Alley Flat Initiative

Alley Flat Initiative

The Alley Flat Initiative is an award-winning collaboration between ACDDC, Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development. The initiative was conceived through student research and design studios in the University of Texas School of Architecture. Earlier this year, the Alley Flat Initiative received the Envision Central Texas Community Stewardship Award for Redevelopment.

"Alley Flats" are small, detached residential units, accessed from Austin's extensive network of underutilized alleys, that can be built by homeowners on the back of their lots to generate additional income, house family members, or locate a small home-based business.

These structures, each less than 850 square feet, create a secondary independent living space within a single-family lot. The designs are environmentally sustainable and ecologically sound. Additionally, with their small footprints and site-sensitive design, alley flats are easily woven into existing neighborhoods. They provide an outstanding opportunity to create affordability and increase density without requiring changes to existing zoning regulations or causing disruptive changes to the character of our neighborhoods. Alley Flats are designed to minimize the consumption of resources, both in construction and in long-term use, thereby reducing energy costs and our impact on the earth. They are built from sustainable materials and utilize energy-saving technologies. Their efficient design yields very low operational costs – averaging 60% less per square foot than traditional construction.

The immediate goal of the project is to build two prototype alley flats– one for each of two families in East Austin – that will showcase both the innovative design and environmental sustainability features of the alley flat designs. These prototypes will demonstrate how sustainable housing can support growing communities by being affordable and adaptable. The first of these prototypes was unveiled in June 2008 and construction of the second prototype was completed in August. Both prototypes received a rating of five (out of five) stars from the Austin Energy Green Building Program.

The long-term objective of the Alley Flat Initiative is to create an adaptive and self-perpetuating delivery system for sustainable and affordable housing in Austin. The "delivery system" would include not only efficient housing designs constructed with sustainable technologies, but also innovative methods of financing and home ownership that benefit all neighborhoods in Austin. For more information on this project, visit

Skyline Terrace

Skyline Terrace

With Foundation Communities, ACDDC managed and provided sustainable design consulting for the conversion of a former hotel in South Austin into an affordable single room occupancy (SRO) community called Skyline Terrace in South Austin. This facility provides its residents, some of whom are formerly homeless, with access to social services, educational classes, and a computer lab onsite. Skyline Terrace boasts a 13kW solar electric array, a 24 panel solar thermal system, high efficiency lighting and HVAC systems, low flow water fixtures, solar film on the east, west and south windows and other green building features, as well as providing homes for 100 single adults many of whom have been homeless.

Skyline Terrace held its grand opening in June of 2008. The Skyline Terrace SRO conversion project was a Foundation Communities/ACDDC joint project. For more information on this project, see Foundation Communities website.

Guadalupe Saldana Subdivision

Photo: Charrette participants work out a preliminary site design sketch for the Guadalupe/Saldana Net Zero Subdivision
Guadalupe Saldana

The Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation's (GNDC) extremely affordable, net zero energy subdivision is truly raising the bar for local, affordable, community-based development. This large infill project involves subdividing approximately 7.2 acres into four tracts. Currently the land is vacant, and remediation of a brownfield onsite is beginning. Two of the tracts will be developed with multi-family condominium-type housing, while the other two tracts will have approximately 21 single-family style lots. Both the multi-family and single-family will have a mix of rental and ownership, although the majority of the single-family lots will be for home ownership.

Every unit on this property will have net zero energy bills and will be affordable at 80% or below MFI for homeowners and at 60% or below MFI for renters, with a large portion of these units being affordable to extremely low-income households.

In addition to importance of the affordability of these units in a city with rising housing costs, ACDDC is working with the local municipally run utility, who has offered their support towards the goal of net-zero energy on the property. This utility, Austin Energy, sees the project as an opportunity to monitor the effects of an energy-producing subdivision on the electricity distribution system. ACDDC has gathered the team of consultants necessary to achieve the difficult task of net zero energy in a large, affordable subdivision with diverse housing types and is facilitating the integrated design process. In partnership with Travis Young, AIA, ACDDC developed preliminary site designs for the project. ACDDC also helped GNDC write successful grants to both the Kresge Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners to make this property both affordable and sustainable on an exemplary level. Because Austin is putting stringent new energy codes into place for all new construction in the city, this project will serve as a model for what affordable housing providers must begin to understand as the standard of housing production.