The Dogtrot Duo


The Dogtrot Duo


Shannen Martin, Sean Benson, Jabbar Cobbs, Kimberly Montgomery, & Emanuel Soito
Prairie View A&M University


Shelly Pottorf
Prairie View A&M University


JUROR COMMENTS   This project stood out for its research and responses to all five criteria for judging, which grounded it in reality and made it more tangible. The design is responsive to the social and economic issues of the Independence Heights neighborhood in Houston, Texas, and sensitive to the local climate. The jury is particularly impressed with the rigorous analysis of affordability issues and participatory design process that included community stakeholders, which the studio used in developing designs. The students engaged with the suburban context and showed a well-informed understanding of the neighborhood and contemporary housing challenges while considering client needs.


The Dogtrot Duo home was designed for the Independence Heights community in Houston, Texas.  Established in 1908 as a completely self-sustaining community, Independence Heights was incorporated in 1915, becoming the first African American municipality in Texas. Once a thriving, predominantly African American community, there is now a nearly equal percentage of Hispanic and Black residents, and nearly a quarter of the community’s population is living below the poverty level. Despite these challenges, Independence Heights is on the brink of redevelopment due to its close proximity to downtown Houston. Descendants of the original settlers welcome the revitalization, but are also anxious about losing their heritage.

The 4th year undergraduate design studios focus on regenerative design and sustainable strategies in a public interest design and service learning format. We engage residents and community leaders, using their input to inform our design strategies. In addition to the challenge of gentrification, there is a substantial population of senior citizens who wish to age in place, while the next generation has migrated to the suburbs seeking better housing, services and opportunities. This trend, combined with devastation from Tropical Storm Allison and Hurricane Ike, has left the neighborhood largely vacant.

Our design reflects careful attention to these issues. Taken in conjunction with our mission of regenerative, affordable design, the Dogtrot Duo is a practical infill solution to support revitalization efforts that helps elders to stay in the community and young families to move back. The duplex doubles the density of a single lot and accommodates a number of living scenarios. The 1,200 square foot two bedroom unit will support young families in the 80% AMI range, while the 900 square foot one bedroom unit might support elders, singles, or young couples in the 50% AMI range. The dogtrot increases marketability by creating a duplex that looks and feels like the traditional single family homes in the neighborhood.

Design decisions included developing the site to create inviting outdoor spaces that encourage fellowship among residents and neighbors. Care was taken to elevate the vernacular typology of the carport to function as a comfortable gathering space for people. Generous porches cultivate community while providing eyes on the street. Bungalow styling further maintains the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood. The dogtrot configuration borrows from a Texas vernacular solution that provides a comfortable outdoor living space while assisting with natural ventilation through the living spaces of both units.

While the exterior is intentionally contextual, the interiors respond to modern day living with open floor plans. Each home features built-in solutions for workspaces, storage, and seating to maximize space and efficiency. High ceilings help the home to feel larger, and operable windows and clerestories provide ample daylight and natural ventilation to increase comfort.

Finally, the Dogtrot Duo is designed to be an affordable, net zero energy solution. Designed to meet rigorous Passive House certification and building science standards, the home achieves a HERS score of zero with the option to install a 5kW PV system to achieve net zero energy.