PDP Development Series – Blog 22 – Triplex Options


The most important housing units in the proposed Pilot Demonstration Project (PDP) are Triplexes because they are the most adaptable, inexpensive and numerous. They are shown in detail in Blogs 7 and 18, but will be discussed in this blog to show their adaptability. The triplex consists in its original conception of three units of 480 square feet (sf) on a lot size of 70 to 85 feet in length and 65 to 70 feet in width. This allows for a minimum 6 foot side yard on each side of the lot. The variations in lengths are due to city or county requirements or allowances for building expansion. The lots can be made larger when the cost of land is low enough to make the larger lots feasible. This is usually when the PDP is located in rural areas. There could be rows of housing with different depths of lots in the PDP. This is noted on the site plan where row A has different depths of lots than row B. All the corner lots are larger than most of the other lots. Also, the numbers of each size of lots could be determined by a market study of the area market (which shows proposed need and affordability). Note that duplex and fourplex lots are larger than the triplex lots. This is done because those units are larger than the triplex units. On this site plan there are two other rows of lots available (C and D). This is done in order to show the variability offered in the design of the PDP. There is a commonality in all the lots of having a 10′ wide rear yard setback. Unit B is not to be changed in the interior, but it must have a 6′ fence in the front yard where it is allowed. This cost will be included in with the cost of the unit. Fences on units A and C will be determined at time of sale. This Triplex design is Option 1. Each change in design is a different option. The design for each site will be different and the schematic plan shown here is just for reference for possible location of lots and facilities.

The density for the 65’x70′ lot would be about 6.7 units per acre and for the 85’x70′ lot about 5.1 units per acre. All the other lot sizes would be in between these densities. In the triplex the mix of rental and ownership units would depend on the market studies and/or demand. The rental units could be owned by the PDP non profit or by an owner of one of the units that he purchased. The non profit would establish guidelines for the rental charges. The Triplex-Option as shown is on a 70’x65′ lot. Another design for the building would be to widen the corridor between the B/C unit and the A unit 5′ so it could require a 70′ wide lot. This way a stairwell could be put in to go to the attic where storage could be put in over the A and B/C units. The walkway could be used for a common laundry area.

Triplex – Option 1

A feature suggested for the site plan would be to select a depth for all lots in a line such as A, B, C, D. The longest depth possible would be preferred. Divide the length of lots by 65 and this would be the maximum number of lots allowed in this line. However, a process of floating lot lines would be used where the widths for a lot would be 65′, or up to 80′. This allows for the final platting to be the width of lots used. This would allow for the existing market or demand to be the determinant of what width to be used. It would also create variety of the streetscape or the inception of another type of housing such as a duplex, fourplex or single family. If a single family design for the triplex is used it could easily converted back to a duplex or triplex if necessary. This would be an option in terms of rough economic times, the need for unit A to be rented, divorce in the family, or space needed for a family member. Where affordable housing is hard to find in the area this would be a convenient option. Because the kitchens and cabinets are already it would be easy to reinstall them in time of need. Also the bathrooms configurations can be changed prior to purchase (ex. shower or tub).

Triplex – Option 1

The triplex on the right is option 1. Areas 1, 2 and 3 are where the kitchens are located. Area 4 is the location of a washer dryer that is boxed in and protected from the weather. With the laundry the central walkway is 10′ wide. To change the B/C units to single family the number 1 or number 2 kitchen would be removed (cabinets to remain or removed). The wall in yellow will be removed. This wall originally has a steel beam (or wood) because it is a load bearing wall. A wall could be put in unit C at the blue wall to have another bedroom. In this case the number 2 kitchen is used. This wall would be constructed so that it could be removed easily.

A carport could be constructed over the parking if allowed by the city/county. The walk and patio designs will be selected from many designs prepared by a landscape architect for the non profit.

