May 30, 2023

Limestone School

HML has the privilege of supporting a class of first and second graders at Limestone Community School that are tackling a healthier housing shortage in their community

In early 2023, Madeline Herrera read “A Kid’s Book About Imagination” by Levar Burton to her class of first and second graders at Limestone Community School in Lawrence, Kansas. The book challenges readers to use their “superpower of imagination” to ask big “what if” questions. Inspired by the troubling sight of an unhoused family sleeping on the grounds at Limestone, one student asked, “What if everyone had parents and a home?”

“What if everyone had parents and a home?”

The question sparked tough conversations about homelessness in Lawrence and some of the ways the students could help the family sleeping at Limestone. As kids do, they came up with a simple, no-nonsense response: why not just build them a house? So, the class got to work designing floor plans and making models of what a house needs to become a safe and comfortable home.

The students started out with lofty ambitions for homes with 12 bedrooms and bathrooms fit for a queen. Fortunately, Steve Vukelich, Vice President of collaborative design company Multistudio, offered his services to help the class re-work their designs to a feasible scale.

With the help of local partners who have offered services and land, the dream of building one home has expanded to four. Now, the students have to determine what these homes will be made of—enter Healthy Materials Lab. Having done previous projects on plastics pollution, the class knew that material choices matter and wanted some guidance on how to specify materials in their designs that would be healthy for future residents and the planet.

Senior Researchers Catherine Murphy and Leila Behjat met with the class to answer their big materials questions: What’s better to use: wallpaper or paint? How can we reduce our use of plastic? What about flooring–carpet or hardwood? How can you make the space feel joyful and welcoming just from the materials you use?

The students came away from their design meeting with Catherine and Leila excited to spec healthy materials and Catherine and Leila, having received genuine encouragement from the students, came away re-energized and in awe of the determination of this group. Healthy Materials Lab will continue to meet the students throughout their process and has held preliminary talks with Multistudio, the architecture firm leading the home designs. HML will provide support and guidance on material selection and will work with manufacturers to secure healthy materials donations to the project.

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