Housing Watch: Architectural firm Clovis aims to provide sustainable housing for agricultural workers

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) — They toil long hours in the sun and the cold, but comfort and craftsmanship have never been considered when it comes to housing for farmworkers.

“Affordable housing, in general, has really been stigmatized over the years,” laments Paul Halajian.

Paul Halajian Architects in Clovis was one of three companies to win an Award of Merit for designing modern, sustainable housing for farmworkers.

“We found it surprising that we couldn’t find many case studies of good farm worker housing,” says Jamie Steinmetz.

The selected project site was Visalia, so Halajian knew his company had to enter the competition.

“We realized we couldn’t just sit on the sidelines and let someone else from another part of the world solve the problem in our own backyard,” he said.

The project’s zero-energy design featured solar panels as well as the use of sustainable materials.

“So we used cross-laminated timber for the floor slabs instead of concrete,” Halajian said. “We used a technique called rammed earth for all the perimeter walls.”

The dirt would be placed in a form, compressed and then isolated.

The complex also includes space for workers to decontaminate after a long day of work.

“Take their clothes off, shower, change, and then enter their living space so you don’t introduce these contaminants to where they live,” Steinmetz said.

The growing demand for affordable housing has Halajian Architects working on several projects, including Crossroads Village on the site of the former Smugglers Inn in downtown Fresno.

“To convert this hotel into permanent affordable housing, 100% affordable housing and we’re in the design stages right now,” Steinmetz said.

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Michael J. Chiaramonte