Triplex – Option 2

The option 2 Triplex would have unit A enlarged from 24′ long to 30′ or 32′ long. On lot that is 70′ feet wide the width of unit A could be enlarged from 20′ wide to 28′ wide. Unit A would be 840 sq. ft in area. If it was 30′ long. There would be a door in front (see arrow) to reduce traffic along the walkway. The unit could be used for a community room, work space, unit for the homeless, business (beauty shop, barber shop, retail sales, artists studio, etc.) Most of the uses would be to benefit the community. This design could also show a separate space for children’s bedroom and play space. The children must be old enough to be by themselves. New walls could be built for another housing unit similar to unit A on the plan shown on unit A in Option A . There could be a kitchen put in where shown.

Triplex – Option 3

This plan represents a duplex converted from a triplex. The blue areas are areas that could be enlarged, while the red areas are kitchens. The plan is also reversed from the others. The front bedroom also could be opened up to be a den. The wall in the green area could be removed for this to happen. With a larger family the wall could bet back in.

Diagram A shows how two buildings could be located where the parking is together. This could be an alternative design than the normal individual placement. If there was a business in one of the units, then this is a preferred. The more the PDP becomes self-sufficient the lower the need for cars by individual persons. The non profit will be furnishing rental cars for the community members to reduce the need for individuals to own cars. Also there will be car sharing between people. Sharing and collaboration will reduce individual needs and expenses.

Triplex – Option 4

This plan shows how a bedroom can be added to unit C to make it a two bedroom unit. The red area shows an enlargement to unit A for business use. Another option is to make units B/C into a single family or use unit B as an office. The owner then can use unit C as an ownership, model home or rental unit. All 3 units would be under one owner. If all units were owned by the PDP non profit they are rental.

This is an example of using a triplex for three different functions that will help the community become more self sufficient. The triplex can also change uses with very few interior changes. For example the community bank area could be used by 3 or 4 homeless people who could obtain grants for rent, food and opportunity to go to school or work in the community.

The model home could be used by a tenant who would be a salesman between. 10 AM 5 PM. He would agree to have the unit showable between those hours. The community room could be a sales room for the entire PDP with show boards, videos, movies and brochures to pass out. This would be one of the models if the total model home concept is deleted. These units could be used in a separate development with the main model home area in a separate location. Its adaptability for many different uses allows it to be a valuable resource.

Other options would be in the type of architecture and materials selected. Different types of front elevations used can offer variety as shown on the right. Different interiors, furniture and other decorative accessories in the model homes can make the rooms appear larger. On the homes with flat roofs could feature a roof garden or a second story roof unit. If a second story was to be added in the future structural details could be provided initially in order to reduce future costs when then unit was added. Also the interior walkway could be widened for a future enclosed room. Some of the walls could be made in a collapsible building brought to the site for construction in bad weather. Other ides could be added to this list to provide more options.

Triplex – Option 5

Another option would be to omit building unit C initially and use the space for other purposes to help the community. The plan shown includes two research greenhouses and a research garden. For example, the picture shows 2 pepper plants that was planted in the spring in 4″ pots and in October the peppers were 6′ high and harvested over 200 peppers on each plant. In the plan two workers families could live there. Secret = Better soil.

Optional:  Innovative Workforce Village Facilities

Building Systems:

There will be a series of model homes constructed in the Workforce Village Development Project (WVDP) to demonstrate various building systems. At least one building of each building system will be constructed with each one of the buildings being furnished that are appropriate for low income families. Built in and removable kitchens and cabinets will be in the models as well as different methods of waste sewage systems, power sources (or combination of sources), passive solar systems, disposal of grey water, etc. The models will be monitored to determine energy efficiency and other factors. Also different methods of wiring and piping will be used. The low income homes will be designed so that they can be utilized anywhere in the world. Reuse and convertible uses will be emphasized. Ideas generated from the Innovation Study Center and the internet will be evaluated and used on additional models over a period of time, so there will be room for expansion in the WVDP.

