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Goldenrod on a Rural County Road

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) have forged a partnership designed to improve the lives of Alabama residents.

Through this collaboration, Extension and the CADC School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA) will leverage their combined expertise in community development and sustainable design.

The agreement, announced on Auburn’s campus Wednesday, May 29, brings together two units that share a common goal of improving the lives of Alabamians, particularly in rural areas. Through its Rural Studio and Front Porch Initiative, APLA aims to develop a scalable and sustainable process for delivering homes in underserved communities. With an office in each Alabama county, Extension will provide connectivity to those in areas of need.

“Rural Studio’s innovative approach to sustainable and affordable housing design aligns with our mission to enhance quality of life,” said Mike Phillips, director of Alabama Extension. “By combining our resources and expertise, we can create impactful, lasting solutions that address housing challenges and improve overall community well-being across the state.”

From left: Mike Phillips, Alabama Cooperative Extension Director; David Hinson, CADC Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies; Paul Brown, Alabama Cooperative Extension Associate Director; and Karen Rogers, Interim Dean of the AU College of Architecture, Design and Construction

(l-r) Mike Phillips, David Hinson, Paul Brown and Karen Rogers, interim dean of the Auburn College of Architecture, Design and Construction

The new partnership brings together two organizations focused on innovation. Alabama Extension leverages its diverse expertise to tailor programs to meet the specific needs of different communities, while Rural Studio and Front Porch Initiative continuously push the boundaries of traditional architecture to solve housing issues creatively.

“The CADC’s commitment to serving the citizens of our state and region and the mission of ACES make us natural partners,” said Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies David Hinson. “We’re excited to become more closely connected to the amazing people in the Extension network and to add our housing expertise to the ACES team.”

Sustainability is a key focus for both CADC and Alabama Extension. Rural Studio and Front Porch Initiative emphasize sustainable architecture and building practices, using local materials and innovative design to create affordable, eco-friendly housing. Similarly, Alabama Extension promotes sustainable agricultural practices and natural resource management to support long-term environmental health and economic viability​.

“This partnership is another opportunity for Extension to translate academic research into practical solutions to benefit communities in Alabama,” said Paul Brown, associate director for Alabama Extension. “It will expand mutual programming opportunities.”

“Rural Studio, Front Porch Initiative and ACES are a great team because we’re all committed to enhancing life in rural communities in Alabama,” said Associate Professor Emily McGlohn. “Rural Studio’s housing and wastewater research coupled with the widespread network and expertise of the Extension System mean we can help more people than we could alone. I’m proud to join the Extension System as part of the new housing resource team.”

“Partnering with ACES allows Front Porch Initiative to better achieve its mission of extending the impact of Rural Studio’s applied research in housing access and affordability,” said Assistant Research Professor Betsy Garcia. “I am honored to join the ACES team and eager to share our work surrounding beyond-code housing performance in energy efficiency, resilience and health and wellness with residents of Alabama through this partnership.”

Learn more about Alabama Extension and its programs at aces.edu. Visit ruralstudio.org for more information about Auburn’s Rural Studio.