Indiana University students design specialized housing unit

Student architects develop sustainable, affordable designs for workforce and aging in place housing


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


Black Vulture Project, Paoli, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimation)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
Comprehensive Design, Housing
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

Arts group seeks better housing for elderly, workforce

The Black Vulture Project is an arts group which works to improve Orange County residents’ access to the arts, “connect with the art community and host creators of all kinds” (About Us). The group identified a lack of regional housing solutions for two key groups–– senior citizens who cannot afford or do not wish to live in nursing homes, and the local labor force. The Black Vulture Project wished to design workforce housing and aging in place housing so that more community members can enjoy the long term benefits of homeownership.

Students sketch innovative plans while balancing the numbers

This ambitious project found a home through the Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program at Indiana University. Moving forward, Tim Schmidt of Black Vulture partnered with Professor Jon Racek’s topical issues in collaborative design course in the School of Art, Architecture + Design. Students were challenged to design a reproducible, modest housing unit and explore realistic budget and fundraising options for construction. The project criteria prioritized sustainability and affordability, factors students carefully considered throughout the process.

Building affordable, planet-friendly houses 

Student participants applied their design expertise to a real world housing challenge. The architectural designs they developed are a model of low-cost, innovative, and sustainable housing. And the final concept is financially supported by a clear budget and actionable fundraising recommendations. This collaboration helped Orange County to reduce its regional housing needs.

These housing concepts demonstrate the potential of forward-thinking architecture. They will greatly benefit the elderly and working people of Orange County. By spearheading this collaboration, the Black Vulture Project demonstrated its commitment to social and economic justice. 

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Tim Schmidt
(317) 948-8358

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

Translate »