Certain site planning and landscape design considerations will also be monitored in each of the homes in the WVDP to evaluate the importance of the various planning and design practices. The principals of sustainability will be utilized in order to evaluate their importance and cost effectiveness as much as possible. It is important to utilize green building practices as much as possible, but their costs in relationship to their sustainability value should be evaluated. Cost inputs for building the homes will be kept and then they can be adjusted as to what they would be in terms of building large number of homes. Each of the homes can become a laboratory for construction in the future. There will also be different elevations for the housing to fit various cultures and climate. Overhangs are important to control interior climate in certain areas of the world, while in hurricane zones they can be problems due to catching the wind and the roofs blowing off. Of the model homes at least one home will use construction guidelines for hurricanes. This will be used to evaluate the guidelines and to see how effective they are in preventing damage. There will also be designs inside the houses to show how they could look in different areas of the world to adapt to cultural and climate situations.

Other design evaluations may be considered during the planning stage for the WVDP and incorporated into the village. This could include ecologic economics, cost-benefit analysis (where feasible), etc. The following life cycle diagrams could be a basis for determining some elements of sustainability and provide ideas as to making communities as self-sufficient as possible. (from Wikipedia)

Balancing the carbon cycle is one of the most important sustainable practices that we can do for ourselves now and for future generations.

The efficient use of fresh water and prevention of pollution that affects the water is another factor to be considered. Efficient irrigation and recyclable waste practices should be part of the project.

Understanding the nitrogen cycle and incorporating practices to make the proper nitrogen and healthy soils available would be another important sustainable practice.

The understanding of how to make viable soils is one of the teaching topics in the PDP. The WDVP rules and ideas can be used in the PDP and is shown here as an option.

There are many building systems that are available for use and a few will be noted here for consideration. Each one and others will have to be evaluated to see which ones would be the most appropriate to display. Displays of systems not used could also be made available for viewing in the model homes to make the project as all inclusive as possible and also provide information on the latest practices. The materials used would be resistant to wind and would be evaluated for climate control, type of labor required, cost of manufacturing, on-site construction, cost of labor, availability of materials (local or imported) are just a few things to be examined. The cost of labor is important in order to determine what costs of construction would be. The number of jobs that would be created would determine another value, especially in low income areas. Some of the building systems are noted here: (not all systems will be used)

Conventional Stick Built Housing:

This would be housing that uses wood frame, brick, Hardie board or stucco exterior (or combination). Using this construction would establish a base line for other systems since it is used more than any other form of construction. Pros and cons of each type of building system will be shown for tenant evaluations.

Steel Frame Construction:

The walls are made using steel instead of wood. These homes are usually made in a factory situation and exported to a site for construction. Location would be an important cost factor. Sustainability would have to be determined. Each system noted will have its own advantages and disadvantages and each one should be evaluated against each other according to the priorities established during the planning process.

Pour Formed Concrete Walls:

Concrete block housing is one of the most popular building systems used in the world. They are easily available and for larger projects a plant can be set up near the site. Many other types of this type of construction is on the market now.

Use of Natural Materials:

Rammed earth construction, straw bales, bamboo, earth or concrete bags (Dicker Stack Sack), adobe, cordwood, cob and rock are examples of housing using natural materials. Other natural materials have been used in the world and some of these should be reviewed. Climate and weather become a major factor in choosing the use of natural materials.

Structural Insulated Panels: (SIPS)

This is a popular building system and may be applicable for use in higher priced homes. How it holds up for low income housing will have to be reviewed. Many different companies use this system. As noted earlier, sustainable comparisons with all systems should be examined also.

Factory Built Housing:

Factory built housing comprises of (1) manufactured homes, (2) modular homes, and (3) panelized homes or prefabricated homes. Some of these homes may be applicable, but they have a clouded history in hurricane zones. They should be reviewed to see if improvements in that area have been made. Factory built modular homes may be applicable because they usually use more substantial materials (even concrete) in their construction. Many of these homes can be shipped in containers and assembled on site.


