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CNM and UNM collaborate in affordable housing project

April 15, 2018 - Megan Holmen

The University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning is working in collaboration with Central New Mexico Community College on a paid internship for students to create sustainable and affordable housing through a project called ecoMOD.

According to John Quale, chair and professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, this program originally began at the University of Virginia in 2004. When Quale began working at UNM in 2014, he brought the project with him.

“ecoMOD is a design, build and evaluate project that focuses on creating high performance modular and prefabricated homes for affordable housing organizations,” Quale said.

CNM has been in collaboration with UNM on this project for the last two years, he said.

Quale said he hopes the project will continue to grow, and that UNM and CNM can continue to work in partnership.

Both undergraduate and graduate students at UNM can participate in this project, he said. CNM provides construction technology instructors for the project as well.

Pablo Lituma, a student at UNM, became a part of the project when he took a studio class in architecture. The first semester he was involved in ecoMOD he worked on design, guiding teams to create passive energy concepts, such as passive ventilation. The following semester he became a co-team manager for the project, he said.

Lituma said he was able to learn a lot throughout the process, including leadership skills and the hands-on experience you can only get through programs like this.

“I learned how to design with leadership and learned about project management with students that worked with me,” he said. “Most importantly though, I learned about myself — I gained insight into my passion for teaching other students the skills I have gained during my education and my experience and was able to pass that on.”

It is key for UNM and CNM to have collaborative projects, as collaboration prepares students for professional roles in the community after college, develops stronger community bonds and creates consciousness, Lituma said.

“Our community can benefit greatly from sustainable housing, due to the values embedded in our modular approach,” he said.

While UNM and CNM have not put a cap on the number of students who can be involved in the program, Quale estimates that there will be between eight and 12 students accepted into the program each semester.

Community members should be concerned about the environment, and this project helps create awareness and provide affordable solutions, Lituma said.

The program is funded by a grant from the Public Service Company of New Mexico, Quale said.

The project looks to reduce energy and water usage, providing sustainable and affordable housing for low-income individuals and families. Living in sustainable housing can reduce carbon emissions as well, he said.

“Affordable housing is very much in demand in Albuquerque and around the state. Providing affordable housing that can also reduce your operating costs is one way to help reduce monthly costs for low-income homeowners,” Quale said.

To assure that the houses are sustainable, a seminar performs an assessment to evaluate the homes’ livability and energy usage. This occurs after the house has been occupied for several months, he said.

Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at, or on Twitter @megan_holmen.