fb     ul     yt

Building Institute

The Building Institute is UL Lafayette’s integrated project delivery, design-build program. The program brings architecture students, architects, engineers and contractors together in the design and construction of single-family, market-rate homes. The homes are built on infill property in the urban core neighborhoods of Lafayette, Louisiana and then publically sold at a market-rate. Students work hand-in-hand with local contractors to build the homes which achieve sustainability standards such as the National Homebuilder’s Green Building Standard or LEED. The Building Institute is structured through a graduate design studio in the fall, a construction documents course in the spring and the construction course in the summer. Students receive academic credit for each course and in addition, several team leaders receive paid summer internships allowing them to accrue IDP credit. The Building Institute is not a simulation- it is hyper-reality. As architect-developers, the students become agents of change.

AO Well Mart Facade

Acadiana Outreach Center

WellMart Facade

Lafayette, Louisiana


View all Projects:  Acadiana Outreach Center Projects


In the Fall of 2003, the Center’s director, requested the help of the School of Architecture in designing a storage system to aid in organizing donations; however, as a result of several visits to the site–a city block full of sprawled and disconnected structures–the students and faculty observed a terrible contradiction: while the Center’s mission is “Giving People Back Their God-Given Dignity,” the physical environment and facilities were depressing, coarse, and spiritually degrading. After an initial master plan the students immediate began building small installations which eventually led to several large scale projects.


The designers began with the “blank-face” of a typical metal building. Their task was to give the building a “face”- expression and life. The design process utilized the 3D modeling software “Viz” to project a conceptual grid across the existing building and add, subtract and multiply “plug-in” elements into the grid. Digital modeling allowed the student designers to fine-tune the proportions and “push-pull” relief of elements in the grid. The fabrication process capitalized on the grid as a free, generative system. As in all hands-on making, improvisation became not only a necessity but an asset allowing the design to expand and contract relative to constructability, time and budget. The result is a fabrication which is both façade and machine. Unlike the traditional notion of “façade” as mask, the fabrication reveals the metal building behind. Like Brunelleschi’s perspective machine, the fabrication measures and gives proportion to an otherwise scaleless building. Its grid of galvanized pipes extends across the face, mapping the building’s surface, while becoming an armature for a fabric canopy, fiber-cement skin, plant wall and signage. The combination of shadows, well-articulated proportions and sympathetic and contrasting materials attempts to make vivid the once ordinary experience of entering the building. The façade was completed over eight works at a cost of $3,717.76.

UL Lafayette School of Architecture and Design
PO Box 42811 . Lafayette, LA . 70504