The concept of the “Innovative Workforce Village” aligns itself with the Innovative Study Center that could be in the PDP(or nearby). Two core consultants will be hired to participate in the design to make the workforce village as sustainable as possible within the confines of the culture of the area selected. The two suggested consultants will be William McDonough + Partners and Pliny Fisk with the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, Texas. Both have had considerable experience in designing sustainable building systems and communities. As more information is developed from the internet and other sources additional consultants will be employed using their own specialized skills in sustainability. Developing innovative concepts will be the key to the proposed project. The workforce village will give it added importance and uniqueness. Hopefully it would be a guide for future developments throughout the world.

Goals and Objectives:

Some of the goals and objectives for the Innovative Workshop Village Demonstration Project (WVDP) are as follows and additional ones can be established as the project is being conceived and designed. Its purposes is to showcase sustainable practices for all aspects of community development to determine if they are economically feasible, self-sufficient as possible and environmentally sustainable in the development of reusable applications. The conservation of and use of natural resources are a prime consideration. The proposed activities also allows it to be appealing for funding from government agencies, foundations and private industry. The site (see other emails) was also selected because it is also subject to wind damage from hurricanes. It will be a testing area to see how residential structures design selected for the WVDP will hold up in hurricanes. Preliminary set of goals and objectives are:

  1. To build a series of residential homes using with different types of building systems with emphasis on using natural materials and local labor as much as possible.  One system that may be applicable is to fill burlap sacks with a concrete mixture, stack them up as a wall, secure with reinforcing rods (includes a top support beam for the roof) and coat the wall with a concrete slurry. 
  2. The workshop village is to be totally self-sufficient in terms of energy use, waste recycling, sewage systems, etc.  For example the firm, Planet Green Solutions has developed a 120 kWhr machine that utilizes biomass (wood chips, kenaf, etc.) to power it.  Solar and other alternative systems would also be utilized.  Compost toilets, live plant and/or pressure sewage systems could also be used.  Any solutions that could be applicable for use in rural or dense housing in poverty conditions will be of prime consideration.  The main intent is to address the needs of families in lower income groups.  Research on the internet will provide information about other systems.
  3. The intent is to be an area where new technologies can flourish and the village be a testing ground for ideas that normally would note be able to be funded.  It is understood that one or two houses using the same type of building system would not be economically feasible, but projections could be made as to their costs in a mass produced setting.
  4. Studies would also be made to determine multi uses for the houses as well as facilities within the houses.  This could be movable walls, kitchens and cabinets that are compact, modular, and easily removable to another residence or location.  Closets and storage areas could be on wheels with special fastening devices.  Bathrooms and utilities could be on the exterior walls where they can be serviced and repaired easily.  An example of a multi use residence is the triplex shown below.  Just by moving a small section of wall a single family home can be made from two units.  The unit on the other side of the exterior walk could be just a shell (with bathroom) and used for renting out, a workshop or other activity.
  5. Interior finishes should be the type that would not allow mold in case of water damage.  Lights should be of the type that uses low amounts of power.  Special research should be available for economical types of stoves (bio char stoves, for example) or the establishment of designs for communal use of certain facilities. 
  6. Bartering, collaboration activities, community market facilities as well as internet access should be made available.  To help with these activities the use of community money will be utilized from a small community bank.  Different types of financing will be evaluated to see what ones would be most effective.  This could involve micro-financing between a group of families, such as in the Grameen Bank structure. 
  7. A medical clinic will be part of the village community with the sole intent of providing nutritional information and examination of persons living in the village and the surrounding area.  Treatment would incur elsewhere if required.  The clinic would have communication with medical facilities in the United States.  A collaborative care enterprise could be established to help people in need where just bed care is needed.
  8. The village would also have a community building that would be similar to the residential construction within the PDP.  The sustainable features for this building would be more expensive and be a guide for people to use and understand.  This building would also be a training and meeting center.  It would also have a display explaining the purpose of the  WVDP.  The internet center there would be connected to the innovation center in the PDP. 
  9. A small prototype vertical farming structure will be made available along with small hydroponic tables ( under $300) for the growing of vegetables. 
  10.  The landscape design will utilize planting that is native to the island and encourage passive solar design as well as the planting of native fruit trees.
  11.  One of the main purposes of the designs is to build residential structures which will  be minimally damaged by hurricanes.  Some of the houses may be elevated and the area below the slab utilized for water catchment or other uses.  Others may be designed where there may be substantial damage, but the frame for the structure remain intact.  Circular or hexagon shaped buildings may be other options.
  12.  The evaluation of site design, varying densities and other options will be reviewed and accessed by the people in the area.  Some of the model homes will be left open for continual evaluation of design and maintenance costs. 
  13.  The WVDP will be used as a staging area for the development of new ideas and innovations for community development practices f or sustainable development.
  14. Another one of the purposes would be to give worthwhile ideas in sustainable practices a venue where the ideas can be tested and utilized in a working situation.  If ideas are workable then it may be possible to get additional funding for start up companies to further their progress in fulling their goals.  It will also provide ideas to provide a setting where additional ideas can be generated to establish new products for development.  This would be in new ideas, products or facilities.
  15.  This project will also help the PDP become recognized as a new type of community that is different than any others.  It will become a means of marketing beyond what is usually done, by becoming a project with its own identity and to impel others to want to be involved.  Sustainability will become more than just a word, but an action to help the world become a better place in which to live. 
  16.  The village or PDP will continue to grow with new technologies and products.  As ideas and products develop it would be able to use these in being a showcase as a leader in innovation and creative thinking.  Not only will the innovation center create ideas it will have a workshop to put them into practice.

