Builders, architects, urban planners, and sustainability experts held a design charrette on Wednesday, Oct. 24, to come up with floor plans, construction processes, and product suggestions for Concept House Charleston, in South Carolina, the second PATH Concept Home and the first in the Southeastern U.S.

PATH is a program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is a public/private partnership of home builders, manufacturers, researchers, professional groups, and federal agencies that address housing needs.

The first PATH concept home, built in Omaha, Neb., focused on innovative construction techniques that cut cycle time and improve durability. It also emphasized flexible systems to meet the specific needs of homeowners, such as movable interior walls to respond to family changes.

The Charleston house will showcase innovative products and systems that produce a cost-effective, efficient, sustainable house. Because of its location near the Atlantic Coast, this house also will focus on disaster resistance. While hurricane protection will take top consideration, the house also will be designed to resist seismic activity. "Charleston had a devastating earthquake in the 1800s that almost destroyed the entire city," says builder Hank Hofford, president of Bennett Hofford Construction in Charleston.

With year-round humidity, termites, a high-wind zone, and a risk of flooding, Charleston is "a very interesting area to build in," says Jamie Lyons, project engineer for Newport Partners, the Davidsonville, Md.-based project management firm for Concept House Charleston.

The distinction of a PATH concept house from other show houses is that the project goals drive the technology that's used in the house, Lyons says, as opposed to a show house that shows off the latest and greatest products. "We'll have a little glitz in there, but far, far less than the typical show house," Lyons says.

The goal of Wednesday's charrette is to complete the floor plan and the elevation, with "some feel for the sustainability features," Lyons says. The day will include two tracks- a design track for the architects, including project architect Mark Bombaugh from the Silver Spring, Md.-based firm of Torti Gallas and Partners, to actually draw the plans, and a sustainability track "where the technology-oriented folks will look at how we'll meet those goals."

The plans are scheduled for completion by February 2008. Construction should be finished by fall of the same year. Once finished, the house will be open for tours for six months before it's put on the market for sale.

The design of the 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom house will be consistent with Low Country architecture, Hofford says. Low Country plans incorporate such features as wide covered porches, large front windows, and open floor plans. Beyond that, "we've tried to keep an open slate," Hofford says. "Everybody is bringing floor plans they like for us to look at."

The participants in the charrette also have been asked to bring "one specific product or building system they thought should be included in a green house," Hofford says. The energy-efficiency goal for the house is a Home Energy Ratings System (HERS) index of 60, which would be 40 percent more energy efficient than a current home built to code.

Already high on the list of innovations to be considered are tankless hot water heaters, photovoltaic power cells, and water recycling for landscape irrigation. "This house, by default, will meet LEED certification," he says.

For more information about PATH's concept homes, visit

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charleston, SC.