KSU Associate Professor Michael Gibson

2018-19 Net Positive Studio


A recent study identified Kansas City, Missouri as one of the top ten worst “energy burdened” cities: a measure of the percentage of household income that must be spent on utilities. In Kansas City, low-income families spend on average 8.5% of their income on energy, with some demographics spending much more [Drehobl 2016]. High energy costs compete with food, healthcare, childcare, and other necessary costs to be a hardship for families. The context of Kansas City residents’ energy burden is an aging housing stock in the most distressed neighborhoods, with many homes lacking modern weatherization and systems. Net-zero housing, in contrast, aspires to offset the energy used in the household with renewable energy generated on-site.

Michael Gibson’s Net Positive Studio is a multiyear effort, in which fourth-year Masters in Architecture students at K-State will partner with the Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), a new community development corporation working in the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City. The studio will also collaborate with Build SMART, a building panel manufacturer, who will support the studio’s effort to integrate prefab building technology, net-zero energy performance, and affordability. Altogether, the studio intends to demonstrate the broad tenants of sustainability in this engaged project: energy and environmental conservation, economic tenability for the target community, and positive social impact by providing safe, high-quality, and high-functioning housing to low-income households. The long-term goal of the studio is to work with Maddie Rhodes, NEAT, and neighborhood leaders to develop and propose feasible, affordable, and high-quality housing models for Indian Mound: prototypes that can be immediately adopted for implementation.

A final design scheme for the house was organized with input from Maddie Rhodes and NEAT and a construction plan was developed in which the studio will use innovative off-site construction (at ADPWest) techniques to build the panels for the prototype home. Their prototype home for the Indian Mound Neighborhood earned recognition as a finalist for the 2020 Solar Decathlon Competition, a program supported by the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Labs to develop and showcase technology for sustainable housing. The studio constructed a full scale mock up of one of the corners of the house to study and finalize assembly methods and details. The house’s 24 wall panels and 26 roof panels will be built through the remainder of the spring. The studio is working closely with the City of Kansas City to demonstrate that the unique construction approaches employed by the project are compliant with city codes and are a feasible and robust new solution for delivering high quality, high performance, and affordable housing in the city. On-site work and assembly will be completed by a general contractor later in 2019.

Support funds provided by KCDC will be primarily used for materials and supplies for student prototypes, and transportation of students and student work, as well as leverage for additional grants.