Designing affordable housing isn’t as glamorous as designing the typical high-end homes Tony Crasi, Frank Bain and John Edwards are hired to design and build. These men, however, aren’t seeking glamour or recognition for the affordable homes they create. They’re after something more rewarding.
Working with not-for-profit organizations using federal grant funds in most cases, these professionals provide thoughtfully designed homes for those in need of affordable housing, and receive the pleasure of improving life in their communities while fine-tuning their craft. For Tony Crasi, president, Crasi Company in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, involvement in such programs has come full circle.
“When I was 14 I worked in the inner city with my father, helping those in need. Now almost 40 years later, I’m back working in the inner city,” he says. “Everyone deserves a good-looking home. I believe in it, and I’ve realized I can make a difference. I was lucky, having stumbled into the high end of the housing market, but at the same time, when I show my high-end clients the affordable homes I’m designing, I’m more proud of them than my high-end work.”
Many times, Crasi says, affordable homes found in the inner city look like small boxes, but he has always believed society can do better for those who live in homes like these. Crasi’s most recent affordable project in Akron, Ohio, went on the market in late April. It’s a 1,400-sq.-ft. home selling for roughly $90,000. Designing it to be easy to build is one key to keeping costs down, Crasi says.
“I’ve wanted to prove that it can be done. I wanted this house to look like homes that have been here since 1928. The key is that everything in it is stock, square and simple to build. It’s about scale and proportion. Everything works. Affordable is knowing how to produce good design and knowing how to make it look right. I even have some nice detail on the stairway, and nice colors on the cabinetry. This is what you can do if you pay attention to what you’re doing.”
Crasi was pleased with the home control system his colleague Ric Johnson designed for this home; Johnson is president and CEO of Right@Home Technologies near Lima, Ohio. Crasi challenged Johnson to create an affordable way to control the home, and Johnson delivered it for a cost of $1,500. Motivation for the affordable technology system was building codes that force people to spend what could be $2,000 on a new air-conditioning system that saves them $78 a year, when a home control system that is less expensive can accomplish that, and more.
“I told Ric the most important part of his system would be energy efficiency. The second key is security. I talked to my local guys and they came up with a system for five thousand bucks. I told them I can’t do it. Ric stepped up and said, ‘You supply the house, and I’ll control it,’ ” he says.
Within three days, Johnson designed a system that controls lighting, security, Internet connectivity and energy management for $1,500. The most critical function of the technology system was allowing the homeowner to control his or her energy costs.
Johnson selected Home Automation Inc.’s Omni LT as the brains of the home (see box left). The device limits thermostat settings to preset highs and lows. “The owner can’t crank up the thermostat at will. Tony built the house tightly so we know the house will feel warm at a lower thermostat setting. The homeowner could always put on a sweater to stay warm, but probably won’t need to.”
In addition to energy management, the Omni LT provides eight zones of security and lighting control. “We tied perimeter and interior lighting to the security function so a path of lights will illuminate a safe passage in or out of the home,” Johnson says.