper, VRay for Rhino, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Premier Pro, Sketching, Physical Modeling
This project was created in collaboration with Hana Saifullah, and Nicole Rusk under the guidance of Professor Kathy Velikov and Professor Jonathan Rule at the University of Michigan. 
Our project reflects on the evolving city fabric of Detroit as a result of “blotting” in recent decades. This connection of vacant adjacent lots by homeowners has led to a large-scale unplanned planning action. CO-MOD looks at adjacent residential area ‘blotting’ patterns for an idea on how to learn from this resident-created urban fabric. We are translating the idea of ‘blotting’ into our panelized system by giving residents agency in remodeling and reforming their unit interiors as needed over the building’s lifespan.
CO-MOD's massing form emerged after analyzing the local neighborhood residential and circulation patterns. We developed several modularized massing iterations based on a responsive grid, and evolved the grid-based approach to the interior. With the idea that interior panelized modules would allow for residents to adjust interior unit formations over-time and ‘blot’ within CO-MOD, we developed a 2000 sf L-shaped townhouse module. This building footprint aggregates around two central hybridized cores of library/education and media/creation spaces with raised courtyards above, blurring boundaries between public and private space. The massing draws in the greenway, creates bridging elements over living streets, optimizes on passive South-facing strategies, and allows for good diffuse daylight penetration into the building through unit staggering. With pushing and pulling of the mixed-use massing, we start to invoke the language of the surrounding homes without overwhelming the site.
There are many intersecting systems within the project that support residents, community members, and native plant species in hybrid public-private spaces. These continuous, sustainable ecosystems can be seen in the diagram above.
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209,000 sf
3.9 acres
170,000 sf
Up to 180 Units
Beds Vary
Up to 46
50,700 sf
115,200 sf
Walk Up
Flexible Layout Townhomes
Parking garage
-brownfield site
Based on our in depth analysis of the existing family types and residents surrounding the site, we know there is a major  need for housing that satisfies an array living situations, so we developed a panel system that gives residents the ability to place partition walls, add storage, reconfigure counterspace, and more, in order to adapt to ever-changing needs and desires. Panels fabricated in the on-site media lab allow for this level of flexibility and adjustable interiors for every unit.
As is integral to our design concept, the unit layouts are only predetermined up to a certain point, leaving room for flexibility and adaptability by residents with the design. Every L-block ‘townhouse’ is composed of 3 units that can be combined or separated to meet resident space needs. There are two types of units throughout the project. The first is the FLEX L-block (x43) that can be divided into 1, 2, or 3 separate residential units. The second is the FULL L-block (x17) that must be rented or owned as an entire townhouse, ideal for larger families or co-living.
The energy concept incorporates angled cross natural ventilation and an Energy Recovery Ventilator to maintain fresh high interior air quality (IAQ) and reduce overall heating energy demand. With Passive House, we do not expect that the heating and colling active systems will be needed as frequently as in traditional buildings, with occupant comfort levels matched primarily through passive design strategies However, we have integrated high-efficiency Heat Pump and VRF systems for heating and cooling if needed. The warm water heating is achieved through a warm water tank with heat pump. All active systems are electrically based so energy can be sourced from our on-site Photovoltaic renewables.
The overall design is focused on being a kit of parts at different scales from the flexible panelized interior to a repetitive “L” shaped module translated in many different ways to aggregate into a larger mass. We would like the idea of assemblages of parts to be reflected in the facade. That is why a facade system comprised of metal panels and uniform segments of brick has the most potential to emphasize the aggregated nature of the building itself. The arches are also employed to soften a massing that has exclusively 90 degree edges. The arched windows are a nod to the window shape used in many of the historic Detroit buildings and older buildings around our specific site. Overhangs are employed in the facade to provide shading on the ground floor living spaces. The large curtain walls provide ample daylight in public spaces that are very deep in many areas around the massing. These openings also allow for the thermal mass properties of the concrete floors behind to release stored heat in colder weather. A bright red color was chosen for the doors to assist with way-finding and will not be obscured even in the snowy months where surroundings can appear dulled or monochromatic. The choice to use brick and light colored metal draws from the surrounding neighborhood where almost every house has exterior walls of entirely brick or a combination of brick and a light colored siding. The overhangs above the doorways decrease the overbearing nature of a large building. The brick segments are always to stories high to ensure the long stretches of units do not feel too horizontal. The colored glass differentiates public entryways of the market, library, and media lab, and parking garage from the private dwellings, making the spaces intended for community-wide use more legible and therefore more approachable.
CO-MOD is committed to building a sustainable community through following a holistic, integrated design approach that utilizes Passive House design principles. Early investment in these elements contributes to more resilient communities through providing healthier interiors with high IAQ, saving energy, and lowering bills for LMI residents. In taking the CO-MOD philosophy a step further, we would like to propose development of another kit of panelized building parts that would be fabricated on site, but for the surrounding community homes in need of repairs and renovation work. This allows CO-MOD to expand its usefulness beyond the site and into the neighborhood.
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