Summer 2009
BaSiC Intiative and Partners to Build a Health Clinic in Nicaragua
In 2009, BaSiC Initiative will travel to Nicaragua, in partnership with Portland State University, the Global Studio and Agros International, to work with local residents in an Agros village to plan for and build a health clinic. The clinic will function also as a space for day programs for children and older persons. Program participants will include students from diverse disciplines, including architecture, planning, public health, and engineering, in addition to local residents. This project is the third phase of an ongoing collaboration with the Global Studio, an outreach organization founded by former BaSiC Initiative students, who have been collaborating with AGROS International to address the lack of housing and long term welfare of the migrant worker families in Central America that pick even the fair share coffee we all drink in the US. For past work of students, check out our
Design A Village/Change a Life Program.


November 2008
Alley Flat Initiative Wins National Green Building Council Award
On November 20th, the U.S. Green Building Council recognized the Alley Flat Initiative with one of its first Excellence in Green Building Curriculum Recognition Awards.  The Alley Flat Initiative is result of a four year collaboration between BASIC Initiative director Sergio Palleroni and University of Texas Professor Steven Moore, and it was chosen from over a hundred programs nationally this year and recognized at the Educators Summit at the USGBC Greenbuild conference in Boston. In the words of USGBC Vice President Peter Templeton,  "The USGBC's launched this initiative to highlight the central role that education plays in furthering the green building movement." The award, one of four given this year, seem to exemplify the spirit of the national conference, which reached a record attendance of over thirty thousand this year, and highlighted a series of sessions which addressed the growing engagement of social issues by the green building movement, a view of sustainability that has been at the heart of the Alley Flat Initiative program and the work of the BASIC Initiative these last twenty years.

This more inclusive view of sustainability was highlighted at the conference by the moving keynote address of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Archbishops's presence illustrates how far the green movement has evolved toward acknowledging the critical importance of considering social issues and addressing the needs of the underserved.

The twenty thousand dollar cash prize that came with the award will be used to insure future involvement of UT students in the Alley Flat Initiative. Check out the new website of now public designs here and at the Alley Flat Initiative site. 


December 2007
Alley Flat Initiative on Second Life Ribbon Cutting
On December 6, 2007 Sergio Palleroni will be giving the
keynote speech at the unveiling or our much-anticipated presence on Second Life. The ceremony will begin
at Midday SL time (2 PM central) at the Educator's Co-Op Island on Second Life


November 2007
Alley Flat Initiative
On November 12, 2007 an informational session about the Alley Flat Initiative was held at
NuevoLeonRestaurant in East Austin. Presentations were made to the gathered community describing the project, including details of the two prototypes that will be built over the next six months; the long-term goals of the initiative; and ways to support the project.  There was a lively Q&A at the end of the presentations ranging from issues of gentrification all the way to materiality of construction.

Sergio Palleroni (UT SoA) introduced the Alley Flat Initiative and how we got here. How to Grow a Housing Movement was an investigation by a group of students, who “re-discovered” a network of alleys running through
East Austin. The students started to re-imagine the alley; an infrastructure long abandoned by the city. Also integral to the Alley Flat Initiative is the changing sizes of American homes. In 1950 3.6 people lived in a 983 sq.ft. home. By 2004 the size of housing had changed dramatically: an average of 2.4 people now live in 2349sq.ft. Students at the School of Architecture have the opportunity to challenge that the notion that “bigger is better”, and imagine a shift back to a different scale of housing, where small lives big.

Though out his community work Sergio has inspired students to “research, design and build with client communities projects and programs that fit their unique environmental and cultural contexts” working with students to “build the prototypes that will make real possibilities”. And the two prototypes in this equation are the
Lydia Street and East 2nd Street flats.

Jennifer Haas and Kenneth Rodriguez will be the owners of the Alley Flat on
East 2nd Street so Jennifer’s sister, Amber, will be able to live close by. We were very happy to see all three at the presentation. Their Flat will receive at least 4 stars from AustinGreenBuilding and will be the first privately owned home in Austin to qualify for SMART Housing. We are exited to note that the permitting is completed for the East 2nd Street house and we will begin construction soon!

