2020-2021 Net Positive Studio

The Team:

12 graduate students in their final year of studio at Kansas State University and our Professor Michael Gibson, partnering with our studio are Manhattan Area Habitat for Humanity, Manhattan Area Technical College, Flint Hills Renewable Energy & Efficiency Cooperative and Flint Hills Job Corps.  


The current housing market in Manhattan does not support the needs of the workforce community, approximately 60-120% of the median income. A shift in equilibrium between rental and owner occupied homes has caused a decline in the quality and quantity of affordable housing available to buy. Thus, forcing homeowners to seek better social environments away from the greater Manhattan area; affecting the economy, health, and sense of belonging.

Our project will propose a new kind of housing to the community: Affordable, net-zero, workforce housing which is not currently available in the Great Manhattan area. This prototype home will demonstrate what is possible through deliberate design, community support and investment. The project will help lead a shift in the types of homes available in Manhattan, providing professionals and the working class citizen access to homes that align with their incomes. 


– Attract and retain a diversity of labor in the community by building affordable housing that is critically lacking for typical, middle-income households in the Manhattan area. The target population is crucial for sustaining businesses, schools,and government.

– Demonstrate the feasibility of local home ownership by young persons, helping to retain the talent pool of students graduating from Job Corps, Manhattan Area Technical College, and K-State.

– Rejuvenate the housing stock in the community.

– Utilize emerging design, development, and construction methods that will educate participating students and trainees, as well as the community and allied leaders in development and construction.

– Demonstrate the broad tenets of sustainable housing, including the environmental, economic, and wellness benefits of sustainable, net-zero homes.

Studio Process:

Understanding the repercussions our project could have on the community, the studio process will be conducted in a similar format to practicing firms utilizing: Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documents. Bidding and Construction phases will be slightly different, as a design-build studio we will be prefabricating the shell of the project and custom internal elements to cut down on the construction cost. Also, our project partners, Flint Hills Jobs Corps and Manhattan Area Technical College will be utilizing the project to teach construction trades driving the total price of the project down. 

Schematic Design: This phase of design process will take into account information gathered from researching demographics, current housing market, existing information on sustainable and workforce housing and community input  to create preliminary designs that will be presented to our partners and the community for feedback.

Design Development: This phase of the design process we will revise the selected project taking into account the requests and changes to the initial design. At this stage we will finalize the design.

Construction Documents: This stage we will prepare the technical documents necessary for construction. 

Responding to the challenges of COVID-19 the Net Zero Studio will be operating in a hybrid format. The nature of a design build project will require us to meet and work on the project in-person, but the studio will be utilizing Zoom, shared drives and other online resources in an effort to limit potential unnecessary exposure to the virus and still produce an effective and quality project.

Proposed Timeline:

Summer 2020: Organize partnership, develop project parameters, identify resources (expertise, funding, project materials, etc.). Develop plan for design and build phases of project.

Fall 2020: Launch demonstration project. Research community housing needs and program; design project for target demographic. Optimize energy efficiency, costs, and construction methods. Continue to fundraise; if funds/materials are secured, begin site work.

Winter 2020/21: Begin prefabrication of wall and roof panels. Identify photovoltaic system components and order.

Spring 2021: Conclude prefabrication of building shell.  Trade work commences according to the construction schedule. Assuming the site is prepared, field installation of panels begins. Screening and financial assistance secured for selected tenants/owners.

Summer 2021: Construction completed. Occupants may take possession.

-Kyler Milligan

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