Taubman College

Research, Outreach, and Funding / MidMod


MidMod prototype under construction

In 2005, Professor of Architecture Harry Giles received an NSF-PATH Grant to research "technological innovations in an industrially-designed and manufactured modular housing concept for low energy, prefabricated, low-rise low-income housing units." The grant solicitation – $300,000 over three years – was to encourage greater collaboration among disparate industry stakeholders, advance innovations in home building, and to create new avenues of research and development. Giles' objective was to research and develop concepts that would "dramatically contribute to the advancement of technology, engineering... as well as have significant long-term relevance for the homebuilding industry and society." Giles developed a modular housing concept called MidMod that integrates customization of affordable living units and flexibility in building design with industrialized manufacturing methods.

MidMod, which stands for Midrise Modern Modular, is a new genre of affordable medium density building concepts that are more adaptable, durable, and energy efficient as whole-life housing typologies than those currently available. The individual units are customizable in their format and dimensions, and the units can be stacked to create tall buildings. The building units are ideally suited to mixed use developments and can house shops, offices and restaurants. The building system offers low-income families the opportunity to own their homes, and encourages a viable mixed use development that can serve as a model for creating socially sustainable communities. MidMod has demonstrated energy savings of up to 50 percent as a consequence of integrating passive energy strategies with efficient mixed mode hydronic heating and cooling systems. The MidMod concept is ideally suited to create opportunities for repopulating urban areas. As a result Professor Giles and his team focused on sites in the Detroit inner urban area and similar sites in other cites as a model for housing in urban regeneration schemes. The principles of his work will be equally relevant to the re-densification of cities throughout the world.

Giles collaborated with faculty from various departments outside the college and enlisted students throughout research and fabrication. MidMod has involved a total of 10 faculty and 49 students through a number of studio and workshop style courses. Giles has collaborated closely with Lecturer Lars Graebner; architecture students Glen Ginter (M.Arch.'08), Kristen Dotson (graduate), and Kelly Raczkowski (undergraduate); and Aggie Drelich (graduate) and Mary Martin (graduate) in documenting, component detailing, design integration, and prototype fabrication. Following a successful prototype design build project starting in summer 2008, Kelly has continued to work with Giles on the fabrication of a prototype with graduate architecture student Dwight Song. Kelly values the ongoing experience of working with Giles and being involved at every stage from researching materials to working on the construction of the prototype. Dwight, who is planning to pursue a career in construction, is particularly interested in the creation of the prototype. He is glad to have some input in the actual production, including material choices and placement of components. At the design and documentation level, graduate student Mary Martin studied the thermal performance of MidMod and Aggie Drelich assisted with the design coordination of the MidMod prototype. She has been assisting with the creation of a website for the project. Mary and Aggie began working on the project with Giles in July 2008 and are receiving independent study credit for their work. The team created a full-scale prototype while learning the many facets of putting together a real prototype from an initial concept. The prototype is expected to be placed on display in the fall.