Michael Gatto presented the Austin Community Design and Development Centre and their involvement in the Alley Flat Initiative. ACDDC is providing project management on the prototype Alley Flats. Outside of this immediate goal, the long-term objective for the Alley Flat Initiative is to create a flexible and self-perpetuating delivery system for a 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 neighbourhoods in Austin. ACDDC will provide guidance with SMART Housing, AustinGreenBuilding and helping homeowners navigate the tricky process of permitting for Secondary Dwelling Units. For more information on the ACDDC please visit

Both Flats will be funded privately, but in an effort to make these small houses ‘green’ we are fundraising to offset the costs of alternate technologies. Donations will allow for the incorporation of ‘green’ technologies like photovoltaic panels, solar hot water heating, mini-split air handling units, low-e windows and Structurally Insulated Panel (SIP) wall systems. Including these technologies will reduce monthly energy use to 40-50% less than a typical house of its size. These savings will really add up for low-income renters, and the planet. If you are interested in investing in the prototypes please contact
. And for more information on the Alley Flat Initiative, please visit

September 2007
Katrina Furniture Project
The Katrina Furniture Project will be featured in an upcoming issue of Time Magazine. Look for it on the magazine racks or check it out now.

West Coast Green
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California: September 20
Sergio Palleroni, will be a featured speaker on September 20th, at the West Coast Green, the largest residential green conference in the US. Speaking on "Global Ecology" with co-presenters Cameron Sinclair,co-founder, Architecture for Humanity, and Eric Scott Freed, principal of organicARCHITECT.

Design for the other 90%
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, New York: September 19
"Design for the other 90%" closes at the Cooper Museum in New York, with a special closing night event "Design for Survival". Sergio Palleroni, of the BaSiC Initiative and Center for Sustainable Development at UT Austin, as well as Sheila Kennedy, of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Boston, and Mohammed Bah Abba, Pot-in-Pot Cooler, all participants in the show, will be presenting at this event. They will be addressing the long term issues and challenges, and potential, of design to help address the issues of poverty, scarcity and economics faced by the world's poorest citizens. The BASIC Initiative had two of its student design/build projects on exhibit, the Mexican Solar Kitchens and the Katrina Furniture Project.
"Encompassing a broad set of modern social and economic concerns, these design innovations often support responsible, sustainable economic policy. They help, rather than exploit, poorer economies; minimize environmental impact; increase social inclusion; improve healthcare at all levels; and advance the quality and accessibility of education. These designers’ voices are passionate, and their points ofview range widely on how best to address these important issues. Each object on display tells a story, and provides a window through which  we can observe this expanding field. Design for the Other 90% demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world. Sixty works by a broad range of organizations and firms are exhibited, and will now go on tour to other institutions."
-Cynthia Smith, Curator Design for the 90%

Summer 2007
Katrina Furniture Project
Design/Build Workshops, New Orleans, Louisiana: June 25th-July 7th
Design Workshops will offer design and engineering students the opportunity to engage in furniture design and community workshops, working with the community. In rebuilding efforts, while establishing a sustainable business model in the community, students will travel to New Orleans and work side by side with the community to rebuild and help sustain reconstruction. Students will also investigate locally available and appropriate sustainable building materials that can be used to create a more sustainable New Orleans. The furniture making workshops will train community members in the craft of making furniture and, where necessary, in the fundamentals of operating these workshops safely and according to fundamental business models. The training will be led by faculty and students from participating universities and local groups along with local arts institutions. The workshops are intended to be multi-purpose in nature and function as neighborhood-based places of work, sites of learning and community centers.

Summer 2007
Nicaragua Studio 2007
Matagalpa, Nicaragua 2007: June 11th - July 20th
The Nicaragua Studio is a unique, service-learning program engaging students from various backgrounds directly in the design of a new community in rural Nicaragua. The Global Studio and the University of Texas’ BaSiC Initiative are partnering with Agros International, a nonprofit community development organization involved in the creation of sustainable communities for indigenous farmers throughout Central America. Students will join Agros working alongside formerly landless families to formulate their new village masterplan on the site of a former coffee plantation in the lush mountains of central Nicaragua. The studio will explore village designs for one particular village in Nicaragua that will stimulate its sense of community and foster better social interaction. Students will also investigate the use of locally available and sustainable building materials through the construction of a small-scale, community-focused intervention. The 2007 Nicaragua Studio will take place during the weeks of June 11 to July 23. Enrollment is open to both undergraduate and graduate-level students with backgrounds in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, engineering, construction management, agriculture and forestry.