Solid Waste Reuse Systems:

The following information is from the World Bank. The main purpose here is to recognize the potential problem in the planning stage of a project and allow for solutions. Along with the on-site recycling of materials should be evaluated. In the case of electrical generation plants noted earlier the clearing of trees can be the bio mass feeding the equipment to conduct electricity. The Seven Step Program could be another source of information.

The overall goal of urban solid waste management is to collect, treat and dispose of solid wastes generated by all urban population groups in an environmentally and socially satisfactory manner using the most economical means available. Local governments are usually authorized to have responsibility for providing solid waste management services, and most local government laws give them exclusive ownership over waste once it has been placed outside a home or establishment for collection. As cities grow economically, business activity and consumption patterns drive up solid waste quantities. At the same time, increased traffic congestion adversely affects the productivity of the solid waste fleet. Productivity loss is exacerbated by longer hauls required of the fleet, as open lands for disposal are further and further away from urban centers. The challenge is to rationalize worker and vehicle performance, while expanding services to a growing urban population.

In developing countries, it is common for municipalities to spend 20-50 percent of their available recurrent budget on solid waste management. Yet, it is also common that 30-60 percent of all the urban solid waste in developing countries is uncollected and less than 50 percent of the population is served. In some cases, as much as 80 percent of the collection and transport equipment is out of service, in need of repair or maintenance. In most developing countries, open dumping with open burning is the norm.

Sustainability of waste management is key to providing an effective service that satisfies the needs of the end users. One pillar of sustainable solid waste management is strategic planning, and links to guidance are provided. Another pillar is cost analysis of solid waste options, and links to useful analytical tools are also provided. For financing, private sector involvement is a growing trend in solid waste management. Also, there are new funds for emissions reductions that support global needs (such as the Prototype Carbon Fund, the Global Environmental Facility, and several for which the World Bank is trustee), and sample calculations for how to achieve and thus market such emission reductions are also provided under the topic of economic instruments. For successful development of any solid waste project, community participation in collection, community consultation on cost recovery, and public participation in siting and design of facilities is inherently essential to sustainability. The needs of sustainable solid waste management project development are elaborated further on the following web pages:

Solid Waste Management Strategic PlanningInstitutional Capacity BuildingFinancial Capacity BuildingAnalysis of Technology ChoicesPrivate Sector InvolvementCommunity InitiativesEnvironmental Issues

Design Schematic:

The Innovative Workforce Village will be a market within itself because it is designed to offer various design solutions and different building systems options for the Caribbean. It will also be a showcase for incorporating as many sustainable practices that would work in that area. A schematic approach would be as follows:

Goals and Objectives – Innovative Study Centers

The following goals and objectives represent the first concepts for the Center and they will be expanded during the planning stages to meet additional criteria.

