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Assembling Reinvestment: Emerging Construction Technologies and Their Effect on Cost-Effective Housing in Detroit

Detroit, like many American cities, has faced years of disinvestment. This has led to a severely underpopulated urban fabric containing oversized infrastructure, which is incapable of sustaining itself. This occurred for a number of reasons, including discriminatory policies, single industry economical reliance, and mass flight of residents, but the outcome was the same: Detroit could no longer sustain itself.

One often-recognized contributing factor to this issue is the cost of housing (Cassidy 2019). Solutions have been posed, including housing towers and the townhouse typology, but none were successful in alleviating the steep price of a house. These previous attempts at providing housing within the remaining Detroit resident’s means were often well-intentioned and, accurately, they identified the cost associated with housing as an issue. However, they did not possess a means of radically decreasing costs, and so the only available option for affordability was making cheap homes, characterized by low-quality materials and construction, and poor living conditions.

Emerging construction technologies, both physical onsite machines and Artificial Intelligence programs, possess the capacity to greatly reduce the costs associated with housing without compromising quality or design. These tools gain accuracy, become simpler to operate, and are more affordable with each iteration. Such technologies can be made accessible to home builders in Detroit to execute acts of cost-effective housing, which will revitalize disinvested neighborhoods, and which can also respond to the shifting context the environment poses.
To investigate this claim, a series of process driven home designs was conducted, focusing on the present and near future of onsite autonomous construction machines. These houses were then compared to current affordable building processes and standards, primarily through the lenses of cost and quality in order to determine the quantifiable degree by which such technological leverage improves the making of cost-effective housing.








Eli Forta

Eli Forta is currently a Master’s of Architecture student in the Thesis Track, expecting to graduate in Spring of 2024. Eli received his Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture from Lawrence Technological University in Spring of 2022. During his undergraduate studies, he held a leadership role as the Freedom by Design Director for the American Institute of Architecture Students for a year, working to leverage the creative capabilities of fellow students in a volunteering capacity to give back to the community. Currently, Eli is employed by Chipman Design Architecture, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in retail environments. HIs architectural interests are in cost-effective housing and cutting edge technologies, specifically digital fabrication and parametric/autonomous design, and how they can be leveraged within the field of architecture.

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