Architecture professor selected to display concept home on National Mall in Washington, DC

Author: Carrie Gates

Dc Housing Showcase 1200Marianne Cusato’s concept home being assembled in front of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Marianne Cusato, director of the Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative and a professor of the practice in the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, has been selected to display her latest concept home in the 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase in Washington, D.C., from June 9-11.

The three-day showcase, hosted by the Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Association of Home Builders, will include several dozen exhibits, featuring new building technologies and housing solutions designed to make housing more innovative, resilient and affordable for American families. More than 2,500 policymakers, housing industry representatives, members of the media and the general public are expected to attend.

Cusato 300
Marianne Cusato

Cusato and her company, Cypress Community Development Corp., will display a 540-square-foot accessory dwelling unit she designed, featuring a full kitchen, one bedroom and bath and a large front porch. The house, constructed of steel frame panels, is prefinished off-site and designed for rapid assembly in less than a week. 

The goals of the project, Cusato said, are to reform federal disaster housing policy to maximize the reach of funding and to engage in a national discussion on improving housing affordability by streamlining the construction process through new wall assemblies and leveraging prefab construction. 

“If you wait until the disaster happens to plan for disaster housing, it’s too late,” Cusato said. “We are advocating for a revision to the Stafford Act to create a strategic stockpile of community-friendly accessory dwelling units ready for immediate deployment and capable of contributing to the long-term recovery efforts.”

Cusato is renowned for her work on innovative housing solutions for disaster recovery and workforce housing — including the design of the Katrina Cottage, created as an alternative to FEMA trailers and offered to those on the Gulf Coast displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 450 Katrina Cottages were distributed in Louisiana and, in 2006, President George W. Bush signed a revision to the Stafford Act, allowing FEMA to build permanent structures modeled on the Katrina Cottage.  

Cusato, who received a research grant from the School of Architecture in support of the project, said this work is core to the mission of the University and to the Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative.

“We’re challenging policy, and we’re challenging defaults,” she said. “We need creative solutions to address the issues related to disaster recovery and resilience, affordable housing and decarbonization. This project examines how we can incentivize being the best stewards of the resources we have to make housing more attainable and resilient.”

Originally published by Carrie Gates at on June 07, 2023.