SoA’s New Freedom by Design Chapter Launches Home Weatherization Kit Project

The home weatherization kits developed by students in SoA's Freedom by Design chapter will help Pittsburgh area low-income renters keep their homes warm this winter.

The home weatherization kits developed by students in SoA's Freedom by Design chapter will help Pittsburgh area low-income renters keep their homes warm this winter.


The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) chapter at Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture is launching a new chapter of Freedom by Design (FBD), the AIAS community service program. FBD, in partnership with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), uses the talents of architecture students to radically impact the lives of people in their community through modest design and construction solutions. The program embraces efforts to provide both design-build and engagement solutions to address 5 barriers:
Physical · Educational · Environmental · Socio-Economic · Cultural

Freedom by Design encourages students to serve their communities by addressing issues with design solutions. FBD provides real-world experience through working with clients, learning from local licensed architects and contractors, and experiencing the practical impacts of architecture and design.

The new Freedom by Design Chapter is seeking monetary and supplies donations to kick start their first service project, home weatherization kits and how-to booklets for low-income renters in Pittsburgh.

About the Project

The FBD team is composed of a diverse group of students from first year to fifth year. While they differ in background, what unites them is their desire to give back to Pittsburgh. Some of them are more interested in the design/build aspect of Freedom by Design, while others are more intrigued with the idea of making information accessible to those in need. Their first project aims to connect these preferences to give the community a physical and informational resource.

The Issue: The Real Cost of Heat
In Pittsburgh 66% of working families make the choice between paying for rent or paying for utilities. When the house you are renting is poorly maintained and you can’t afford to make the repairs, much of the heat you are paying for will go out the window. Simple initiatives such as caulking and weatherstripping your home can reduce infiltration rates by 20% which can amount to significant savings on utilities, and reducing the need to make tough choices about which bills to pay. The FBD chapter will be putting together weatherizing kits for people in need from the East Liberty, Larimer, and Homewood communities in Pittsburgh. These kits are both addressing a need for information on how to perform these energy and cost-saving initiatives, as well as providing the materials necessary to do so.

The Kits
The weatherization kits will contain door sweeps, window plastic, weatherstripping, electrical socket insulators, and an instructional booklet. The booklet adds a resource not only to those who receive the kit, but also those who are not initially reached. Through this publication the project hopes to give residents some information to help them reduce the cost and energy consumption throughout winter. These kits are targeted towards low income renters who cannot make permanent alterations to their homes.

The weatherization kit will be distributed through the chapter members’ connection with community centers at events which will feature workshops that demonstrate how each of the components work as well as a platform for answering questions on other initiatives individuals can take to improve their energy savings. Additional booklets will be left with the local libraries to be distributed as a resource to other community members, and an online version will be available for distribution as well. The hope is that the immediate impact will be that the people who receive the kits will be able to live more comfortably this winter without having to dig into their food or rent budgets.

Long-Term Goals
This is not a project that will solve the problem at a large scale, but it aims to provide a solution for the immediate season and provide access to easily digested information on what longer term solutions residents could pursue, should they become a home-owner or be moving in the future. This is intended to be the beginning of an annual initiative for our chapter as new members join Freedom by Design and have a lasting relationship with communities in Pittsburgh. In doing this every year, the chapter will develop a sustained relationship and presence within the community which is critical to pursuing other larger scale build projects in the future.

Every little bit helps!
We understand that it can be hard to donate materials or money, however here is a list of small items and materials that we could put to very good use:

  • Weatherstripping
  • Window Plastic
  • Door Sweeps
  • Electric Socket Insulators
  • Caulk
  • Caulk Guns
  • 1 Ply Cardboard sheets

Monetary donations must be made out to “Carnegie Mellon University” with “FBD” in the memo and mailed to:

Alison Katz
5000 Forbes Ave
SMC 7335
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

All donors will be listed in the publication and mentioned in all press releases. A personalized thank you will be sent from our FBD team as well.

Learn more about the Freedom by Design chapter and weatherization kit project in the attached PDF document.