New Build on The Block: Forge Craft & Foundation Communities Celebrate Completion of 110 Units of Affordable Housing at Zilker Studios in Austin
Witnessing someone walk through the doors to their new home for the first time is one of the most rewarding parts of our work. This rings true no matter what kind of project we’re building, but there’s something incredibly special about projects like Zilker Studios. This new seven-story, deeply affordable and supportive apartment community for single adults just finished construction and began officially welcoming residents through its doors this month. Many of these new residents will be transitioning directly out of homelessness. We could not be prouder to once again team up with Foundation Communities to address needs for affordable housing in our community with a design that we believe adds tremendous value to the fabric of this rapidly growing area of South Austin.
We had the opportunity to mark the grand opening milestone with Foundation Communities, Mayor Kirk Watson and other key supporters at an official ribbon cutting last week.
Zilker Studios was built directly in response to growing demand for affordable housing solutions in Austin, particularly the most vulnerable in our community. The $25 million Zilker Studios spans more than 80,000 square feet and boasts clean, modern design elements with incredible panoramic views of downtown Austin. We’ve had the opportunity to team up on several projects with Foundation Communities over the years, and with each one, we learn new lessons from the residents that help us continue to optimize the design for resident comfort, operational efficiency, and community longevity.
Trauma-informed design principles are critically important in much of our affordable and supportive housing work, and Zilker Studios is no exception. Recognizing that individuals transitioning out of homelessness may have certain anxieties associated with feeling unwelcome in public, we sought to support a sense of security, comfort and choice through the design and organization of the property. We intentionally designed open sightlines throughout the building, utilizing an open-air interior courtyard riding through the center of the structure and a layout that allows residents to observe what’s happening on floors below them before choosing to leave their units and join the communal environment downstairs. To empower residents and support a positive daily lived experience, residents additionally have on-site access to a variety of supportive services, including case management, a free Healthy Food Pantry, a staff nurse, health and wellness activities, and social events.
Creative use of space proved crucial in the design of this project. As with most affordable housing projects, we were working with a challenging site – just ½ acre. Further complicating the space planning, we were additionally tasked with retaining and highlighting two heritage live oak trees on the site. Through some creative configuring, we were able to incorporate both oak trees into the structure’s layout, with the larger tree serving as the centerpiece of the front courtyard overlooking South Lamar Boulevard.
With any Forge Craft project, we seek to leverage building science and design to create the most efficient building possible. We were able to achieve net zero ready status on this project through aggressive energy modeling and cost optimizing our assemblies and systems. This led to an all-electric building that has double code insulation and best-in-class heat pump water heaters. Additionally, continuous pre-conditioned fresh air is delivered to each unit, which are more than twice as airtight as its typical peers, ensuring a quiet, healthy, and comfortable experience for residents, while significantly reducing energy bills for Foundation Communities, who covers all utility costs for the building.
Ultimately, this project is a great example of the possibilities for reimagining what affordable housing can be in a community – how it looks and feels, how it performs, and how it fits into the broader context of a neighborhood. A huge thanks to our partners at Foundation Communities for continuing to trust us to co-create these communities with you!
To learn more about Forge + Craft Architecture & Design’s affordable housing projects, visit our Affordable Housing Craft Studio page.