Innovative Study Centers – Summary Analysis

That there will be other houses (including multi units if applicable) constructed where there will be workshops held or houses rented to persons in order for them to have a space to develop ideas. Each house will be designed with different features to allow for this to provide for different types of businesses. Corporations and leaders in the field of teaching creative thinking will be consulted in the planning stages. All construction will be hurricane resistant in its design and can be used for prototypes. There will also be a (2) spiritual and wellness center for visitors and people and the Innovative Study Center. A special (3) restaurant will also be there that serves foods that reflect a healthy wellness diet.

There will also be IT linkage from the ISC to individual homes in the development.

  1. One of the main purposes would be to have a facility that would allow people to live in the project and still work by themselves in independent businesses or with other corporations or businesses.
    Some of the homes in the project could be mutually owned by several persons or businesses (fractured housing ownership) and this would allow business executives and managers to live here for short periods of time and have the opportunity to participate in creative thinking workshops.
    The workshops would be given by experts in the field of innovation and there would be many case studies presented to show how innovations have led to new technology and inventions. Videos would be taken for each workshop and used for examples if they were agreed to by the participants. Some workshops may have to be private due to sensitivity of the material involved.
  2. Apartments or other types of multi units would also be available on site for students who would want to pursue independent study in the field of innovation and creative thinking. Tuition and fees would be charged for the training and workshops. The management of the ISC may allow for free or reduced tuition for first option for any ideas that were developed which would be useful in developing a new business.
  3. The center would be involved with major (sustainable thinking) corporations to show the potential of providing workshops for their personnel as well as exposing the development as a place where families and personnel could retire.
    One of the main buildings in the ISC would be an (5) information library of books and data found on the internet. This information then can be used worldwide. Business or personnel living nearby would be able to obtain reduced fees for the workshops or training.
  4. Management of the center would try to obtain funding sources that would be available for funding development of new ideas. There would also be contacts with patent attorneys in the Bahamas and the United States for consultation to workshop members.
  5. Special workshops would be presented for the sole purpose of developing technology for persons living in poverty throughout the world. Small sustainable agricultural plots would be tested to determine the most feasible methods of agricultural production for subsistence farmers.
  6. Special volunteer programs will be available for visitors to work within the staff self- sufficient housing village as well as other persons and facilities on Andros Island. There is already an environmental study facility located not far from the resort site.
  7. One of the main objectives is to provide exposure of the project to as many people and businesses as possible and to show the scope of the complete facilities including the many special opportunities for working in the Bahamas.
  8. This center and others like it will also provide a service that is not offered any where else in this type of setting. It will be unique in itself. The building for the (6) head quarters for the Digital Economy will be located there also.
  9. The workshops could also include classes in art, music, photography in order to expand its potential and open it up to these fields which are very compatible to innovative thinking. One of the buildings would be equipped as a (7) multi-purpose craft workshop.
  10. Spiritual meditation, yoga, and other Eastern methods of spirituality and medicine could also be a part of the program. This would occur in conjunction with the spa and wellness facility.
  11. Included on this site would be an (8) Environmental Training Center so people could understand the methods of sustainability that will be used in the development of the resort.
  12. Other ideas are sure to be developed as this subject is explored, but it could be a venture that would help the world understand itself better.
  13. A separate building will be constructed that will be a (9) studio to allow people equipment and space to design and construct ideas that are generated during the workshops. There will also be instructions in drawing and sketching utilizing ways to express creative thinking approaches
Source Unknown

Example: Used to work with people to who have anxiety problems.

-George Hunt

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