Fly Flat Project

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The first Fly Flat project will be built in partnership with the City of Houston’s Complete Communities Affordable Housing Program. The two lot site is in the Independence Heights neighborhood. This site will consists of four units. A 3 bedroom/2 bath home will serve a growing family. A 2 bedroom/1 bath home will serve an elderly person or couple. Finally, two Accessory Dwelling Units will provide housing for a single person or couple just starting out or getting back on their feet, while also providing passive income for each primary dwelling unit.

The units are arranged around a central shared garden aimed at fostering community. Carports on each site will double as a community gathering space for the entire block. Lastly, the Fly Flat team and the City plan to work with the utility company to implement a demonstration microgrid sized to serve the entire block.

We are also seeking cash and in-kind donations. Please contact us if you would like to support this project.

How it all started


The Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) School of Architecture 4th year design studio utilized Public Interest Design within a regenerative framework to help realize the potential of Independence Heights, a historically black, low income neighborhood in Houston, Texas.

Regenerative design is here defined as a process via which we become a co-evolutionary partner with nature in order to work on developing the capability of living systems, social as well as natural, to express their potential for diversity, complexity, and creativity. Students interacted with the residents of Independence Heights as part of extensive research on the community, its history, and people in order to catalyze the realization of the neighborhood’s potential.

Independence Heights was the first incorporated black municipality in Texas (1915). The neighborhood was subsequently incorporated into the City of Houston, where over time it has faced the pressures of desegregation, redlining, freeway construction, aging infrastructure, flooding and gentrification. Most recently, the Independence Heights neighborhood sustained significant damage from Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017. Repeated floods have left the single family neighborhood significantly vacant and in need of resilient housing.

This project sought to address the need for infill housing while achieving environmental, economic and social resilience. Through modular design and various energy performance packages, the project delivers net zero homes that meet Houston’s 50% – 80% Area Median Income. Students employed sound building science, energy modeling, and FEMA 499 strategies to achieve energy efficient, durable, healthy, and storm resilient homes.


The team began by developing modular units that could be constructed by students in our Fabrication Lab, which hosts a 10 ton crane capable of lifting the units onto a truck. The dimensions and building envelope assemblies for various size units were set based on transportation constraints in combination with early energy modeling utilizing both Sefaira and BeOpt modeling software. Students then designed the modular units so that they could be combined into various dwelling unit sizes and configurations that meet various social and economic scenarios.

Students designed a pocket community on a double lot that is part of the Houston land bank program, with the goal of building social resilience. The community consists of shared resources including a community building plus three homes: a studio home for a single person; a two bedroom, one bath home for an elderly couple; and a three bedroom, two bath home for a family with kids. The homes were optimized for energy performance and durability utilizing WUFI-Passive and Remrate modeling software. Various material and performance options were cost estimated to determine the most affordable route for meeting a range of scenarios. The final result was entered into the Department of Energy’s 2018 Race to Zero Competition and was awarded the Grand Prize. The design was subsequently awarded a Texas Society of Architects Studio Award.

The Fly Flat also was selected as a winning design entry for the 2018 AIA Houston and City of Houston Complete the Communities Design Competition, which sought to elevate design in Houston’s affordable housing landscape by soliciting conceptual design entries for resilient single-family houses in the five pilot neighborhoods designated by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as “Complete Communities.” This included the Acres Homes neighborhood just north of Independence Heights, where the PVAMU team further adapted their modular design.

Fly Flat 13th NAPHC

The Prairie View A&M University School of Architecture Solar Decathlon Team Mod Squad presented the closing keynote at the 13th Annual North American Passive House Conference in Boston, MA. The session was titled “Advancing Equity in the Built Environment (Through Passive Design)”.

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